September 5, 2012

Getting Firm with Procrastination. ~ Helen Sutermeister

Musings on Procrastination

I am the worlds greatest, most proficient, unchallenged procrastinator.

Prior to writing that first line, I made a cup of tea, cleaned my desk in preparation to clear my mind, changed into a loose pair of pants to feel less restricted, spoke to my mum and then made another cup of tea (I was too busy doing the other stuff and the previous one went cold).

Having finally forced myself to sit still, focus on the job at hand and start writing, I am really enjoying myself as always. So why all the kerfuffle?

Another thing worth noting is that the above jobs that I decided to do when I was supposed to be writing this are jobs that would normally produce a gigantic serving of procrastination—with gravy.

Phoning my mum? “Oh, I’ll do it when I have a half hour free as she likes a yarn,” or “When I’ve found out the answer to that thing she’s likely to ask about.”

Cleaning my desk can be on my to-do list for anywhere up to a week, until I  have no desk space left, and instead have a very abstract piece of furniture. So why can I do these things so effortlessly when I am procrastinating over doing something else? It’s a very twisted web.

I went to a screenwriting course this weekend and was told that the number one reason that writers don’t write is procrastination. It usually stems from either a fear of failure or being weighed down with perfectionism. I think that it’s neither in my case, but who knows, I could be wrong and my subconscious has got my conscious in a vice-like head grip.

Freud believed human beings associate negative emotions with tasks they are putting off and prefer to replace the task with something more enjoyable, like making a cup of tea in loose fitting slacks in my case. But I don’t feel any negative emotions towards writing—the opposite in fact, I love it.

Procrastination has also been described as, “voluntarily delaying an intended course of action, despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.”  Well, considering my writing is purely a hobby and not for any kind of remuneration, I’m not worse off for failing to put fingers to keyboard, just generally a bit disappointed in myself.

So this leads me to thinking that maybe I’m not a procrastinator; maybe I’m lazy. Nope, I don’t like that at all. Call it denial if you will, but I’m not accepting it. Unmotivated? That’s still a really unappealing adjective to describe myself. Hang on while I vacuum my apartment to avoid addressing this unpleasant task of working out exactly what I am.

After a brief pause, I’m back, and have come up with the word “unstructured.”

Cue sweeping statement: I am the worlds greatest, most proficient, unchallenged, unstructured person ever.

I happily skip through life with grand ideas but no good solid structure to actually get them manifested. I do write lists in my phone, as recommended, but I guess I’m meant to read them again.

So this is my note to self:

>> Make a list of five things I need to do with good old fashioned pen and paper

>> Stick the list in a visible place where I spend the majority of hours in my day

>> Set a time of exactly when I am going to complete the whole list

>> Do the list at that time, without fail

And that’s not even the list. Obviously number three is a little tricky, as assigning 8 a.m.-9 a.m. one morning to buy a shower head and write another Batman movie may set me up for failure, so this might need adjusting to suit the day’s tasks. Maybe it could be: buy a shower head and write scene one of another Batman movie, in bullet points.

So the list will go as follows:

>>Finish this post

>>Do it!

>> Clean my desk

>> Do it!

>> Vacuum my flat

>> Do it this time! (I made a cup of tea before..already had the slacks on)

I have come to the conclusion that I’m not lazy, unmotivated, a perfectionist or even a failure.

I simply need to be a bit firmer on myself when things need to get done because the silly thing is, the feeling I get when I achieve those things, makes me wonder what all the fuss was about in the beginning.


 Helen completed her yoga teacher training four years ago, on the island of Koh Samui. Having a penchant for glorious places, she then opened her own studio in Sydney but now resides in London. Helen is at her happiest travelling the world, meeting new people, being on her mat….and writing about it.




Editor: April Hayes

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