Procrastination is our enemy, many self-help guides tell us, and we are urged to deal with it through metaphors of violence and war – we are told to “battle” procrastination, “beat”, “overcome” it or “break through” it. But – a kinder, more friendly approach may in fact be more productive, says creative actionista Yang-May Ooi.
Make Friends with Your Procrastination
In today’s busy, go-getting world, we tend to see procrastination as something that holds us back or slows us down. It is an enemy to our hopes and dreams, a block against our ambition. So, received wisdom tells us, we must fight procrastination as if at war with it or psych ourselves up like boxers in the ring ready to beat it to the ground.
In my thinking, all that such a warring mindset does is make procrastination into a bigger monster that looms ever darker over our life.
But what if we make friends with our procrastination instead of fighting it?
Hanging Out with Your Mate Procrastination
Think about times when you’ve hung out with your friends over a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Or you’re at the park watching your kids play on the swings and you chit chat away about nothing much. Or you’re at the pub passing a cosy evening with your mates, maybe half watching a game on the big screen TV.
Those times are fun, aren’t they? Relaxing. Energising. You laugh. You feel good about yourself and your friends. You feel good about life.
So, what if, instead of resisting whatever it is you are procrastinating about, you just hang out with it for awhile, as if it were a friend?
Maybe you are putting off working on your novel. What if you take out your notes and half written chapters just to have a glass of wine with it? Or maybe you’re an artist and stuck on a piece of work. What about just leafing through your sketches for that painting or sculpture as if you were strolling on a walk with a friend? Perhaps you have a presentation to give and you really don’t want to think about it. How about just opening up a blank Powerpoint slide and kick back in the sofa as if having a pizza with your mate.
Spend time with your project, whatever it is. Like two old guys sitting on the stoop on a hot summer’s day, shooting the breeze, watching the world go by. No agenda, no time pressure. Just hanging out.
Do the Work – Or Not
Read through your notes. Or the text you’ve written so far. Lay out your sketches across the floor and look at them. Let your mind wander around the topic of your presentation.
Do nothing more. Just hangin’, baby.
You may get some further ideas for your story.. You may see how you could tweak a sentence or a shape in your sketches. You may think of a few topics you could cover in your talk.
Jot them down. Fiddle with your sketch. Note some bullet points on a slide.
There’s no need to do anything active if you don’t want to. Let those ideas and thoughts just float about if you like.
Just hangin’, baby.
And when you’ve had enough, whether you’ve done anything active or done nothing at all, pack it all away and get on with the rest of your day. No pressure. No regrets. No “should’ves” or “could’ves”. You just hung out with a friend, that’s all. And in that slow, easy way of friendships, your relationship with your project has been deepened and enriched.
Just make a date to hang out again.
How “Just Hangin’, Baby” Worked for Me
I usually find that if I do this “hanging out” with a book I am working on, while I am reading through my notes or the text I wrote last time, I might see amendments I can make. So I tinker with my text. As I tinker, I am slowly immersing myself in the world of the book again. I start to see how I can move the story along after the text ends. So I type the next sentence. And then the next. And the next.
And if not, I simply sit with it all for a bit, maybe staring into space, maybe scrolling or leafing through stuff. Just hangin’, baby.
Then, I pack it all away and do something else. But always making another date with my dear friend to come back and hang out some more.
That is one of the techniques that helped me write my various books – including my 120,000 word memoir Bound Feet Blues in five months while running several big transactions without a hitch in my City career during 2015.
Just hangin’, baby, helped me achieve something pretty daunting as if I was just shooting the breeze.
The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship
So, make friends with whatever project it is that you are finding difficult. Spend time with it. Get to know it. Just like a new friend. And as with all friendships, the more time and goodwill you spend on it, the more rewarding that relationship will become. Soon, you’re likely to be working on that project with a more positive energy and outlook. And probably be done with it sooner than you would have thought possible.
from Pixabay with thanks to selassie
Author: Yang-May Ooi
Yang-May Ooi is a writer & podcaster. Her creative work includes The Flame Tree and Mindgame (novels), Bound Feet Blues (theatre), Creative Conversations (podcast) and Oxford Moments (multimedia blog). ¦ www.TigerSpirit.co.uk