When I started thinking about procrastination my mind went straight to that wondrous scene from Mitchell and Webb:
I think that procrastination is underrated! Sometimes we need that period of complete waste land and when we finally get through it and find ourselves on the other side of the task at hand, we may not realise it but we have entered a realm of real journeying and achievement and we have made the hurdle that little bit easier for next time. Overtime we manage to get off the sofa, shut the fridge, put the cleaning brush down or in my case switch off Greys Anatomy Season 4… or as with this morning, listening to every Bafta speech ever published online. Finally we embrace the work. It is a vital and an imperative journey. And it is inevitable and must therefore be accepted and understood. It’s far too easy to beat oneself up for procrastination and that just makes it worse.
I have been procrastinating a lot this year. I have always found January and February hard but this year I wallowed in the self employed gluttony of procrastination. And as I have now smugly come out of it, I recognise what an achievement this is and the more often I manage this the easier it will get. Just like with push ups at British Military Fitness, when you break through, you arrive somewhere new. And if you are me, you arrive somewhere and wonder why the hell you left it so long. But again, that’s OK! I got there in the end.
I did a wonderful Success Course online back in 2010 in which the late Bob Fraser told me ‘Do it. Do it right. Do it right now’. This echoes the saying ‘Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today’. We are told again and again not to put things off but sometimes it is OK to do just that. Sometimes it is OK to wait for that right moment, or to indulge in another episode of ‘How to Get away wth murder’. Sometimes we need to work the wallowing out of our system. I get to a point when having embraced procrastination to the max, I get bored of it and am ready to move on.
As self employed people it is easy to feel bad for self procrastination. But remember that office types procrastinate just as badly in different ways. That half hour chat by the coffee machine, the ease with which one can be on Facebook or give extra attention to that other issue that you would much rather deal with than the task at hand. I often imagine it is easier to feel you haven’t procrastinated if you can still say to yourself that you arrived at work at 9am and left at 6pm.
And of course, it must happen for a reason. What is that glitch in our systems that stops us, that thing that says switch the TV on or re file your already immaculate accounts rather than buckle down? I am sure that with me it is fear of some sort. Fear of getting something wrong, fear of not getting what I want or it is the fear of failure and the fear that we might actually have to face change if we welcome the next step. And as to what magic element gets us out of that procrastination… I don’t know how it is done but I think I am beginning to see that it has value; it is not a negative time wasting bore. It is a fundamental necessity in our mission to know ourselves and our businesses better. To recognise what makes us tick and what triggers that period of procrastination. Positive Procrastination rocks.
I also think time is of the essence. When there is no urgency or deadline then who’s to know what we have been up to. But when that urgency kicks in: Boom – we are there! I remember my first self tape at home. I had put it off for months continually writing ‘learn to self tape’ on my daily to do list until that fateful afternoon when my agent called and said they needed a self tape by 10am the next day. I was on it. I knuckled down faster than you could say ‘Tom Cruise is a crazy sex God’. I was an expert and had practiced and delivered one hell of a fine self tape before the evening was up. In this instance the lack of urgency led to the procrastination but when the lack left, the urgency propelled me to deliver. I had been lazy, arrogant even and I guess had had an inner self belief that I would nail the self taping when I needed to.
I also think that as a self employed person it is easy to mistake procrastination for ‘processing’ time. I can hear some saying ‘get over yourself and get on with it’ but actually ‘processing’ is important. I know when I audition I like to have the most relaxed time. I will often read the script/sides and then abandon them to have a very long bath/cook/dance/whatever and then come back to them and glance again and then find myself gardening. From an outsiders view point it could be seen as avoidance but it is actually going in by osmosis, by relaxed openness, by giving my brain time to melt into the brief, the mood, the lines. Within the dithering, the stalling, the delaying tactics I am gearing up so that the magical moment happens when I give in, am ready, prepared, and on top of it. I am clean, well fed, my house is immaculate and I can deliver the goods.
Of course there is also the pure dark procrastination of stagnant self destruction. This is not a happy place and I am not belittling the deeper, darker side of procrastination here. But if we end up there we can remember that it is simply time to give ourselves a break; to do something fun and creative and then re group and pull on whatever resources we have to heave ourselves back onto the straight and narrow!