Managing Procrastination and Distraction

I’d like you to meet my two best friends, Procrastination and Distraction. They follow wherever I go. It’s as if they sit on the floor beside my bed, waiting for me to wake so they can tag along all day and torture me. Yesterday I rose, a hundred tasks to finish, and there Distraction was, pulling me away from my chores. After a trip to the bathroom—I left the light on because I would be back soon to take a shower—I padded into the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, and went to my office to check for an important email. After reading email, Facebook, and Twitter, I returned to the bathroom, ready to take my shower only to discover three hours had passed and most of my morning was gone. I had a short story to write and a deadline, and I had yet to write a single word. Distraction was howling with glee but I was furious and disgusted.

After lunch—no breakfast because Distraction was too busy to let me eat—I sat down with full intention of roughing out the first draft of my story when Procrastination wanted to play. Okay, I said, ONE game of spider solitaire, then back to work. One game became four. Then I wanted a snack. Then I had to use the bathroom. Then I needed to take that shower I didn’t get in the morning. By 4:30 Procrastination needed a nap, so I sat down at my computer and opened my file. I wrote a few sentences before Distraction pulled up a chair.

“Hello,” she said. “Let’s look up haunted mines in Idaho.”

That of course led to a site about cemeteries, which lead to a site about who was buried where. Before I knew it it was time to think about dinner so Distraction and I started looking up recipes for corn chowder. After dinner I promised I would work on my story, but then the phone rang. I had to clean the kitchen, fold the laundry, and by eight o’clock I was just too tired to write.

I was talking with another writer a few days ago, saying I accomplished so much more when I worked full time at the bank.

“Me too,” she said.

“I’m too easily distracted,” I said.

We agreed that working from home is full of caveats. A trip to the bathroom means a trip to the kitchen where a glass of water turns into an apple with peanut butter. Then flip on the TV to check the weather, when just as easily we could look out the window to see if it was snowing—we’re supposed to be writing so what does it matter?

Why do we do this? I tell my writer friend it’s because writers are creative people. They write poetry. They make sculptures and paintings. They play piano, guitar or drums. They belly dance. They are creative. Creative people like to make things then rip them apart to make something new. It’s more like play than work, and of course my two friends Procrastination and Distraction would rather play than work.

As a creative person, writing to me is like playing. It doesn’t feel like work, so I treat it accordingly. And to be honest I am a terrible boss. I don’t hold my employee accountable. I make sure she shows up at the office, but I never really check her progress. I read once that Harold Robbins was on deadline and his editor locked him in a hotel room and refused to feed him until he produced a certain number of new pages. So see, it isn’t just me.

Ah hmm. Today is a New Day. I will use a heavy hand; after all I am the boss. I will not have lunch until I finish the first draft of my short story. I will not check email and Facebook until I have my pages done. I will not play spider solitaire AT ALL, not until this story is finished. I will not turn on the TV to check the weather. I will drink water instead of coffee, which keeps me hyped and edgy. Today I will be a better boss and make sure my employee is more productive. And when Distraction and Procrastination call, I’ll tell them to go outside and jump in the snow.

What can you do to eliminate Procrastination and Distraction when you should be writing?

-Bonnie Dodge

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2 Comments

Filed under Question of the Month, Writing

2 responses to “Managing Procrastination and Distraction

  1. Pingback: I am … a procrastinator « I am …

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