As we face the blank page of a new year full of good intentions, I am wondering if you might set your procrastinating sights a little higher. Because, let’s face it, we all know you can do better.
In fact, why not set a timer for 15 minutes each time you sit down to write—or a half-hour, even—and make sure you dedicate that time to anything and everything but writing? Come on, I know you can waste more time if you just try a little harder…said no writing guide ever. Until now!
I know, I know: You have big goals and important work to do. And procrastination is bad. But here’s the rub. Leaning into the “bad” habits that we resist can actually help us blast through them more quickly. Wasting time becomes boring when you plan for it! All of its subversive power deflates, your resistance relaxes, and you can get on with the work that matters.
My great triumph in this arena happened when writing my first nonfiction book, Writing the Life Poetic. After negotiating nine months to write the first draft, I had a pretty good idea that I’d flop around for a while, telling myself “I can’t do this,” avoiding starting, and generally working myself into a non-productive frenzy.
So, I planned for it. I scheduled only “freak-out time” for the entire first month. And freak out I did, as I binge-watched multiple seasons of Six Feet Under. By the time I’d vicariously lived through more death and dying than any human should reasonably ingest in a four-week period, I’d sated my bad-mouthing inner critic. She knew I was no good, and I’d proven her right, filled her with television, and sent her off satisfied.
Then I got to work. In the next eight months, I followed a disciplined writing schedule that was shoe-horned into a life chapter that also included running a full-time business, getting married, walking two dogs, petting three cats, and giving birth to my son.
When I met with the Vancouver chapter of Willamette Writers last week, we had some good laughs about the power of procrastination when we put it to good use. Perhaps you could make make wasting time your new success strategy, too?
Next time you find yourself dawdling, escaping, or doing what you said you wouldn’t, try leaning in and really letting yourself have it for a little while. Sooner or later, you’ll exhaust the part of yourself that is not inclined to cooperate. Then, you’ll get back to work.