A Big To Do… and Other Moments of Helpful Procrastination.

I have a confession to make. My time management sucks.  There… I said it. I have finally admitted what people have been saying to me in response to my assertion – complaints if you like – that I don’t have time to do… well… any number of things that I might have to, need to, or want to do. So, what can I do about it?

In actuality, in working through this issue to try and understand my objection, and to try and answer that question, I’ve discovered that I’m not as bad as all that at time management, what I lack is the ability to manage interruptions – and there are many of those, both of my own and of others’ making.

It was suggested that I start to make lists, and to have a schedule to follow, and as a fully paid up, bona fide member of the ‘anti-list’ ‘anti-schedule’ club, this sent me into an immediate tail spin. I gnashed my teeth, I pushed again the very idea of having a ‘to do’ list, I even questioned – without receiving an answer, I might add – why having a ‘to do’ list felt like a failure… and guess what…?  I still didn’t manage to get stuff done – imagine that!

So I bit the bullet, admitted that it was probably a good idea to at least try and use a list to help with managing the things I needed and wanted to do. It was a modest list… because I didn’t want to overload either the list, or myself. Already, I felt overwhelmed at the number of things that needed to be done. My first list had just six things on it.  I actually accomplished five of those and the sixth wasn’t done only because it was replaced by a different activity. It could be said to be true that I had made a big ‘to do’ out of having or needing a ‘to do list.’

All Joking aside, I’m still not entirely comfortable with it.  I can feel my overzealous inner critic sitting in the back of my head just rubbing their hands, waiting for the day when I have less than most of the items on the daily list crossed off.  Just waiting to jump on me and tell me how useless I am, that I can’t even get five or six things finished.

In addition, though I have only done two days of lists, (edit: by the time I finished this post, it has been four lists), only one item on each list not an errand or a ‘chore’ (in the sense of the word that we give to our kids when we say, “do your chores and then you can…”)

This leads me to a question: how can I be present for the important people in my life if I can’t even be present for myself? I think that was at the core of my objections to making lists in the first place, but therein lies the biggest irony of all considering my objections were because I’d have a list full of chores and nothing for myself.  I write the list.

You may ask yourself: why is that ironic? It’s ironic because what essentially I have realized is that making a list is actually helpful in making sure that I do something, at least one – maybe two – things for myself each and every day.  I can use the list to help restore a sense of balance in my life. Who knew! Here I was, making a “big to do about nothing,” when actually that ‘nothing’ turned out to be a something… and a really helpful something at that.

On another, slightly different, but equally important tangent – you’ll hear many many writers complain that their biggest fault/sin, their biggest downfall is procrastination.  Writers are the masters of procrastination. There seems to be some kind of writerly ADHD, where we sit with a blank (or if we’re lucky, a partly worked on) page, and suddenly… “Oooh, the internet… shiny!” or “Oooh, I was going to start that load of laundry, wasn’t I?” or any one of a million other thoughts and distractions that pop into our brains.  Well… it may not be the perfect solution, but… make a list!

Let the first act of procrastination in the day be to make a list of all the chores and personal activities that you want to do, and make sure you specifically add at least one entry onto your list that directs you to a writing task. That sets up a commitment to yourself, that you will write; you will make progress on that story, that blog post, that novel… whatever project you have in hand, and make a habit of helpful procrastination.

Funny how life, and life’s paths lead you to consider things your wouldn’t ordinarily have done… and that such things turn out to be helpful.  Funnier still, to me, that I, as a member of the anti-list club, have not only found lists to be helpful (so far), but I’m now advocating them as one way, in a repertoire of ways, of avoiding becoming entrapped by procrastination. Less amusing, I’m sure, will be all the people out there that will tell me, “I told you so.” Oh, I’m just poised with my tongue half poked out already, (in playful jest), at such people.

…but schedules…? That’s another kettle of fish, altogether.

About Eirian Houpe

Writer and Teacher. Published works: Eternal Dance (as Linden S Barclay) and articles for Wigston Magna Dog Training Club, and SFX Magazine.
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