The Fool-Proof Guide to Failing with Flair

Everything you need to know about getting it wrong.

Free Beer Tomorrow

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I have a disease. It’s called procrastination-itis. It’s chronic and incurable. That’s not to say that there aren’t treatments to help kick its lazy ass into remission but, like alcoholism, it’s something that involves a daily struggle in order not to succumb to its insidious nature.

I have managed to be fairly productive for the past few days but last night I made a dangerous mistake. I made a list. Lists are a procrastination sufferer’s greatest enemy, closest friend, and the ultimate tool. Look at me go! I did something! I made a list! Now I can sit down, have some coffee and contemplate my bellybutton!

It seems I haven’t learned yet that making lists is a surefire way for me to fail at productivity. I don’t make short lists. I make very long lists. I feel like a pathetic underachiever if my list is too short and excusably overwhelmed if it it’s too long.  If I make my list long enough, it’s always a reasonable result if I can’t cross off every last thing. At the end of the day I can just make a fresh list and shred the old one, making it appear as if I always intended to do those things the next day anyway. Which I didn’t. There are certain tasks I don’t have any intention of ever doing (if I can help it) that inevitably end up on every new list I make. They are “filler tasks” to help make my list look impressive, as if I made it for some imaginary “boss”. [Scene: Knock at office door. “Come in.” Boss walks in. “Hey Effie, can you help me with these TPS reports?” “No, Sir. I already have a full agenda. Here, look at this long list of difficult and time-consuming projects I have to complete. I’m just too busy.” Office door closes. Effie goes back to playing Candy Crush.]

When I make my lists I really do make them with all the best intentions. I usually make them at night–for the next day–when I am drunk with ambition and optimism about a fresh start. (And it’s conveniently too late to start anything new.) In the morning though, I avoid eye-contact with my list in the hope that it will get dressed and see itself out, realizing that I brought it home the night before while in an inebriated stupor and can’t even recall its name. In all the years I have been making these lists, I have probably only made one where every last thing got done. If I could find it, I would have it framed. I’ll put “looking for old to-do-list” on tomorrow’s list. If I find it, I can add “get to-do list framed” to the next one.

Beer-goggle ambition and “fat, ugly” lists aside, I also have an ADD-type procrastination disorder. I don’t need a list to procrastinate. Even on good days I imbibe in delay, dilly-dallying, loafing, and frittering my time away. This puttering usually consists of starting one task, getting frustrated, bored, or panicked about what I’m not getting done, taking a cigarette/Candy Crush break before the task is complete, and then moving on to something completely different. It’s a vicious cycle. At the end of the day, I have gotten maybe one or two things completely taken care of, started and abandoned several other projects, and turned myself into a nervous wreck about all the stuff I didn’t work on at all. There’s always more in the last category than the other two combined. Enter the list. Again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I am currently administering my own CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) and experiencing some improvement in my condition. Obviously I still have some obstacles to overcome, but I have set myself a schedule and have managed to mostly stick with it for a while now. (No, I didn’t write it down.) I schedule my lollygagging into my day. For instance, my morning schedule includes time to drink coffee, screw around on Facebook, smoke a cigarette, and play a round or two of Candy Crush. I have been waking up at around 5 recently, so if I am doing something productive by 6:30 or 7, I’ve still gotten an early jump on my day. Some mornings I even wake up and get straight to writing, researching, or job hunting.

Today I woke up with my list. It had stolen the covers and kept me awake most of the night with its snoring. I gave it a cup of coffee before I shoved it out the door, but instead of going on a walk of shame to the nearest bar or trash can, it sat on my front stoop, waiting for me to invite it back in for a shower and some lunch. “Writing a new blog article” was on my list, so now it’s sitting here with me again, throwing me dirty looks and tapping it’s foot with impatience. It wants me to help it get the dishes done and the laundry sorted.

I think I’m going to have a cigarette and read this first:

 

 

2 responses to “Free Beer Tomorrow

  1. henning October 5, 2013 at 8:27 am

    i’ve been there. or to be exact: i am there, as this comment is pure, highly-concentrated procrastination. and now excuse me, i still have to look for some funny cat pictures.

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