As I continue to navigate the writing life, I treasure the freedom and flexibility that comes with being my own boss and setting my own schedule. And after all of these years, I’m finally doing work I genuinely love.
Don’t get me wrong – this career, while still very new to me, is not without its challenges. Earning a steady income, beating back imposter syndrome, mustering the courage to pitch story ideas, optimizing my time, fretting about how my drafts will be received…these are just a few of the hurdles I regularly deal with as I attempt to make a living crafting words into sentences that people will enjoy reading.
Essentially, “room for improvement” is my mantra as I delve deeper into the freelance world. There is one aspect of my work, however, that I’ve already perfected. No special training required.
I am a damn talented procrastinator.
In the spirit of giving back, I am happy to share my 10-step guide to mastering (and rationalizing) this valuable skill. For those of you on a perpetual quest to do anything but the task at hand, these DOs and DON’Ts might very well change your life.
- Get a dog. They are a huge time suck. Every morning after I drop Sophie at the bus, Truffle and I go on a walk (bonus points for exercise) to the dog park. If we’re lucky, he sees his canine friends and I see my human friends. As our pups frolic in the dirt, the other owners and I commiserate about how nice it would be to spend more of the beautiful early spring morning watching them play. Before we know it, an hour has passed and we reluctantly admit that we really should get to work before the clock strikes 10am.
- It’s election season. If you’re a political junkie like me, you can easily waste several hours a day reading pundits’ predictions on the state of the presidential race. It’d almost be entertaining if the future of our country wasn’t at stake. But since the future of our country IS at stake, I heartily recommend that you don’t follow my lead on this one. Avoid the news like the plague if you’re determined to get any work done.
- Fold a load of laundry. Meticulously. Like you were an employee at Benetton. Which I once was, for a hot minute, when I was in high school. Until I realized that folding clothes – over and over again – is startlingly mind-numbing. Decades later, I’ve since come to appreciate that “startlingly mind-numbing” activities have a place in my life. Like when I taught myself how to properly fold fitted sheets. A fantastic time waster. Until you perfect it, that is, which I’m proud to announce I finally accomplished after only two years.
- Beat back the guilt-ridden voice in your head telling you it’s not appropriate to watch an episode (or two or three) of your favorite TV shows in the middle of the day. I can’t tell you how many series I’ve binge-watched by taking a much-deserved break from work at 11 am. Transparent. The Americans. Bosch. House of Cards. Game of Thrones. Homeland. Mozart in the Jungle. The Wire. The list goes on and on, but if I continue, you may start to question how I really spend my days. And we wouldn’t want that, would we?
- Plan vacations. Even if they’re not grounded in any kind of reality. In another life, I was a female Magellan. At least once a month, I find myself happily falling down the travel rabbit hole, mentally spending income I have not yet received on trips to the Galapagos, Thailand, Viet Nam, China, Bhutan, central Europe, Madagascar, Tahiti and the Canadian Rockies. When I actually succeed in transforming my fantasies into booked vacations, I know it’s time to get back to work because those trips sure as hell don’t pay for themselves.
- My family adopted a used piano in January. I took lessons for a few years when I was a kid and, at the time, I was less than enthusiastic about my weekly sessions. But now that I’m 47? Playing the piano is the bee’s knees. And as an excuse not to work, there’s nothing better because, like writing, it’s a creative pursuit. I’ve promised myself that by summer I will have mastered Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” and Beethoven’s entire “Moonlight Sonata.” Which is going to take many non-writing hours – a procrastinator’s dream.
- After reading that word puzzles are great for staving off brain atrophy, I subscribed to the NY Times crossword. Here, too, is a hobby that serves a dual purpose. I’m feeding my mind and avoiding work in a way that might actually make me better at my work. Jackpot!
- If you have kids, you know there’s no better method to delay the inevitable than by making yourself available to serve as their on-demand Uber driver, homework tutor, chef, maid, playmate and personal shopper. And since raising kids is a full-time job in of itself, sometimes you need to procrastinate in that realm, too. This can result in double-dip boomerang procrastinating, which makes for a very unproductive day.
- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Need I say more? I’ve tried to convince myself that social media is a necessary evil for writers – whether it be to promote one’s own work or discover writing that moves and inspires you. But seriously, that’s bullshit. When I’m scouring my social media feeds, it’s for work-related reasons maybe 20% of the time. The other 80%? Nothing but a way to ignore the blank Word document that’s daring me to conquer it.
- Spring cleaning becomes a year-round pursuit when you’re a master procrastinator. A copy of Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has been sitting unopened on my night table for the past few months. Through cultural osmosis, however, I learned that she recommends rolling your clothes instead of folding them. Converting the contents of your drawers from folded to rolled is a time-consuming endeavor, especially if you have a lot of drawers. I don’t have many, but I have a crap load of t-shirts. Several non-consecutive hours and weeks later, tidying up is the gift that keeps on giving.
It’s time to confess, my dear readers, what are your favorite ways to procrastinate?