How to Procrastinate
I’ve been thinking of ways I procrastinate when I have a major project to do, and can’t seem to get started. If you’re like most folks you, too, manage to find other things to do, things that probably don’t need to be done anywhere near as much as “The Project.” Sometimes, it’s hard to even think about those things, so I provide, below, a short list of ideas that might help you do a good job of procrastination.
You can do any or all procrastinations for any effort, in no particular order and depending on how desperate you are:
- File your nails—this task can take as few as ten minutes or, for greater procrastination, you can make it last for a half-hour.
- Polish your nails—you have options for a half-hour quickie or a full, all steps included, job that can take a mere 2.25 hours, or as much as 3.75 hours. It depends on which preparations you make before you actually apply polish, how many coats of polish you use, and how long each takes to dry.
I usually go for the big job that includes cuticle preparation, an oil soak for 10 minutes, and five different kinds of clear polish that take ten or fifteen minutes to dry satisfactorily. (Actually, the final coat takes about two and a half hours to dry solid, so I can bump into something and the combination of polishes doesn’t smear.)
- Check all your pens and markers to see which ones are out of ink and can be thrown away—this is a fairly quick procrastination device. The length of time to allow for it varies proportionately to the number of writing and coloring instruments you can find. You might survey only those implements on your own desk or you could scavenge the whole house, including the bedroom of your thirteen year old daughter.
- Load more paper into your printer—a really quick intervention. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes unless you have to unwrap a whole new ream of paper, in which case you might stretch it to ten minutes.
- Make that appointment with your dentist—the length of time to accomplish this exercise depends primarily on the number of people in your dentist’s office. Time elapsed can range from ten to thirty minutes. It’s a matter of how long you are on hold.
- Straighten, delete items from, or add items to:
- Desk drawers—allow at least fifteen minutes per drawer; if you get carried away, you may take a half-hour for each drawer.
- File drawers (those in file cabinets)—Consider how deep the drawers are from front to back, how tightly packed they are, and how much reading you must do in order to decide what to keep (and/or refile somewhere else). For each drawer you can take between a half hour and a whole hour.
- Kitchen and/or Pantry drawers / shelves / cabinets—these require, at best, only guesstimates. Each could take as few as fifteen-to-twenty minutes or as long as a half hour or more. If you go all out, probably you can spend at least a half day, maybe a whole day, getting your whole kitchen straightened up. If you are compulsive enough, and think you can take the time, you can wipe each surface clean as you go, and add another five to ten minutes to the time you estimate for each component.
- Clothes closet(s)—Oooh! This one’s pretty big. You can simply go through a closet and scan the contents for things you can / should remove and discard or donate. You might add to that a re-organization—by type of garment, for example, or you can go all out and arrange the garments by color, length, where you are likely to wear them, or how often you wear them. You almost certainly have a much better idea than I of how to plan for this work.
- Garage—the garage, most likely, is the biggest activity of all options for the procrastinator. A real quickie, for the average two-car garage in which both cars are usually parked, should take only two or three hours. But, for the same garage with no cars ever parked in it, you can easily spend a full day, or more. Beware: nearly all predictions for how much can be done in how long turn into final reports of time taken that are approximately twice as long as predicted.
- Balance your bank account(s)—here, I hesitate to prognosticate. This activity can take as little as twenty minutes or as long as two hours (and, possibly, the account still doesn’t balance). Variables include how many transactions you’ve made, whether (or not) you recorded them as they occurred, and, possibly, how good you are with basic arithmetic.
- Work on your photos / albums—the first variable, here, is the number of photos involved. The depth of your work may be simply gathering all loose photos and sorting them by album, or you might be really anxious to get all of your photos really properly organized and securely positioned in their intended albums. It seems to me that the best thing to do is decide on how long you will give to this task, work that long and only that long, then quit before you find yourself trapped into twice or three times the allotted time.
- Make lists, of everything—I love lists and practice their usefulness as often and as much as I can. The amount of time you devote to list-making is entirely up to you and may be restricted to only one list for the hardware store or an overall list (perhaps of lists) that encompasses everything from phone calls for the day to Excel charts for long-term planning. The lists listed below are only a few suggestions. I am sure your list of lists (even if it exists only in your head) is the most practical for you and your situation.
- To Do
- People to call / email / send a note or letter
- Things you need / want
- Recipients of next December’s Holiday Greetings / Newsletter
- Call as many people you can think of (especially the long-winded folks)—I’m sure you know better than I how long you want to talk with each contact. Probably, you will want to set aside a block of time available, rather than predict actual time involved.
- Work in the garden—some people can spend as little as fifteen minutes in the garden. Others like to take a half- or whole-day. It’s entirely up to you.
- Exercise / Walk—I have to procrastinate to do either of these, so I’ll leave it up to you.
- Take up bird-watching—the amount of time you spend on this activity depends on your particular circumstances and/or need to procrastinate.
- Start a New Project—this strategy is for only the most serious procrastinators. You can take a few minutes (say a half hour) to sketchily outline your new project. At the other extreme, if the New Project will take as much or more time and effort as your current Project, and you need to provide a detailed proposal, it can take days. Only you can determine and make an educated guess about how long it will take you to create a plan and complete work on your New Project.
I’m sure I’ve left out many opportunities for procrastination. You will think of some yourself, as you read through those listed above. At least this is a start.
Good Luck! Enjoy your status as an Official Procrastinator. You’re in the best of company.