How to Procrastinate Like a Pro

I am the queen of procrastination. Not just in writing, but in every area of my life that requires me to stop fucking around and get to work. If there were an award for procrastination, I’d be the unbeaten champion. Why do I procrastinate so much? I work best under pressure. I am more productive when I have no time to do what it is I need to do. I don’t know why. It’s just how I roll.

For all you hard workers out there who haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, procrastination is when you put off till tomorrow what you could do today. Why? Hell, I don’t know why you put it off. Because you don’t feel like doing it? It doesn’t really matter why. It only matters that you do it. What you might not know is that there is some creative and psychological payoff in procrastination. Seriously.

Procrastination Pro Tip: For every procrastinator worthy of the title “professional” the making of lists is key. Lots of lists. These are well-intentioned because you definitely meanto get this shit done. The act of making the list is procrastination in itself. You know damn well what you’re doing. Don’t deny it. Once the lists are made, promptly lose them, so that later, when you’re getting ready to get shit done, you can procrastinate by searching for the list of what you need to do.

So the dirty dishes are piling up and the toilet is hiding a gelatinous blob of something from another planet, and maybe you’re on your last pair of clean underwear. You could set the laptop down and get it, I mean you’re not doing anything but perusing LitReactor and updating your Pinterest board after all, but they’ll be there tomorrow. The only time I worry about dishes is when I’ve run out of coffee mugs to be honest. Underwear isn’t a necessity. Going commando is in right now. And the toilet? Until the blob actually moves, it’s really not a concern. It’s more important for you to run that idea round in your head while mindlessly flitting around the Internet. How else will it come to fruition in the form of an outline?

Procrastination Pro Tip: Eat takeout on paper plates using plastic cutlery. No dishes. See? Perfect. Oh and dump a bottle of bleach in the toilet once a week. Alien blobs of fecal matter and whatnot hate bleach, and you can put off cleaning for another week.

Another important part of being a pro at procrastination is putting off organizing anything in your home that doesn’t benefit you immediately. So, piles of shit in the corners can stay there indefinitely as long as there’s no organic matter like last night’s pizza in there. Besides, you can practice your ninja skills by navigating your way over and around them. And we all know how handy ninja skills can be. Got piles of books on the floor, the table and in your closet? They’re inspiration. Leave them be. Papers, notes, bills, etc. are best left in the mess you first buried them in. You know damn well if you try to straighten that shit, you’re going to forget what you did with it when you really need it. A controlled chaos makes finding things easier, and also, sometimes a happy accident occurs and you find something you forgot you had. Just the other day, I found a book I’d scribbled some notes in about a story idea. It was in a pile of sheets and stuff in my “linen closet.” I was so excited that I bunched the sheets back into their precarious perch on the cluttered shelves and ran out to flesh out the idea.

Procrastination Pro Tip: Pay your bills online. This way, you don’t have to leave the house, which might prompt you to actually…ugh…run errands.

When editing is getting you down, don’t be afraid to take a short break on Twitter to cope with the stress of the utter shit you can’t believe you wrote. You can’t edit when you’re stressed or sad. Don’t even try. Besides, Twitter is part of the author platform. You’ve gotta tweet to be noticed, right? Just tweet your heart out, then go back to the document after you climb out of the black hole that is Twitter, and you’ll have the stamina to edit at least another paragraph. When you’re done those five or six lines, pat yourself on the back, close the file, and grab that book that’s winking at you. A paragraph edited is better than cutting your wrists out of sheer desperation. Am I right?

Procrastination Pro Tip: Reading is not procrastinating as long as you’re making note of what the writer did right or wrong. It’s actually working, if you really break it down and contort it to work in your favor. Reading helps you improve your writing. When you’re done, you’ll be that much better at what you do so you can edit or write that brilliant bit of prose with confidence.

Procrastinators seem to get invited to shit a lot. It’s ridiculous really. I mean, they know you’ve got a backlog of work, and yet, they invite you to NOT do it. Trying to sabotage you, that’s what.

Going outside is hard. Going out and socializing is harder. But friends and family get all weird and shit when you try to say no to an invitation, so here’s what you do: Hedge a little. Maybe say, “Oh I don’t see why not. I’ll see what (insert name of person you pretend has authority in your life here) is up to and I’ll let you know. Probably.” So you’re not technically committed. Those of you who are stupid enough to get caught up on the “my word is law” rule can breathe easier knowing that you never said you “would” go, just that you “might.” Then, at the last minute, get off the couch, pull up your soiled underwear and text or email them. Do. Not. Call. Them. Jesus, are you mental? Calling gives them the opportunity to guilt you with their “tone.” Don’t ever do that. Make up an excuse. You’re sick. Your significant other is an asshole. The dog has worms. Little Johnny got hit by a car. Whatever. Then, turn off your phone and lock the doors. Socialization averted. You can safely go back to watching True Blood reruns while contemplating trying your hand at paranormal erotica because Alexander Skarsgard’s ass is just so inspirational.  

Procrastination Pro Tip: By cancelling social outings and such at the last minute, you’re forcing your brain to be creative in coming up with an excuse. Over time, you get better and better, to the point that you can concoct almost anything. Always a useful skill for a writer.

Now, no writer ever gets better if she avoids writing all the time. It’s something we can’t afford to procrastinate about indefinitely. If you don’t write, well then you’re…not a writer. Am I right? Of course I am. But don’t feel as though you must be a slave to the blank page. Go ahead and turn on the Playstation or the Wii. Playing video games—particularly asshole games that make no sense and are fixed so that you can never beat the fuckers—improves your ability to convey emotion in your writing. How will you write it if you haven’t experienced it? Exactly. Think of the emotions you’ll feel: Guilt for turning on the game when you know you should be writing. Rage at your inability to press the right combination of fucking buttons. Despair when that deadline looms and yet you’re almost past level 7, and damn it, you’ve never made it to level 7 in your whole life. Panic when you realize it’s midnight and those edits are due back to your editor at 8am the next morning so you turn on the coffee maker and freak the fuck out. Ambivalence when you’re so goddamn exhausted because you stayed up all night to write something after your social networking ran a little astray, so you’re not really caring that the dog shit in the closet or that the cat shredded all the toilet paper in the house. Exhilaration when you manage to accomplish those edits despite your gaming marathon because you’ve got sleep licked. You don’t need that mortal shit no more.  You are a writing god.

Procrastinator Pro Tip: Never lack for tools of procrastination. It’s the worst feeling in the world when you want to do anything but write, clean, work, etc. but there’s no other option. Television, books, phones, Internet and even a nice cozy bed are all necessary tools for effective procrastination. You’ll need a mixture, because sometimes, you might want to procrastinate on how you’ll procrastinate, and to do that, you need options.

Also, your blog is the perfect pit of procrastination. In writing this post, for example, I put off showering, eating, brushing my teeth, getting dressed, writing assigned articles, and peeing. I am a professional. You can be one too if you tried less.

3 thoughts on “How to Procrastinate Like a Pro

  1. This sounds dangerously close to how my husband operates. Do you guys have a club or something? Some days, I don't even know him. Who is that man? And why can't he just do what's on my list without him giving me lip? This way no one gets hurt and I have a clean house.

  2. It's physically impossible for a professional procrastinator to follow a list. Painful, in fact. We must follow our motivation, and if it says that the lawn will still be there tomorrow, we must mow it tomorrow…unless it rains.

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