For me, creative/intellectual energy tends to come in cycles.
There I’ll be, bounding along, bubbling over with ideas and saying yes to everything (even things that, if I applied the laws of physics, I’d know I probably don’t have time to do).
Then, out of nowhere, comes the crash. That period in which I become bogged down in anxiety and fear, unable to do anything more than mindlessly surf the internet. The more self-sabotaging my behaviour, the more anxious I become, until even the smallest tasks become a Big Freaking Deal. Much easier to dive back into the mindless activity.
Which is why I liked this post. At first I thought it was going to give me advice about stamping out procrastination. Then I realised the real point was that you can never escape procrastination entirely.
Procrastination is part of the loop.
It costs energy and motivation and time. It costs what we call our life.
It costs the life of that girl.
It costs a whole chunk of life – an hour, a day, a week, a month – until she finally gets back to her core.
Back to what she is.
Back to what she wanted to create.
Back to her art.
Because as unbeatably enthralling as creative or intellectual work is, it’s also scary and confronting and draining. And at some point, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably going to crash.
And while you may not be able to avoid the crash entirely, you can control what you do once you’re in it.
You can accept it as the reminder that it is that your brain and body has its limits. And once you’ve given in to those limits - and this is the most important bit - you can climb back out of it again.
How do you deal with “the loop”?
Elsewhere: The Loop (The Friendly Anarchist)
In a recent Zen Habits post, Leo Babauta argues that the best goal is no goal. That, instead of scheduling our days and weeks and months with small tasks that eventually lead us to whatever place we’re trying to get to, we should just go with wherever our will takes us on any given day.
Unfortunately, it never, ever works out this neatly. You all know this. You know you need to work on an action step, and you try to keep the end goal in mind to motivate yourself. But this action step might be something you dread, and so you procrastinate. You do other work, or you check email or Facebook, or you goof off.
Yep - definitely been there. But I’ve found that the best way to curb my proclivity towards procrastination is to write the list of tasks I plan to complete the next day before I go bed, in the order I intend to complete them, and dive right into them as soon as I’ve finished breakfast (as soon as I wake up would be even better, but that rarely happens). Don’t give myself a chance to get into the Facebook-Twitter-email-Google Reader-True Blood cycle.
Some days, this works brilliantly. Other days, when I spend too long on a procrastinatory outlet, or when the first item on my ‘to do’ list requires an intimidating amount of thought or effort, it fails miserably.
Perhaps, on days like that, Leo’s model would work better? If I feel like spending the whole day doing book writing, I could do that. If I feel like lining up my blog posts for the next week or so, do that. If I want to write pitches, do that. If I want to watch more than one episode of a TV show, perhaps I’d be better off picking up a book - or, you know, leaving the house and actually doing something interesting with my afternoon.
But what if, I wonder, I decided I wanted to spend all my time reblogging posts on Tumblr? That wouldn’t do either my career prospects or my bank balance much good. And what if, in line with the human tendency to pursue easier tasks over more complicated, challenging ones, it meant I never achieved anything interesting?
Leo would say if you never actually want to do the tasks on your goals list, you’ve probably got the wrong goals.
One of the main reasons we procrastinate, after all, is because on some level we don’t want to do the things on our ‘to do’ lists. Because putting them on a ‘to do’ list makes them seem scary, instead of motivating and fun. Ditching the ‘to do’ list means putting faith in the ability of your current self to do the right thing by your future self.
What do you think?