The Graveyard Of Dead Projects

The place where good writing goes to die

So, in my mind, there are rooms. Each room is a part of my life, there’s a room for work (right now, the lack thereof), a room for relationships/friendships, a room for the tv shows I’m currently binge watching and then, there’s a graveyard.

Having a mental graveyard sounds really morbid, but stay with me here. This graveyard is full of dead projects. The writing projects I have started and loved, then gone back to a day, a week or a month later and absolutely fucking hated.

This graveyard is littered with bodies of work, of varying sizes, shapes and mediums, all of which had such potential for a while and then suddenly *POOF* nothing.

The “nothing” is the point at which the idea suddenly looks awful, or lame, or so cliched as to be painful.

This graveyard haunts me, because I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, I used to write stories as a kid and then never finish them and as I have gotten older, the size of the unfinished project has grown with me.

Right now I am feverishly researching the possibilities that writing a high fantasy series holds. I have been reading more high fantasy recently and want to explore the possibilities of writing it. However it requires…planning. Something which I love to start and never follow through with.

And therein lies the problem: planning, and following through.

Giving myself the illusion of being organised and motivated isn’t quite the same as actually being organised and motivated. To actually be organised and motivated, one must have discipline, and that is something I very much lack.

At random intervals I resolve to be different, be better, and while I do try, it rarely lasts longer than a week.

I was talking to my cousin the other day, over a very nice brunch, and we were talking about the fact that our mothers both have adult ADD, and we seem to exhibit the same symptoms, which would be an excellent way to explain why I am so seemingly unable to get my shit together, but if I’m honest I don’t really think that’s the issue. I almost certainly have ADD, but being aware of the problem means that I should be able to map out strategies to combat the issue and power through it, after all, knowledge is power.

But, what if that knowledge is actually holding me back? What if knowing that I most likely have ADD is what stops me from succeeding? What if subconsciously I’m shrugging my shoulders and saying “well that’s just my brain and there’s nothing I can do to change it”?

Back to that graveyard, where I have abandoned some really promising writing projects when the initial buzz of starting a new project has passed and it no longer feels new, shiny and exciting to take it out and work on it. Am I just like a kid who plays with a toy a few times and then throws it under their bed? And is that ADD or something else? Am I just spoilt for choices? Do I have too many options for things to do at any given moment of the day? And if that’s the case, do I just choose the things that are the easiest?

Do I binge watch shows on Netflix not because I truly enjoy them but because they require much less brain power than writing a new story? Does binge watching a show give me that rush of doing something new without having to actually do anything?

Is that part of my brain chemistry? Do I crave that rush of “new and exciting” and am I getting it from absorbing other stories through watching or reading them instead of creating them myself? Even when my passion lay with writing, maybe I choose not to because I’m essentially lazy? Maybe I just lack discipline.

I am not going to sign off by promising to be better or new, or more organised, because there are blog posts on that here and here, all I will say is that maybe one day I will stop procrastinating, and start really planning, writing and succeeding.

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Fighting Procrastination: The Beginning

Now you know you’re a procrastinator how do you fix it?

As I said in my last post, I am a world class procrastinator. Along with acknowledging that I have a problem, I promised myself that I would do something to combat it and so here we go.

I have done some random google searches and sporadic attempts to seek out a “cure” for my procrastination in the past four days. The obvious conclusion I came to is that there is no cure for all procrastination. it very much depends on why you procrastinate, how you procrastinate, when you procrastinate and a variety of other factors.

For me, I have realised that I may have undiagnosed ADD, and that in conjunction with a fear of failure and an inability to make achievable goals leads to a giant mess of procrastination and a cycle of failure so big it feels inescapable.

It’s very easy for me to realise I have a problem or a behaviour that needs to be changed and go at it like a bull at a gate, doing 10 different things to “cure” the problem, and realising very quickly that 10 different things all at once isn’t conducive to solving the problem and giving up, because if 10 different things can’t solve a simple problem surely one thing can’t? But I am slowly learning that if I want to modify my behaviour or make a lasting change in my life, I am going to have to dedicate a decent amount of time to giving one technique a good chance at making a difference before I give up on it. This is the hardest thing for me, I am by nature very impatient and if something isn’t almost instant I get frustrated and impatient.

This constant cycle of trying and failing is disheartening and also self perpetuating. If I start doing something, knowing that it won’t work or that I will quit, I am much more likely to quit. It’s so much more about mental attitude than I realised at first and it’s disappointing to realise that my failures are all on my shoulders, but that is the truth. Every time I have failed at something, it’s not because I wasn’t given an adequate opportunity to do it right or smart, it was that I half assed it because I procrastinated so hard and so long that by the time the knowledge that the due date was looming hit me, it was so anxiety inducing that I rushed through the task just to feel that sense of accomplishment.

This cycle of “fear of failure” induced procrastination followed by actual failure is again, a self perpetuating cycle that has in the past left me with the mentality that “If I’m going to fail anyway, I might as well do something else instead and worry about that task later.”

In an effort to combat this cycle, I have downloaded an app that follows the Pomodoro technique which is basically a timer set for 25 minutes to start and preferably finish a task, but if it’s not achievable in that time, simply starting and working on it for 25 minutes is a start.

My first thought is that 25 minutes is way too long for me to sit and focus on a designated task, and I may be right about that. In just 15 minutes, I have messaged 3 people on Facebook, tagged friends in some memes and gotten back to writing this. This complete inability to focus on one thing is the biggest thing I have to cope with when I write or read for long periods, and since I love writing and want to have a book published one day it’s quite an inconvenient behaviour. Just now, I switched tabs to Facebook to answer a very unimportant message about the weather. This is the norm for me, looking for things to do, anything else than what I should be doing.

No one is forcing me to write this blog but me, and I am writing it because I want this blog to be successful one day and to have my writing shared with others. This motivation is good, but it definitely doesn’t trump my habit of procrastinating and fidgeting. So, if I can’t even stay on task when it’s a task I actually enjoy, what hope do I have for a task that I dislike? I don’t like my chances when it comes to cleaning, or filing taxes, or any number of things.

Today I did declutter my email inbox, which surprisingly wasn’t a complete mess. I am actually pretty good at reading and replying to emails, I’m also pretty good at paying bills on time as long as I have the dates they’re due written in my bullet journal. Being good at those things is a blessed relief, because at the very least, my internet isn’t going to get cut off because I procrastinated or straight up forgot to pay the bill. I may use the internet to procrastinate but at least my credit rating isn’t totally trashed from avoiding debt collectors or something grim.

You might be reading this and rolling your eyes, I am 26, and should absolutely be paying my bills on time and decluttering my email inbox. But trust me when I say, if you’re a professional, experienced procrastinator things like that can easily pile up and make you wish to sleep for an entire day and wake up with them magically done for you.

So, I just got to the end of the first cycle of the pomodoro technique, 25 minutes of work and a 5 minute break. The 25 minutes of work was pretty difficult and if I’m honest I was definitely distracted by Facebook etc, but the 5 minute break worked well, as soon as it was over I got straight back to writing this. So while the Pomodoro Technique may not stop my penchant for multi-tasking it certainly motivated me to get right back to work and do what I should be doing to a greater extent than usual. I think if I can master the single mindedness of focusing on one single task at a time, I will be so much more productive and feel more accomplished.

Another technique I am trying in order to increase productivity and minimise time wasting is having a designated “productivity playlist” on Spotify (here it is if you’re interested). The goal with this technique is to only listen to this playlist when I’m doing something productive like writing a blog post, and thus when I listen to it in the future my brain will make the connection between this playlist and working/being productive. I have used this playlist every time I have written a blog post/checked emails/checked social media for the past month and it has actually worked quite well. The only issue I have is that I get quite bored of the songs quickly so I have to add new songs and edit the list semi-regularly, which in itself could be a tool of procrastination.

The last thing I am trying this week is attempting to fix my sleep pattern. My sleep pattern is whacky for sure. Last night I slept from 2am until 11am, so I’m certainly getting enough sleep, but I constantly feel tired and fatigued and I attribute this to the time at which I go to bed and wake up. There’s a reason we have internal clocks and circadian rhythms to guide us through life. It’s because the body works best when these internal clocks and rhythms are respected. Getting enough sleep at the right time is linked to better health (both mental and physical), better mental acuity, and overall a higher quality of life. As much as I rebelled against this and ignored the scientific data because it didn’t align with what I wanted to hear it’s time I acknowledge that a good sleep pattern is a gateway to a better life.

This last one is so challenging for me. For one thing, I love sleep. If I can wake up at 11am and nap at 3pm I will, but if I do this I can’t sleep that night until 2am, and the cycle continues again, leading to constant fatigue, and dissatisfaction.

I even went through a phase where I thought I had chronic fatigue syndrome because I was sleeping 14 hours a day in split shifts and wondering why I was so tired. It’s because I slept from 2am-11am and 3pm-6pm. Which sounds absolutely crazy when I say it because who needs that much sleep? Certainly not me. When I fixed my sleep pattern for a while and was sleeping consistently 8 hours a night from 11pm-7am, I felt phenomenal.  But all it took was getting out of the habit for one night and I was back at square one. So for the next 2 weeks I am going to keep a sleep log using an app on my phone, to see where I’m really at with sleeping and then for the next 2 weeks I will implement measures to combat my bad habits.

This is going to be a long journey of self improvement but I’m optimistic and determined. I hope you’ll stay around to see how I fare.

Please let me know if you have some amazing tools for beating procrastination, I’m always open to new techniques. 

 

The monkey on my back: Procrastination

Hello, my name is Amy and I procrastinate…

My name is Amy and I am a world class procrastinator. No, really, I will do anything to get out of what I am supposed to be doing: one of the best examples of this happened today when I cleaned my bedroom with an unrivalled enthusiasm instead of writing a blog post like I had promised myself I would.

I don’t know if I’ve always been a procrastinator. As a young kid around primary school age, I would always do my homework as soon as I got it, not because I liked homework but because I understood that if I got it out of the way first I could go on to do something fun. As I grew older, I became the polar opposite: I would do anything but the thing that needed doing, I would even do things I didn’t particularly enjoy doing to get out of doing the other thing, and now at almost 27 years old I am a veteran procrastinator.

In addition to my fastidious approach to procrastination I have anxiety and a serious fear of failure, all of which adds up to a very contradictory, constantly anxious, and stressed individual.

I have tried many approaches over the years to combat this hilarious combination of traits but so far I have not succeeded in kicking the habit. Procrastination remains one of my dearest and most familiar friends, even if he isn’t particularly friendly, helpful or good at all really.

Let’s use this blog as an example shall we? I spent all of April planning the launch in May, I had plans to have 30 posts ready to be scheduled and posted on their allotted days, but by the time April 30th rolled around, I had maybe 15 posts done, 5 of which I hated and haven’t even bothered posting. I had been so enthusiastic about this blog that I researched blogging platforms, social media strategies, and how to build the perfect Facebook page, and in the end all of that was procrastination. Granted, in this case it was useful procrastination and all very necessary work to make a blog happen but if I had had more posts written that I had loved and could be proud of, I probably wouldn’t have a moment of “Oh fuck, this is all too much” causing me to re-evaluate whether I can feasibly do 5 posts a week.

Even as I write that paragraph I began procrastinating by suddenly “remembering” I needed to update my twitter and find more blogs to follow on twitter. At least this time I can tell you why I procrastinated: in talking about how I procrastinate, I have to admit that I have faults and frankly no one wants to do that, but it’s important to admit that I am a procrastinator.

In examining my behaviour I actually think it’s highly likely I have ADD, because in between writing the past two paragraphs, I have checked both twitter and Facebook twice and changed the song on iTunes about 5 times. That in isolation could just be procrastination but it’s pretty much how I live my life, flitting from one thing to another. Nevertheless, I should hold myself accountable for the fact I have let my procrastination slide into the total inability to achieve set goals in a timely manner.

When it comes to setting goals, I can be very ambitious and I start off strong, doing all of the things I need to do in order to achieve and sometimes even surpass them, but slowly I find myself realising that I can’t possibly maintain the momentum I have set for myself and therefore I will inevitably fail, so instead of re-evaluating my goals, I do something else instead and literally think to myself “I’ll do that later,” I have done this so often that I don’t even realise I am doing it anymore. My standard operating procedure is to write a deadline down in my bullet journal, look at it everyday and think “I should really do that” and then not do it until the night before the deadline. That sums up the entirety of my university life too, for all but the first 2 weeks of freshman year.

I can’t help but feel I should be keeping a tally of how many times I have checked twitter, Facebook and my phone while I’m writing this, because it is getting a little ridiculous.

I have always been a master of setting goals, I have just never been particularly skilled at achieving those goals. As I said before, it could be that I over-estimate my abilities or the amount of work required to achieve a goal and therefore am setting myself up to fail before I even begin. Goals should be SMART:

  • S- Specific
  • M- Measurable
  • A- Achievable
  • R- Realistic
  • T- Time based/Trackable

And quite often, in hindsight I can look at goals I have set and laugh at how entirely unmanageable they are and how they were never going to be something I found myself achieving.

So, dear readers, all of this is to say: My name is Amy and I am a procrastinator, but I will not let it stop me from succeeding and I will do something about it… tomorrow.

No, seriously, starting tomorrow I am going to have a daily schedule, and I am going to blog about it and hold myself accountable to the schedule, myself and you. You can all leave comments if it looks like I’m slacking off.

Let’s all band together and fight procrastination.