Sent by Angie Noll
Before we immigrated to New Zealand, we had two little lapdogs of no distinguishable breed – “mutts” would be the best way to describe them. They were super cute, but completely untrainable. We even took them to puppy training classes and the instructor kindly advised us that we were wasting our money (“Just enjoy them, but don’t expect too much from them.”) That’s how untrainable they were. What followed was nearly two decades of trouble with these two fluff balls.
Upon arriving in New Zealand, we had to buy a new puppy to soothe our daughter’s broken heart about leaving the two little mutts, who were ancient by this time, back in South Africa (in the pet cemetery.) We’re still partial to pavement specials, but couldn’t find any over here, so we settled for an adorable black and white Lhasa Apso crossed with a Spoodle – who turned out to be super quick on the uptake and easy to train. What a pleasure!
Being an intuitive, I often receive pictures or hear words in my head from my divine writing coaches when I know I have to write on a particular topic, and when I sat down to think about this article on procrastination, these dogs of mine came to mind.
I shook my head a few times to clear the view and try again (because clearly dogs have nothing to do with writer’s procrastination) but the vision of the dogs was still there.
After giving it some thought, though, I got it. Obviously, dogs have everything to do with procrastination, because when you think about procrastinating as a useful tool, then it’s a lot like puppy training. Hence the idea of a Procrastination Puppy was born.
Keep in mind that puppies themselves aren’t bad – as long as you teach them and stay in control. Otherwise you’re in for a hard time (trust me on this.) But if you spend some time training them, you get to enjoy the benefits of the puppy and you can make it work for you, such as guarding your house, chasing the cat away, and taking you for a lovely walk every day.
A procrastination puppy is no different – train it and reap the benefits.
So, now that you understand that procrastination just needs to be placed on a short leash with you firmly in control of the process, here’s how you go about creating an obedient procrastination puppy instead of a noisy, annoying ankle-biter that chews the furniture and barks at (or bonks) anything that moves.
The Procrastination Ritual (a.k.a Your Procrastination Puppy)
If you suffer from untrained procrastination, you will have noticed that there is a pattern to the process. You can use this pattern to identify your breed of procrastination puppy.
- Perhaps you feel an uncontrollable urge to wash the dishes or mop the floor when it’s time to sit down and write. But before you do that you realise that the carpets need to be vacuumed and the trash taken out. On your way there, you pass the bathroom and get side-tracked by the toilet that just has to be cleaned right now. If this sounds like you, then your puppy is the one that gets distracted by every squirrel and leaf blowing in the wind at puppy school. In the distance you can hear someone commanding you to “Write!” but you barely registered the word before you’re off again on some other desperately important task. Good luck.
- Maybe your specific breed is one of those friendly types that likes to socialise and jump on everyone, in which case we can find you chatting in coffee shops, drinking tea at friends’ houses and meeting up with your scrapbooking group instead of putting pen to paper.
- Some less sociable breeds prefer to escape the confines of the writing room and go on a solitary walkabout the neighbourhood. If this is you, then your writing time is taken up gallivanting around on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and probably Pinterest and email, too.
- Let’s not forget those sleepy puppies that barely flick a tail when you call them. If this is you, we’ll see you curled up on your couch, watching the telly or, more likely, your limbs twitching as you dream about chasing a story and pinning it down on paper, only to wake up and find yourself with a still empty page in front of you.
Now that you’ve identified your procrastination puppy breed, you know what you like to do when you’re trying to avoid writing. Select a few of those things that won’t take longer than 5-10 minutes. These activities will form your procrastination ritual from now on. Every time you get ready to write, plan to purposefully procrastinate for 5-10 minutes, doing the same few activities every single time.
For example, my procrastination ritual consists of making a cup of tea first, then checking emails and Facebook. This takes about 10 minutes, and after that I’m ready to write.
The procrastination ritual is unbelievably effective – as long as you remain in charge! No chasing squirrels or jumping up and barking at every social opportunity that comes your way. Your selected activities, done in 5-10 minutes, is the only freedom you give your Procrastination Puppy. After that, the puppy is tired and will go to sleep, and you will sit down and write.
The Benefits of a well-trained Procrastination Puppy
- Rituals are very soothing to the anxiety that creeps up when writing time approaches. Knowing that you can sit down and procrastinate before you are expected to write that killer first paragraph is immensely comforting.
- If you know beforehand what you want to write about, you’ll find ideas sneaking into the backdoor of your consciousness – words that sound just right, a first sentence to get you going, an analogy or a thought that takes you deeper into your writing topic. That’s the real beauty of the procrastination ritual – it soothes your conscious mind and your inner critic, tricking it into submission, giving your subconscious and creative mind a chance to get a few words in edgeways before you hit the page.
- You get more out of your writing time, which is often precious little, so while it might seem like you’re wasting time, you’re actually doing the opposite.
- You will be more grounded as you write, since the ritual gives you a chance to get centred and focused before you face your page.
Unlike my two little untrainable mutts, your Procrastination Puppy is highly intelligent and very trainable. Keep it under your firm control, and enjoy many happy writing days with your new friend.