5 golden rules of procrastination

About the author: From an early age I showed a prodigious talent in procrastination. It was a gift - what can I say - I was something of a "Wunderkind." There was no task too noble or mundane, that I could not defer to a later less convenient moment, that I could not half complete in the stolen seconds between other half completed tasks. Often people ask me, "Where did it all begin? - what was the defining moment?" I must admit that my past is a blur of such prolific, high profile procrastination that I find it hard to really select one defining moment on my deferred road to success. Perhaps when I was five....yes...I remember. There was Mozart, drifting nonchalantly (as only Mozart can drift) through an open door somewhere in the house. The music seemed to grip my soul and I was thrown into a frenzy - all those eight bar phrases and perfect cadences, what is a five year old to do! – the music had taken me. It compelled me to sit down at the big black thing in the middle of the room, which seemed to make noise if you thwacked it hard enough. Now you probably think you know how this goes: prodigy sits down, consumed by a transcendental force and replicates the whole opera in the transposed key of C triple flat minor, pausing only to make a few necessary alterations to Mozart’s original. But no – mine is a far less commonplace occurrence and indicative of a far greater talent (I believe). I sat there, poised at the ready, when I noticed my colouring book lying open on the floor, revealing the only half coloured-in jungle scene I had dedicated much of my yesterday to. Not one to leave a project unfinished, I dismounted my throne and made my way to the book. Before I embark on Mozart, I should really complete this pressing task I thought, otherwise I won’t be able to give myself fully to the music. But as I courageously picked up the blue crayon for the canopy of the rain forest (as I said, a prodigious talent) I noticed the half built Lego castle in the corner. Not one to leave a project unfinished, I made my way over to the castle – but where were the instructions?! Upstairs of course – and so I swerved out of the room to finally bring some completion to my existence. And so my life-long love affair with music and particularly the piano began. When I was fifteen, I decided to stop messing around and really go professional. I started really putting off the hours of practice, committing myself to an ideal. It was my choice. I sacrificed myself at the altar of not-doing. They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to make an expert, and they are right. I have put off all ten thousand of those hours and I am an expert in my field.

  1. Really get to the bottom of what it is you need to do – not just practically but existentially. Agonize at great length over all the implications not doing the task would have on your life. Write them down; make it as clear as can be. Prioritize everything!! Standard numbering – 1 is the most pressing, most important, most essential: let’s say, preparing for solo recital next week or finish composing song cycle for its premiere and live broadcast. Prepare for career defining meeting, etc. - 25 is then the least relevant: let’s say, find good recipes for tofu, clean the dust away from behind your wardrobe, meet with the friend of a friend of a friend, you met once at party a couple of months ago so you can exchange anecdotes about people you don’t know, in places you have never been to, doing things you don’t care about. Take your time with this list; it has to be very thorough and all encompassing. Once you have all your points written down, pin it to the wall that is most visible in your room – you want maximum guilt when you pass the list. Step back – take a deep breath – and begin with point 25.

  2. Internalize the credo of procrastination – “If you can’t put it off – don’t take it on”

  3. Update your vocabulary – Things are always “in transition”, “getting there”, “on their way”, “adding the final touches”. Eloquence is not a crime. Avoid concrete time structures at all costs.

  4. For the Pianists – find the really tricky bits in Liszt – you know, the filler-in between all the good melodies every one hums. Get a big red pen and circle them. Now always start your practice with the bits you can already play perfectly (you will soon notice they are often either side of those big angry red circles we so helpfully drew earlier). Play them over and over again, you will feel so great about yourself.

  5. – I am adding the final touches to this rule, it is getting there -

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