Pre-Productive

Dad emailed me a couple days ago to let me know he was thinking of coming to visit for six weeks this October, and so I’m looking forward to an awesome start to this year’s holiday season. I’m thinking that I’ll have to paint the living room now, so today I’m planning on getting it ready for said activity next weekend.

So I mentally take my brain ignition key out and give it a good crank.

RrrrrrRrrrrRrrrr. RRrrRRrrRrrr. Rrrrrr. Clunk.

Just a temporary setback, I assured myself, but I know in the way that I suspect Han Solo knew in The Empire Strikes Back that the hyperdrive ain’t working for reasons he was well aware of: slacking off on getting that darned hyperspace motivator replaced at the 100K parsecs mark, and here he was pushing the poor Millennium Falcon 200K past the last full tune-up when he should have had it and a half-dozen other components replaced. He didn’t need no shiny-assed protocol droid to tell him what he knew already, that was for sure, and he didn’t really need to feel the guilt that went along with that because, well, maybe he’d pushed the line just once too far.

Where was I? Oh, yes…I was just saying that I was having trouble kick-starting my motivation this morning, and it’s just kind of making this sad grinding noise every time I turn the metaphorical ignition key. I actually know that I could sit down and make up a few lists, blocking out my time using the pre-printed Emergent Task Planner pad I have in front of me (aside: the pads are being shrinkwrapped now; it turns out that this was a necessity after all, but more on that next week). I already went to the gym and ate lunch, drank some coffee, and have the energy to start moving things around. But for some reason, the ignition just isn’t sparking. So I sit at my computer and procrastinate further (albeit semi-productively) by banging out a stream-of-consciousness blog posting about the very problem I’m having just this minute.

Tricks of the Text

I find that if I write anything down at all, it’s much more likely to happen. I think it’s because writing forces me to linearize my thinking, which is naturally prone to free association and connection making between just about any three things that happen to buzz into my internal projection screen. On this screen, in the theater of my mind, is a slideshow of Things I’m Supposed To Do. Sometimes the slideshow has some pretty interesting graphics that I can get into, but then again I’m sitting in the back of the theater, in a dark room, just having eaten lunch and already thinking about things I’d rather be doing. Which is anything other than having to sit and watch this slideshow of Things I’m Supposed To Do.

Ok, I got lost in my own head again, but I think I’ve gotten a little farther: that slideshow of Things I’m Supposed To Do is really boring. It doesn’t matter that it’s really effective (I am looking at my pre-printed pad and thinking if only I had a number 2 pencil handy, I would love to fill in one of those juicy bubbles. But alas, I am somehow glued to my chair and typing frantically hoping that my responsibilities will melt away, but I digress again).

Again, it doesn’t matter that making lists of things to do is an effective, simple way to just get your attention focused on That Which Needs To Get Done. I could perhaps make a GAME out of getting things done, but even I can see through that trick and it just triggers the teenage apathy that I thought I had finally outgrown last year (I am about to turn 40, for those who are curious about such things). Why make a game of it when I can reward myself right now, thank you very much. If you flip procrastination on its ear, it’s a form of doing what you want right now, proactively avoiding work that you know to be rewarding but kinda dull. That work would entail:

  1. Taking 1 minute to find a pencil, I could write down what I needed to do on a sheet of ETP paper.
  2. Writing down “find empty boxes, assemble”, estimated time 30 minutes.
  3. Writing down “clear a space in the basement upstairs to put said boxes, once they are full”, estimated time 30 minutes.
  4. Writing down “loading up boxes in the living room”, estimated time 60 minutes.
  5. Writing down “moving all those damn boxes upstairs, which probably actually has more room, instead of downstairs”, scratching out number 3 and changing the text appropriately.
  6. Writing down “collapsing the furniture and moving that stuff downstairs.”
  7. Go out and have a Slurpee while flirting with the attractive Slurpee Machine Operator, assuming that it is a she.

Oh crap, now I’ve gone and made a list, and now I have to follow through with it. Have a good weekend, all!