Without the last minute, so the old saying goes, nothing would ever get done. Give me extreme pressure, less time than I actually need, and I’ll whip that deadline into shape. And produce something brilliant. Leave the ending open and the task will hang around tormenting me. And anything I do attempt to produce will be flabby or fall flat (in my mind, anyway).
Except I thought I was better than that: I’m a consummate planner, with a social diary that is meticulous and varied, and a work diary that is packed and tightly managed. So why is it that a task comes along that I don’t want to do, and the not-doing the task drains more energy than actually doing the task would.
“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task,” says William James.
Here’s another great quote about procrastination: “If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” Olin Miller
There’s been a mighty hard job hanging around my shoulders over the last three weeks. Not hard in terms of thinking or coming up with some cracking ideas, but in terms of being practical and getting something lawyer-ish done, which involved finding documents in my… erm… ‘creative’ writing studio. (OK, so there are a few bits of paper lying around my office that need to find their spiritual home, and I really hate admin).
I needed to do this task pretty damn quick, but somehow my motivation was stuck in treacle. Instead, I projected my need to do this task onto the lawyer who was going to help me. Big time.
I let her chase me for three weeks, and I’m sure it’s because I was making myself feel pressured by someone outside myself, perhaps nudge some blame onto her desk, before inspiring (or forcing) myself into action.
So, how did she get me off my backside and photocopying the very important documents I needed for a very important issue? She left a message saying she was going on holiday at the end of next week, and if I wanted her help I’d have to send the documents this week.
Suddenly, a quick whip around my home office discovered the documents I needed. They’re now all neatly photocopied and in a folder waiting to be sent by express mail tomorrow.
You see, we writers need a deadline. It gives us purpose, prioritises our day – and the fear of failure spurs us on.
That deadline is now achieved. Long live the last minute.