I have often considered myself to be quite good at procrastination. In fact, I’m working on a series of related blog entries as we speak.* I can probably lay the blame on my precise mental make-up that means I tend to juggle activities (probably why I rather enjoy the day to day amalgam that is teaching at secondary level) rather than sequence them.**
However, today I read something that happily explained why I seem to succeed in certain situations – specifically that of working rather well in a coffee shop. This article on Psychology Today gave a specific tactic to combat procrastination: don’t do anything else. It’s rather Zen.***
It also seems like it’s a bit of a tautology – if I don’t do anything else, then I won’t be procrastinating – and it doesn’t immediately suggest that more of the targeted activity would be achieved. The article likens the concept to Raymond Chandler’s writing process:
This rule was inspired by the habits of writer Raymond Chandler. Chandler set aside at least four hours each day for writing; he didn’t force himself to write, but he didn’t let himself do anything else. He wouldn’t let himself read, write letters, write checks—nothing. He summed up: “Two very simple rules, a. you don’t have to write. b. you can’t do anything else. The rest comes of itself.”
Thinking on this myself, it explains why I work so well in coffee shops. I am there to do a certain activity – either mark a set of papers or write a certain amount of words – and I do not leave until I have done that. In a coffee shop, there is very little else for me to do, so the activity gets done. I am rarely able to dedicate myself as effectively to the same task at home.
However, what it doesn’t explain is why I am so bad at working in libraries or other silent academic environments. Perhaps the white noise is more important than it seems.
* Or, perhaps more accurately, as I have written and you are reading, unless something particularly strange is happening.
** (Simultaneously) I thought about editing that sentence so that it would be considerably easier to read, but I thought that the mess suited the content rather well.
*** See Rule Three.