On laziness and procrastination


As some of us discussed in a previous post, I have a tendency to act against my better knowledge because I’m impatient or too lazy to take that extra step of preparation before I can move forward. And I’ve often wondered how I can train myself to not only pay attention to my inner voice but also stop in my tracks and do what it says, because it really is quite clever sometimes and doesn’t deserve to be told off.

Is it about slowing down in general, in thought and actual physical movement? A question of planning and making a structure before you push ahead? (I know people who keep doing that to perfection and thus never getting started – argh! But alas – I guess this is why I don’t play chess) Being more mindful in general, less goal oriented? Just a matter of habit?

Then Birdie suggested there could also be an element of self-sabotage in there. But who would want to do such a thing?! Which in turn made me think of having subconscious fears of succes. After all, once you really make it, there is even more pressure, because now you have to top everything you’ve done previously. And keep doing it! I still don’t quite get how this applies to ordinary daily activities, unless you take your life way too seriously for anybody’s good. But it’s a theory.

I would for instance LOVE to just sit at home in my snuggly little corner and get paid to write books. Never risk having to do another slave job in my life. They’d be great books of course and I’d like to make a truckload of money. Well, a fair amount anyway, enough to make a good life for myself and some extra to share the love around. What I don’t want is to appear in magazines and tv-interviews, even a book signing tour sounds pretty horrible. * Now, that’s really sending a mixed signal to the universe, right? I want the succes, but only the nice bits! Disregarding my chances of producing a best seller or not, could this and other similar disharmonies of intention be causing some of those weird reactions? “I want to paint but I have a million excuses before I can get started.” Later is not as real as now, so it’s also safer in terms of showing what you’ve got.

This is definitely something I need to be working on and thinking about.


* I don’t mind putting in the long hours of research, writing, editing etc. But is seems that today, if you want to sell, you don’t have to just output great stuff, you also have to be a travelling circus. In fact I have a feeling that publishers only bother marketing the authors that look good in pictures. (ok, I’m a lost case already….)


I’m also trying to teach myself, not to stop procrastinating, because I don’t think I can at this point in time, but to do it differently. Trick myself into not wasting time; and by that I don’t mean well deserved naps, but the times when you hang out in front of the computer, checking the weather page (again), looking up new tags on WordPress, read Facebook (I’m a stalker – never post, only comment my friends’ posts). All because you want to avoid spending 3 minutes walking to the (chilly) back room to start a load of laundry. Or stack firewood, trim horse hooves etc.

So what I’m practising is: Say that I plan to spend the day painting because it’s sunny but cold, so I have enough light but want to be inside, I’ve been having some ideas, perfect, yes? And yet I find myself pottering about not really doing much of anything, getting more coffee (which I honestly don’t even like much), clipping my nails, or getting overwhelmed with exhaustion, feeling the flutter of moths (not pretty butterflies) beating hard inside me; instead of flopping down for something completely brainless, I now do useful displacement activities. So I may not have beaten my performance anxiety, but at least the floor is clean, the laundry all done, my desk is shiny (very useful) and I feel a small victory in not having spent 4 hours reloading silly webpages. (not counting those of you wonderful, inspiring people whose pages I read regularly of course 😉 )

This has also (I hope, since this is a fairly new practice) solved another old problem of mine: having too many hobbies. This used to stress me out completely, because I felt I had/wanted to do all of them all the time, with equal skill, attention and results. Painting and knitting ended up on a shelf for many, many years, the horses were gone for over a decade too, but then all of them insisted on coming back as well as the photography, the computer graphics, new ones entered such as gardening, spinning and dyeing. And, well, you still have to cook and clean and mow the grass, fix the fences, and if you had the money it would be nice to fix up the house too. I’d love to start writing again. I want to learn to felt, and how about using all that plant dyed yarn to make tapetries? Calligraphy is cool. Collages. I love to read – for days. Etc. etc. So no matter which activity I chose for the day, I felt guilty about the others. And sometimes (often) not doing any of them just from the stress of juggling them in my head (clicking webpages again while I worked on my decision). And some of you may have noticed, I didn’t even talk about jobs…

Now I’ve decided that

  1. I don’t need to be doing any of it all the time. I can totally justify having a spinning wheel and only using it once a month, even if I’ve got 40 pounds of wool sitting around the house and also rearranged half the living room into a painting studio.
  2. I can use those many hobbies, which are in some ways related since they’re mostly about visual creativity, to outsmart my anxiety. So you’re too scared to paint today? Ok, well, while you’re picking up your guts I’ll go write a blog post. Don’t have anything to say? Right, let’s dye some yarn. And while I wait for the water to boil I’ll just prime a few pieces of paper or frame some canvas, just so it’s ready to go in case you do feel like picking up a brush. That way, I’m still being creative, or getting everything organized and easy for being creative instead of just running away for a nap and then feeling like a complete failure for doing so. The focus is on keeping a certain flow, not which actual activity is helping me do so. If all else fails, I’ll sit down with my coffee and read a book about being creative….

One benefit is, that some tasks are so boring (such as housework) that I have to procastinate my way through those by doodling a bit, slather some random paint on a canvas for a background etc. in between tasks – or actually during if I break up laundry into sorting, washing, hanging, folding. So the method works both ways. I get more things done without rushing or stressing about a todo list, I pretty much choose my current activity in the moment. Being a world champion of list making, this is incredibly liberating! I mean, I have the making of to-do lists as a whole hobby/activity in itself. I still need them to declutter my head, but I don’t actually look at them very much – and I still get as much done if not more. Cool huh?

But all this sounds really complicated. Am I in reality just fighting windmills a lazy nature? I know my body doesn’t seem to want to move about much of its own accord, as in sports, dancing etc. Maybe I should just lay down arms and embrace who I am; but I’m worried that is someone who sits on the sofa with a book, eating cake all day, house falling apart around me…. I have this inner drive – but I’m nearly always tired.


Synchronicity again: I finish the post, then read this:

We are generally torn between two opposite sets of instructions programmed into the brain: the least-effort imperative [entropy] on one side, and the claims of creativity [discovery] on the other.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

If you made it this far, you deserve a reward. 😉 I’m sorry I didn’t find more pictures to distract you.

21 thoughts on “On laziness and procrastination

  1. ooh what’s my reward?? 😀 I think you’re plan sounds great and I hope it works well for you. Is the fatigue related to ilness? I know you’ve mentioned it before.

    Re: self sabotage – it’s not so much about taking your life too seriously, it’s more a reflection of deeper beliefs about who we are and what we’re capable of. So for example, if we believe deep down we are incompetent, when our actions come close to proving that that simply ISN’T true, we find ourselves doing something to sabotage ourselves. So less to do with taking things too seriously, more to do with unaddressed baggage.

    1. Not quite fear of success, more like an inner tyrant. Oooh, and the reward – I didn’t actually think that far. A medal for bravery and perseverance? Cake?

    2. BTW: My fatigue is a multifaceted thing so your question can’t be anwered with yes or no. In fact it’s a bit long to put here, so even though it’s not a secret at such, I don’t want to turn this into a sob story 😉 The short version: some of it is physical, some of it is me wearing myself out over a long, long period of time. Life stuff happening. It all adds up….

      1. Self pity is not something I would associate with you Pia, quite the opposite from what I have seen on your blog anyway.

  2. I completely relate to the too many hobbies thing! Thank you for sharing the method of “outsmarting” anxiety. I’m going to try this. Plus that slide show was exactly what I needed today…

    1. I may yet have to revise my opinion on the many hobbies thing, as I do need to simplify my life probably to preserve energy. Unless I find a way to up that. I’ll just have to experiment.

  3. Again, there are so many things in this post I can relate to – especially combining inner drive with fatigue and having so many interests that nothing gets full time attention.

    Your post also reminded me of a biography I read of one of my favourite painters Helene Schjerfbeck who lived in Finland about 100 years ago and it was fascinating to note that she was battling with exactly the same kinds of things: how to find time and energy for creativity and painting when there’s some much housework and other duties to do. She too had what these days would be called CFS and had times when she could only have enough stamina to paint for about 1 hr a day to her immense frustration. Her solution to it was to live a quiet country life away from the busy art and social world of Helsinki, and refuse to participate in things that would sap her time and energy, and dedicate them to things that mattered most to her, her artistic vision. These days her paintings sell for vast sums of money at Christie’s.

    I’m sure your plan of “choosing the right activity in the moment” is the way to go, it’s certainly works for me. It’s about learning to listen to the inner voice and following its advice regarding what activity you can do most effectively at that moment. And strangely enough, the inner voice doesn’t just advice you to do the fun things, sometimes even hoovering is just the right thing to do at that moment. It is true that if you have lots of interests it means you have less time for each, but as you say, it all serves the general purpose of living a creative life. There may be fewer actual finished products to show, but you have spent just as many hours in creative enjoyment.

    Re: procrastination, I think this is strongly linked to fatigue, whether mental or physical. After all, we don’t tend to procrastinate on days that we’re bursting with energy and inspiration. Is there a solution to it? I don’t know really, if there is I haven’t discovered it. Perhaps some form of gentle self-discipline combined with listening to what your inner voice is telling you. Knowing when to fight it or when to give in.

    1. Thanks for your reply. Yes, yes and yes. 😉
      Interesting to hear about the painter – and about you other people out there facing the same struggles. Makes me feel less self-conscious about it actually. I too refuse big social gatherings when I can, and hope I can remain living in the country for the rest of my days.
      I did a little right-brain exercise the other day (more about it later) and was pretty much told to “do the practical stuff”, so it’s funny you should mention hoovering, because I was wondering if I’d misunderstood that bit, LOL.

  4. it is interesting to read this post, as so many parts of it I am thinking yes .. exactly . I often think if only I really concentrated and worked at one thing I might get some where with it , and then the next day I am thinking of something new I want to try . I am sure in my case, part of me is scared to commit , and also to fail , and so I make sure in a why I don’t ever get that far, by going off to try something else . I also sometimes think I am lazy , but deep down I think it is just a simple easy explanation , as I can’t totally understand my behaviour, and yet want an explanation . It is good to know I am not alone in this , so Thank you for your post .

    1. yes, it almost makes you think your brain is kinda normal, when you hear from others who function exactly the same way, doesn’t it? But really, the culture is just as “sick”. Not being able to focus and finish is considered a personality disorder, otoh many jobs expect you to be able to multitask and respond in a positive manner when you’re interrupted by yet another “urgent” matter from upstairs…. I’m determined to find work methods that suit ME, as well as letting myself be interested in as many things as I damn well please.

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