Spilled Milk Allergies: Procrastination Management



Calvin and Hobbes on Procrastination by Bill Waterson (1992)


I am a chronic procrastinator. While this problem is as common as a common cold, I treat it more like an allergy. Though it might be caused by external stimuli, it’s not viral as in the external environment trying to compromise my immune system. Rather, it’s the irrationality of my immune system reacting to non-toxic substances such as, say, the blooming fear-of-failing pollen.


In an earlier post, Shereen talked about working your way through a mistake after the milk has been spilled. I, on this post, attempt to encourage you to take that milk jug and start pouring. Don’t think of the spill that may or may not happen.



Just pour it!



As a writer, I get procrastination hives (manifested in six-hour Netflix itch and spastic video game attacks) often enough to develop a longing for a procrastination antihistamine. In Megan McArdle’s article “Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators,” she indicates that putting off writing is a very common allergic hazard of the craft, but procrastination is not exclusive to writers. It’s so commonplace, you’d be the weird one of you didn’t do it.


Its predominance doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t make it less of a problem. Here are my thoughts on dealing with procrastination. Maybe you can share yours after.



  1. Acknowledge that you are procrastinating, and that it is a problem


They say the first step is admitting you have a problem, but with popular culture celebrating procrastination, it’s actually quite hard to take seriously.

Retrieved from someecards.com



However, if by the time your work is nearing due you find yourself parched for that milk you were too afraid to spill, and you find yourself wishing you were the type of person,who is never afraid of spilling milk, then procrastination is a problem.


It is a problem if it has turned your hobbies into escapism, when you know, deep down, you have compromised yourself.


It’s a problem, and you know it.


Now is the time to take charge.


  1. Shitty First Drafts and Short Assignments


I treat Anne Lammott’s Bird by Bird as my procrastination repentance bible. I like reading it when I need to be talked down off the ledge of procrastination. Lammott reminds me of shitty first drafts, and that if I do something now, I will have time to re-do it if necessary. It’s not about not spilling the milk, but having that leeway of pouring yourself another glass if you do spill. And because procrastination is an allergy, not a temporary viral infection, I need constant reminding doses of this fact when my procrastination hives act up. It’s normal. Don’t spend too much energy beating yourself up for procrastinating. Remember, there is no cure, just management.


“Short Assignments” is basically a tip about time management and perspective. It’s about taking it “bird by bird” and not being overwhelmed by the whole bird kingdom. If the blank page is your Mt. Everest, maybe try using subheads to fill the void like land markers. As they always say, it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. And sometimes knowing there are picnic stops is what keeps you going.


  1. You are not Proust or Wilde or Orwell


Let’s talk about the Myth of the Genius, about how society has created this idol of success where we mere mortals of mediocre achievements spend our time writhing in envy. Originally, according to Roman religion, the genius is a divine phenomenon. As the all-knowing Wikipedia puts it, the genius is the individual instance of a general divine nature that is present in every individual person, place, or thing. Therefore, when society demands genius, it demands godhood, and well, who doesn’t want to be God, right?


But this desire to be the next Wilde or Proust or Orwell or the next “genius” is unhealthy. The obvious result of this desire is crippling yourself via procrastination, but it’s also notable that this can lead to suffering from the Impostor Syndrome: thinking all your achievements don’t count for anything–that you are merely posing as “the genius”.


Treat this desire for genius and the impostor syndrome like an allergic reaction as well. When these ideas plague you, when you think you can’t be good enough, remember to ask who defines “good enough.” Most of the time, your best will be good enough. You don’t need to be the next Orwell, like he didn’t need to be the next Shakespeare.



  1. Celebrate


I think this is the most underrated tip there is. Who needs to be encouraged to celebrate? Anal-retentive procrastinators, that’s who. So if you are one of us, and you just finished a task where you have powered through procrastination allergic symptoms, good for you.


Let your spirits lift, and maybe tackle another thing on your to-do list. If your eyes feel a bit scratchy for Netflix, remember, procrastination does not have a cure, but it can be managed.


Be proactive.


Start pouring.

Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images



Working Online Demystified



“Cyberspace City,” Original image retrieved from Desktop Nexus || Edited in Pablo by Buffer

Almost a year ago, I started working as a communications intern for a couple of companies off-site. Even though I grew up during the rise of the Internet and consequently the construction of the streets of cyberspace and the realization of Marshall McLuhan’s “Global Village,” the idea of working solely online still held some sci-fi mystique for me. Though I have spent many hours as a social media user and a web surfer, being a cyber professional seems to be right out there with independent AI’s, cyber cowboys and Keeanu Reeves. My experience, unfortunately, is less cyberpunk “bullet time” and more cyberfrenzy, so here are the things I learned during my trek into the thick of working through the wild World Wide Web.


  1. The elusive online work does exist!

As much as I have spent weaving online work into the matrix of cyber fiction, it is real. I am not talking about those suspicious telemarketing “work from home” kinds either. There is legitimate and also various work that is available entirely or partially online.


I personally found my first distance internship through SCIP (Serving Communities Internship Program). It’s a matter of finding the virtual positions available that match your skills and time commitments.


As far as my second virtual placement, I did a virtual scouring of potential publishers that are more inclined to hire offsite workers. This hunt meant a lot of reading on their mandate and about page. Keywords to look out for are “global market,” “moving with technological advancement,” “web based,” etc. When the company you are looking at seems to be technologically advanced or savvy, they are more likely to be open to virtual workers. In my experience, I had to ask if there are possibilities for a distance internship, and though this might not work for regular employment, I think keeping in mind that there are jobs out there that don’t exist until you ask is very important.


  1. You are mostly working on self-management, and surprisingly, the management can still suck.
How to Focus

“Focus Infographic,” Retrieved from fundersandfounders.com

I think the most attractive myth around working online is the myth of independence. You work mostly for yourself. Sure, there are deliverables, but it is working at your own pace with as many coffee/Facebook breaks you want.

It is common for freelancers to find their inner self-boss more lenient—allowing  3-hour lunch breaks, impromptu Netflix binges, and indulgence on another pointless cat video. Of course by the end of the day, your inner boss realizes you are a horrible slacker, and you are now on a roller coaster guilt trip nose dive.

Independence in an online setting is equivalent to huge self-accountability. This independence also means you may not have support at your fingertips. For example, I was given a project working with a new software that my boss wasn’t an expert on and the software support wasn’t particularly helpful. I needed to take initiative, be responsible and work my way through the problem by myself. I had to learn how to be a good self-manager, and I must confess I am not my ideal boss.


  1. Working on your own time may mean you work longer.


As per discussed above, the challenges in working online involve being online itself (i.e. Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, cat videos, wikiHow, Forbes, etc.). When information (both useless and potentially useful information) is just a Google away, you can easily get distracted.


There are programs to keep your slog through the World Wide Web on the productive path. Leechblock and SelfControl can block certain sites that leech on your productivity. Having set working hours and break times are also crucial in keeping your professional online commitments.


To keep yourself motivated, break down large projects to a manageable to-do list, then create a priority list per day. Spend your first working hours tackling your top three priorities instead of working on easiest-first rationale. Achieving at least the top priorities of the day will leave you with an accomplished feeling that should sustain your motivation until you clock out.


On that thought, try to keep overtime at the minimum. You may be tempted to try and barrel through huge projects, but this behaviour will only tire you out in the long run. Remember, be a good boss to yourself, and that means knowing when to let your worker-self have some me-time away from the inner boss.


These are the three things I learned from working online. If you have a similar experience and are willing to share your online kernels of wisdom, we’d love to hear from you.