Workspace Woes

In the last few months I have suffered from a bit of indirect procrastination. I say indirect because for the most part, the reason that I haven”t been writing recently is cimple … I’ve been busy. There are a gazillion and one things that need to be done around here, and after years of being “on call” for various family members* I’m bound and determined to get them done.

One thing that has been a more direct form of procrastination is a form of ‘advanced workspace rearrangement’. This idea is from the cartoon that I featured in my ‘Oh Hey’ post from June 3rd. My version of workspace rearrangement is more an issue of workplace annoyance and frustration. My desk is always cluttered and it drives me batty.  It’s doubly upsetting because I love my desk, I actually built it so that it would fit all of my personal specifications. I built the upper shelves to hold paperback books and some of the fun stuff I’ve collected over the years.

Kim Desk1

My nifty desk

The real problem with my workspace is that my desk is not only used for writing. My desk is the main location for all household paperwork, bill paying and unfortunately, the unofficial lost and found location for an untold assortment of items. So, at any point during the day or week my desk can be completely neat or fairly cluttered. It’s like the furniture version of Schrodinger’s cat, at all times my desk can be thought of as both neat and cluttered.

I can be terribly frustrating when I’d like to sit down and write, instead I end up fighting the stack of mail or the two beach towels, not to mention the two cats that have decided that they really need to take a nap right now on my desk. Nothing like trying to use the mouse while a cat is laying across your arm. More often than not I end up using the scant amount of time that I have straightening up my desk instead of writing.

Cat desk1

Scotty getting some cuddles in while I work.

Sometimes I take my laptop to other places in the house to write but that has it’s own set of issues. I have asecond monitor on my desk as well as an area near my desk for my story boarding, I have clipboards, dry erase and cork boards that I use to collect extra notes like floorplans, family trees, jot quick notes and pin up inspiration pictures.

Writing area

This pic is a bit blurry but you get the general idea.

I’d love to have a nice place to write that was just for writing. Lately I’ve seen some rather nifty desk ideas for small spaces like closets and shelving units.

Closet desk - Remodelaholic

Closet desk – Remodelaholic

walldesk4

Hanging wall desk – Bush Furniture

Walldesk5

Wall desk – Junior Living

These are all pretty cool, of course, I don’t have a spare closet or even an empty bit of wall to hang a groovy wall desk. I guess, I’ll just have to make do with what I have for now. At the same time, I will keep thinking of better ways to use the space that I have. My immediate solution is adding a basket at the end of my desk, anything that’s in the way will go into the basket and I can take care of it the next morning. Writing needs to be my priority and I need to stop worrying about trivial things that are just wasting my time.

*In the past ten years we’ve had way too many family members with serious medical issues. We are very close to both sides of our family and will always drop anything to do what we can to help. 

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Procrastinator Support Group

TeamHi, my name is Kim and I’m a procrastinator. Not only am I a procrastinator but I am a wizard level procrastinator.

The basic definition of procrastination is the practice of delaying or postponing the completion of a task. Advanced procrastinators don’t simply delay a task they often replace it with a less important activity. This less important activity is usually something that really doesn’t need to be done, and certainly not in the time frame of this very important task that clearly has a deadline.

When I was in college I am pretty sure that I had the cleanest closet during finals week at my university.  Every semester like clockwork classes would wind down and I’d find myself organizing my closet.  Of course, I always had a good reason. At the end of the fall semester, I told myself that with the holidays coming I needed to get it taken care of.  Where would I hide gifts? At the end of the spring semester, I justified it by reasoning that I needed to be able to find my sandals or other summer gear.

It’s a problem with perfection, and it’s not that we, as procrastinators, think we are perfect or that we do things perfectly. It’s that we have illusions of grandeur. We can imagine perfection, and it looks really good. The only problem with perfection is that it’s well, perfect.  Even if we ignore the idea that different people are going to have varying ideas of what is perfect, we are setting the bar exceptionally high.

As my father, all around smart guy and my junior year Honors English teacher, would tell me, “It’s hard to be perfect and on time.” At the time I just thought he was talking about me, but since then I have found that this is a universal truth for procrastinators. You start with a task that needs to be done and then you come up with this great idea and you are really psyched about it.  It’s going to be amazing, and groovy and maybe even blue and…wait.  What now? There’s a deadline. Perfection and punctuality, fantastic, two of my favorite things, really.  Awesome. Ok.

At some point, it turns into perfect or punctual, one or the other but not both. How do we choose? Perfection is fairly subjective, you ask a random sample of people a single question and you are going to get different answers.  I think Chris Hemsworth is pretty close to perfect but I know a few people who are not impressed at all. Punctuality, however is definite, Thursday at noon means the same thing to everyone.  (Yes, I know there are different time zones that could cause confusion but we all knew what I meant.) Clearly, the deadline is going to win over a fleeting chance at perfection.

The deadline is the deal breaker but as a procrastinator we are then obligated to justify the lack of perfection. How can we be perfect when we have had such a busy day?  And, yeah, sometimes we invent things that have to be done right now. It’s avoidance at its best, perfection takes time so we allow ourselves to be distracted by various shiny alternatives. When we triumphantly meet our deadline we can point to all of the distractions and pat ourselves on the back for doing so well in such a short amount of time.

Here’s my shiny example, while writing this post I got an email letting me know that I had earned a $15 rewards certificate to a national shoe store chain. I stopped writing to go look at shoes.  Do I need shoes right now? Nope. It is summer and I have a plethora of sandal options to choose from.  All I thought was, “Wow, $15!” and I sprinted off to see if there was anything that I absolutely needed.  Did I find anything that I needed right now? Nope…although I did find a darling pair of slouchy pull on boots that are on clearance, the avoidance thing, it’s not always bad.

Is there a cure for procrastination? If you climb a mountain in Borneo and talk to the wise man…yeah. No, there is no cure. You can only treat the symptoms.  Like perfection, treatment options vary among the procrastinator population. When it comes to writing, schedules work for some people, block out the same time every day to write.  Setting a timer is another favorite, set it for an hour and keep writing until you hear the ding. The best treatment, in my humble opinion is to drop the idea of perfect in favor of ideas like fun, inspired, heartwarming or relatable.

 

This post originally appeared at the RWA Chapter of Contemporary Romance Writers Blog.