An Hour of Procrastination - THE PROJECT

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Procrastinator #1: Possibly complicated Vietnamese commercial interactions

Pseudonym: scratchindog
Three Preferred Dates and Times: 03/02/10 9am
Exact Location: Nguyen Che Nghia, Hanoi
The Task at Hand: Assist me buying prescription sunglasses
The Reason: I dislike delving into the realm of possibly complicated Vietnamese commercial interactions by myself.
Other Details: This project is based in Hanoi, Vietnam. However, since you happen to be here I see this as no problem.

A Monday in February, 8.35am
Hanoi, Vietnam

About to meet scratchindog (SD), Procrastinator #1. I have just had breakfast banh cuan (favourite culinary discovery of the trip- and there were many) and am now drinking sweet, extraordinary iced Vietnamese coffee. This in in the hope of reducing my own temptation of procrastination through supposed 'essential' consumption. While there has to be an element of 'whatever makes it less painful', eg. coffee, booze etc., we have a maximum of two hours to complete the task. Delayed gratification may then work as the reward. NB. 8.35am

Having said all of this, if SD is hungry/thirsty, I will of course let him eat/drink.

I missed my first session with SD as I was in bed reading the 'diarrhea flow-chart' that my travel doctor had so kindly (at the I time thought, unnecessarily) ear marked. While this is not a task that I myself am procrastinating on – and of course being sick is a legitimate excuse, one must ask ones self, when 'too sick' to do 'task', is one also too sick to do other things such as [insert long list of desirable to-dos]? It is certain that one can make ones self sick to legitimise procrastination.

It kinda goes into the same thinking as when sometimes you think you're really hungry – but you're not hungry at all, you just want to eat something a little bit delicious/disgusting – meat pie, Summer Roll, Wagon know. You then need to ask the question 'how hungry am I?' and you still can't usually tell – so you then ask yourself 'Could I eat a banana?' and the answer is usually 'no, I'm not hungry enough to eat a banana'. That doesn't by any measure mean that you shouldn't eat the Wagon Wheel, it just means you need to stop fooling yourself and eat it cause you want it – not under the false pretense of 'hunger'.

You can excuse yourself into and out of anything with the power of 'wishful' thinking when you're the boss. I don't mean that in
The Secret kind of way of envisaging a yacht and it will sail your way. I'm talking small-scale day to day stuff. By the way, when I refer to 'you', my reference point is actually me. I am a seasoned procrastinator and convincer of self.

A Monday in April, 10:56am
Melbourne, Australia

Now I've gotten to the part where I try to recall my procrastination hour with SD approximately 2 months later.

I went to SD's house to fetch him. Right on time and ready to go at 9am. I remember walking very fast, he was on a mission. I had done my research and written in my notebook the Vietnamese translation for 'sunglasses with spectacles' and 'prescription'. I also looked up the words for 'handsome' and 'ugly' to tell the optometrists that we wanted prescription sunglasses that made him look good but there was no word in the tiny dictionary for unattractive. I'm assuming that there is a Vietnamese word for it but that it not essential for a tourists limited Vietnamese vocab.

We went to one shop. Whipped out the notebook. SD tried on two pairs of sunnies. One good. One bad. The optometrist took his glasses. Copied the prescription. I took some photos. He paid his deposit. The whole thing took 15 minutes.

9.15am – a toast (or two) at the nearest bia hoi.

Many photos to come...three little housemates have not hooked up internet at home. Yet!


There’s some ludicrous figure - 82% of us - that procrastinate. And this project was whole-heartedly born out of a fear of it.

I used to be brilliant at procrastinating, productive and creative. I didn’t necessarily produce or create anything brilliant, but I did have a wonderful time doing it.

Depending on what you read, there are three or maybe six different types of procrastinators. There are those who procrastinate from doing day-to-day things; bills, exercise, work and then there are those who procrastinate on those big life things…changing jobs, leaving lovers. There are others and of course you can dip in and out of both but the extremity of its effects will vary massively.

I’m fascinated by why we procrastinate and what we do to procrastinate. Some people say that procrastination is laziness or anxiety, others, that it is a fear of the success that may come after the follow-through. The latter I find amusing when applying it to my own life but maybe it is true. We’ll see.

I think there are a billion different reasons why we do it, but at the end of the day I think it leaves us all feeling quite similar. That creaky pit of the stomach feeling that makes you wince at the thought of still having ‘not done it’. Things that are easy, things that are hard. Ich.

I’ve been working full-time for two years in a job that I really like, but all of the other things that I used to like seemed to have stopped. No projects, no writing, no making. So, I’m about to go part-time for six months. Six months to do all of these things that apparently are so important to me. I was wildly excited when it all happened, and then there was a sinking feeling that set-in. Anna, you’ll just be lazy. You’re not going to do anything…you’ll be delighted with your free time and sleep in, drink tea with friends and just hang around.

I now I have these extra fifteen extra hours in my life that were never there before. It’s a little bit like winning money and I want to share it around.


I’m donating 2 hours per week in one hour blocks to assist you in something you’ve been procrastinating on starting/finishing/planning. Anything you like.


Filling in disgustingly boring but important forms
Putting photos in albums
Backing-up computers
Hemming pants
Booking overseas trips
Leaving jobs
Writing letters to family
Going up tall buildings to confront fear of heights
Weeding gardens
Opening mail
Picking up possessions from exes
Get your drivers license
Writing grant acquittals
Starting something you’ve been wanting to do for an age

Yuck – I feel sick just looking at this list, but I think it will be fun.


You decide what you’ve been procrastinating on and I’ll come do it with you. This is going to look different for everybody. It might mean I sit with you for an hour while you do something and I just crack the whip so you actually do it OR I might strategise with you OR I might just be in the same room as you do it so it is less excruciating OR I might actually properly help you help you. Depends. Whatever it takes to relieve some of the procrastination pain. Some tasks will of course take longer than an hour, some might be days, or years – it’s a start.


Answer these questions and post them in the comments box.
If you have questions email them to annasved(AT) with the subject ‘PROCRASTINATION’

Three Preferred Dates and Times:
Exact Location:
The Task at Hand:
The Reason:
Other details: e.g. Will there be travel required? Do I need to wear/bring anything in particular?


Cannot kill me
Cannot take more than an hour
Cannot cost me $
In Melbourne or you organise the ferry of me to your location

You'll feel a million bucks
I may document part of the process (audio/video for radio & web)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Procrastinator #2: I haven't filled in the forms because

Pseudonym: Jenny
Date: Wednesday 24 March
Exact Location: Jenny's Home
The Task at Hand: filling in leave forms, reimbursement forms and making me do my phd
The Reason: I haven't filled in the forms because I'm lazy, and can't be bothered. The phd is pretty much the same.

I've just returned from Procrastinator #2. I'm eating ravioli that has gone bright pink from the beetroot, am listening to Elvis. It feels too cold outside to frolic – all is pretty nice.

This one was quite tough, the request was 'filling in leave forms, reimbursement forms and making me do my phd'. I was pretty sure we weren't going to get her PhD done in an hour so I suggested we focus on the leave forms. She hadn't printed them out but was very excited about setting up a computer for me to print them out for her. This is where I explained, no, I'm not doing it for you – with you. She then confessed that her PhD is definitely the bigger problem and often used things like filling in forms to procrastinate.

She feels lazy, but after chatting for a while she is far from it. She has way too much to do. Full time work, PhD, busy social life, exercisey stuff and so on. Jenny has worked to a routine before and doesn't like it but it's almost like now she has way too much time that she's allowed to run free in it and things aren't getting done. I dunno, somehow I think you need some kind of structure, even if it is to rebel against it to find how how you really do want to get things done and ways that you work best. I know I'm most creative and productive really late at night. Given that I work 9-5pm I have to go to bed at a reasonable hour so I miss these few hours that strike for everybody at different times of the day. It does mean that sometimes I will end up doing work in my bed just before I go to sleep, knowing that I'll be highly productive between 9-12, but not get my drift?

It felt entirely weird taking on this 'nasty-super-nanny' role...except, it was less 'super-nanny' more friend/parental intervention. Only the kind of conversations you have with those who are really your nearest and dearest, not just your good friends. I honestly don't think that Jenny is lazy, I think she needs a little structure. She needs to try to work during the day like all of her friends do – that way, when they're all at the pub or doing nice things she can go too as opposed to resentfully staying home and not getting anything done anyway OR going to pub and really not getting anything done.

We came up with a schedule for her to follow for a week to fit in work, PhD, going to the gym and socialising. We set up a 'behaviour list', her words not mine which included things like only going on Facebook once every hour when working and once every two hours when she is doing her PhD. She works at home so she now has to leave the house by 8.30am every day, has scheduled lunch breaks and finishing times and can do whatever she feels like after 6pm as long as it's not so boozy that she winds up with a hangover. Weekends are free range.

She was overwhelmed by so much change in one go. The idea however, is to figure out what works and what doesn't. I don't think that the schedule is too extreme – she has a lot to do – it gives her free time where she doesn't have to think about anything and there is flexibility to do a 'trade-in' with her 9-12pm (3hr PhD Timeslot) to be shifted to the evening – she needs to do the agreed 3 hours though.

We have a lunch date booked in next Thursday to assess how she's going. We realised that she needed some kind of incentive or punishment, we talked monetary fines but she then said it has to be something that I control... I now have top-secret goods to exploit should she have wasted her hour with me.

I left her for the afternoon to do a proper to-do list, to break down her PhD into tasks, to start reviewing an article and then it all starts tomorrow.

I'm rather curious to see how the week goes.

OK - Now it's 5.30pm and I myself have procrastinated from finishing writing this. I just got a text from Procrastinator #2

Jenny: "Oh god, my phone even has FB notifications that I need to turn off! No wonder I don't get anything done"
Anna: "How did your day go?"
Jenny: "Not finished quite yet, going to work until 7. It's been tough, but not so bad really. Some internet withdrawal :) Frank said my absence from the internet makes it seem like I'm dead. Found a bunch of new organisational tools too :)

Hmmm, bit dubious about these 'organisational tools'.

Keep you posted
Anna xx