Useful procrastination

I go back and forth, in periods of months or seasons, between being very productive and being basically useless.  Lately, I sense that I'm on the upswing towards greater productivity, and I'm hoping that trend persists. One of the things I've been trying to do, as a sort of lifelong meta-project, is isolate the contributing habits, so that I can try to learn how to put the breaks on before I burn out when I'm 'up,' and break the vicious cycles of counterproductivity when I'm 'down'.

And one of the big differences I've noticed between my 'up' state and my 'down' state is the quality of my procrastination.

Since the start of winter break, I've been doing a lot better about filling my spare time with projects that are important to me.  I've been working on my novel, and I think I should be finished the first draft by the end of the month -- I'm aiming for the Twentieth, but it might take as long as the Thirty-first.  I've also been blogging, and while I haven't updated Bathetic in a while, I've been doing a lot of sketching, and trying to fit in some art study.  That project is not abandoned.

But more than that, I've been better about what I'm doing when I'm not working on those things.  I've been reading a lot of books.  I've really been keeping up with the blogs I read, not just skimming past most of the posts.  (Still haven't caught up on Charlie's Diary yet, though.)  And I've been doing better about multitasking my timewasting -- I play Tetris when I'm watching Youtube videos, mostly lectures.  I play Minecraft when I'm listening to podcasts.

Other forms of useful procrastination that I've employed either lately or in the past:

  • Cleaning/straightening up
  • Doing laundry
  • Researching topics on Wikipedia relevant to my current work
  • Writing poetry
  • Writing short stories outside my current projects
  • Experimenting with cooking
  • Going for walks
  • Actively engaging in my social life

And, some of the less useful forms of procrastination:

  • Re-watching sitcoms
  • Sleeping
  • Trying to sleep
  • Snacking
  • Watching frivolous youtube videos
  • Browsing Reddit
  • Contemplating the ultimate insufficiency of all information to produce certainty
  • Otherwise angsting

Now, this isn't a defense of procrastination.  I do think it's important that I actually get the things I intend to get done, done.  But if we take it as read that a certain amount of procrastination is going to happen, if I use that time to do the things on the top half of the list, I end up putting myself in a much better space to work later.  The bottom half of the list, on the other hand, tends to just make things more difficult.  It's honestly harder to work on a novel when your desk is covered in junk food wrappers than it is when it's clean.  And there's really no point in worrying about the problem of radical doubt, because there's no conceivable solution that doesn't contain within itself the premises for its own undoing, so the only solution ever available to settle upon is "Eh, close enough."  (Or "God did it," but I'm skeptical about the legitimacy of that claim.)

And ultimately, what's important is that my work exists in harmony with the rest of my life -- I think the characteristic difference between the two forms of procrastination is that the useful kind produces a gradient, offering me more gates through which my intellectual life and the rest of my life can cooperate and intermingle, where the unproductive sorts of procrastination offer more opportunities to develop gaps, isolating the various aspects of my life and making fluid transition between states difficult.

Now, I haven't slept yet today, so I'm going to wrap this up here.  (The importance of sleep, as a health need rather than a pastime, is a topic for another day.)