I’ve a confession to make. I’m a waster. Not in the slacker sense- I don’t spend my days sitting around in my pants, watching Knight Rider reruns (at least not as much as I’d like to). And not in the sense of being extravagant: I don’t splash money on luxuries, although I hardly spend it well. No, I am a chronic waster of time. My own, that is, and of course that of my employers. You are reading the words of a confessed procrastination addict.
Ah, time: how do I waste thee? Let me count the ways:
1. TV. I’m not, by any means a telly addict, and I’ve been accused of snobbishness for saying I’d prefer to live in a house without one. But it’s not like I don’t like the damn stuff. It’s just that once I slump down in front of the bloody thing, it’s too hard to move. Programmes which I would never actually sit down with the intention of watching – the fucking Golden Girls, for Christ’s sake- suddenly seem glisteringly attractive when you’re on a sofa in front of them. As a result, A few weekends left clear for writing have been ruined in recent months by the damn tube.
2. Household chores. When it was essay or revision time, it’s amazing how much enthusiasm I could suddenly muster to sort my papers, wash the dishes, or take out the recycling. All of which are, of course, in the generalest sense, Good Things To Do. Unless, of course, they prevent you doing what you should be doing for the benefit of your career, growth as a person, etc.
3. The Internet. Yes, it’s the most modern of time-sponges, and probably the most effective. Podcasts. News. Endless opinions on politics and culture. New music. Old music. Videos of teenage boys singing along to camp anthems. An entire universe of new media is out there, immediately accessible, almost all free. What could be better? Just one problem – almost none of it could be seriously considered necessary. It’s like having an 1000-page newspaper you feel obliged to read every day.
4. Music. I think I spend more time ripping friend’s CDs, raiding their hard drives, downloading music, buying CDs and nerdily editing the track information on my PC than I spend actually listening to music. Sometimes I combine the two, but often I’m too busy nerding to notice when an album has finished.
5. Geekery. Covering a multitude of sins: installing nifty new programs; removing them again after they fuck up my computer; reformatting my hard drive because I haven’t managed to clear it all up. A computer is an enabling device, but it can bog you down as it opens doors, waste your time as it saves you time, etc.
What to do? I’m launching on a war on wasted time. Not on leisure time, mind. I don’t consider time spent watching films, out with friends, on the phone, or even cooking wasted. If I’m genuinely enjoying myself – instead of just passing time – that’s fine. If I’m being productive – at work or at home – that’s fine too. Nor am I going to stop doing all the things listed above. No, this is about control. It’s about setting limits for such activities, and sticking to them.
Wish me luck.