From fiddling with coloured pens to wrestling with dog poo, Rachel Stubbings shares her top tips for expert task-avoidance.
Illustration by Louise Boulter
Like many folk, I work from home. Deadlines are my friend. You know where you stand with a deadline. But with regards to managing myself the rest of the time, I’m no Lord Sugar.
(Although oddly enough, Lord Sugar was the name I gave my guinea pig when I was twelve.)
Anyway, this is a guide to wasting time properly.
7.00am – Personally, I get up with the lark to achieve maximum wastage. Plus I have a dog: the ideal partner in the art of dilly-dallying*.
Right. Always start with a list. Call it something like “list of things I MUST complete today or I will never work again”, or for the purists, “to do list”. Spend a while getting that right.
Make sure the list is neat. Think about using different coloured pens and feel free to start it over and over if you have to. Someone at my level can make this whole process last a couple of hours.
Newcomers, are you sure your list is neat?
10.00am – Once the day plan is complete, why not grab a shower? You’ve been wearing your pyjamas for a few days now and they weren’t clean on in the first place. Your neighbours joke about you walking Wilma (dog) in them but secretly they’re judging you.
11.00am – No point trying to graft on an empty belly. While eating you might spot some coriander that’s seen better days. It needs using up, no question (this applies to literally any food, but I’m using a fresh herb here to make myself sound posh). Pop out and see if you can’t grab something to go with it.
NB: A carrot and coriander soup only takes an hour or two and it is a shame to waste those herbs. It’s not like they grow on trees (I checked).
11.30am – The addition of “make soup” to your list means it bleeds onto another page. That’s not really good enough. How about starting again?
1.00pm – Lunch. Don’t freak out, you’ve still got the afternoon to get a day’s worth of work done. Besides, the soup’s off the hook and there’s plenty to freeze into portions for when you’re too broke to shop. That’s a win. Celebrate with an hour of favouriting your friends’ tweets.
2.15pm – Pick the most urgent item on your list. For example: “write an article for Standard Issue about procrastination”. Once you’ve agonised over a good three to four reasons for not doing that, go to the next most urgent thing. In this case, “write an award winning sitcom” (this quickly got Tippexed out to read “write a sitcom”). When you’ve produced a couple of kick-ass reasons not to do that, go onto the next job, and so on and so forth. Eventually, you’ll complete the initial task (tadaar!) in an attempt to avoid another.
It’s all about manipulating your own inadequacies.
On accidentally achieving something, strike it with a neat line. Use a ruler (you’re not an animal).
4.00pm – Don’t watch porn at this point, not even the gay stuff.
4.05pm – It’s not long until tea time so you can start prepping that if you like. In hindsight, it’s a shame you froze the soup.
5.00pm – Don’t watch Storage Hunters/Homes Under The Hammer/Come Dine With Me/A Place In The Sun/all the stuff you’ve recorded on the box. Just have it on in the background so you can pretend to write.
7.00pm – Eat dinner (I went for sausage, egg and chips but seriously; it’s your life, go with your heart).
11.37pm – What? When did the night come a’ knocking? Warning! At around this hour you may feel a surge of self-loathing. You promised yourself an early night (for your fresh new start in the morning) and there’s loads of stuff on your list that simply hasn’t happened. Damn the internet, damn the speed boat on Storage Hunters and damn Wilma’s adorable face. Concentrate now.
11.38pm – In the time it took you to get your laptop (very modern), Wilma’s trampled some poop into the floor. With your OCD, that’s gonna take a while to clean up.
12.30am – That film with Rachel from Friends and Kevin Costner is on. It’s the one where he might be her dad but they sleep together anyway. You’ve seen it, possibly twice, and thought it was awful. Still, try again, to be certain.
2.00am – Good to know you were right the first two times about the film but it’s late now and going to bed feels a cop out so why not have a peep at that “list of things I MUST complete today or I’ll never work again” list?
4.00am – OK, sure, “get an early night” doesn’t get a neat line through it and some of the other jobs get added to tomorrow’s list. But on the positive side, you can wake up with your list already there and if you make the first thing on the agenda “hit snooze, loads” you’ve already given yourself something to tick off.
*That shouldn’t be your only reason for getting a dog. I learned that the hard way.
Writer, actor & comic, Rachel Stubbings just wants everyone to get on, really. Made a bunch of films you’ve probably not seen. @RachelStubbings