Boy, do I love to cheat.
Don’t get worked up! I don’t mean cheating people out of something, or cheating on them. I’m vehemently against the idea. In fact, there are only very rare instances where I condone cheating, like when your husband is a cheating, criminal bastard who’s old enough to be your father, and your boyfriend is a smoking hot and much nicer Kevin Costner. Yeah, I did say rare (and pretty fictional).
What I’m talking about here is how much work I get done when I’m supposed to be not working.
Let’s define “not supposed to be working:”
- You’re waiting for your client to do something, and he’s taking ages.
- You’re stuck in traffic, and you don’t get carsick.
- You’re in a meeting but only a quarter of your attention (or less) is required. You’ve been to tons of those meetings. Be honest.
- You’re waiting in line.
- You’re walking and the view sucks. Why not listen to a podcast, record your ideas or just enjoy some great music to unwind? I also act out my scenes in my head. Yes, really.
- You’re waiting for your friends, and they are late again. Damn, how did these people survive without cell phones?
- You’re in class, and your students are taking their exam. (It’s a small classroom, and you hear every attempt at cheating anyway.) You don’t need to be bitten by a radioactive spider to know who’s doing what.;)
- You’re doing housework. There’s no reason you can’t plot your next scenes or paragraphs in your head. You can also dance, getting exercise and fun into the mundane. Productivity isn’t just about working!
- A TV show you normally enjoy hasn’t aired a stellar episode. Or the episode has non-stellar moments.
The list goes on.
Basically, we’re talking about any time life throws you that is not your ideal or typical working condition, but you get the chance (and inspiration) to get work done. I’m the queen of stolen moments’ productivity.
Let me explain.
I live in a big and crowded city.
The traffic is a nightmare. We don’t have one rush hour; we have a tiny window of non-rush hours. (Think 18 million people spread over two continents.)
I teach English to students who don’t pay attention or don’t study to the point they can’t even apply some formulas to a slightly different sentence. (The students who do pay attention get my full focus.)
There’s a lot of waiting going on most of my days.
And I’m an impatient person by nature.
And I have slight ADD.
Many people I encounter move, think or do more slowly.
So I end up with a lot of extra time on my hands. Not long enough to give me hours on end to work in an ideal environment (though sometimes even that). And I hate wasting time.
You’d think with this attitude and these conditions I’d never procrastinate. But I do. It’s just as ingrained in my nature. I’m a writer, and I get writer blocks. I suffer from self-doubt. I suffer from an on-and-off anxiety that I might never be as successful as I dream to be. (We’re talking about Nancy Meyers, John Grisham, Ben Affleck levels of success here). Of course, I also find ways to turn those bouts of procrastination into productivity.
But getting back to the point: Sometimes, even the most ideal conditions don’t prevent you from a writer’s block or a tendency to procrastinate. So why not make the most of the unplanned, non-ideal and unexpected moments to work, create and do?
This week, I taught 10 classes, sat in traffic for hours, watched like 5-6 TV series’ episodes, read 3 books (including Linda Formichelli’s How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes out with a Sharpie), started two more books (crime drama/thriller The Widow and Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life), shopped, brainstormed and then more.
It’s actually more than I’d have done if I had had no classes, no traffic and all the time in the world to write.
Working when you are not supposed to gives you a thrill. A kind of satisfaction and pride. You didn’t have that much time and look what you have accomplished!
Sure, you can’t “cheat” and “steal” all the time, and neither should you. Some moments deserve all your attention. But I have better things to do than curse traffic if I have to sit in it for at least two hours every day. Waiting for anything can be a blessing, and yes, some of that exercise comes from telling the traffic to f*** off and walking two-three bus stops because….Well, summer is coming, and damn, I’ll rock that bikini one way or the other.
And as I’m writing this post, it’s sort of an ideal situation. I’m at my favorite coffee shop. I have a direct view of the sea and trees. All I have to do is to go to the balcony to smell the air. The music is awesome, and for the two hours I’ve been here, I:
- read three posts from a publication I want to pitch.
- checked my emails
- wrote this post
- did both work and non-work on social media
- played two rounds of a favorite word game
And I’ve 16 minutes more to go.
Had I been at home in these two hours, I’d have cursed myself for not going out in this gorgeous April weather, tempted by the comfort of my couch and possibly watched the new episode of a favorite show. (In case you think I watch too many shows, you’re right. But I’m also a TV writer, so it’s research, people!)
Sometimes you are just not going to do the things you are supposed to do. Find a way to use this to your advantage.
Don’t you love the productivity of stolen moments, and the procrastination amidst your productivity?
Are you a cheater too? Please share away in the comments. And do share the post in social media. You know you want to.
Till we meet again. (Yes, I watch The 100 ;))