The fine line between good and bad deadline distractions

We all know what it’s like to have a pressing deadline, the kind of deadline you really don’t want to miss, and yet instead of knuckling down and getting it done, you find yourself watching a compilation show of Eastenders’ most depressing moments. Procrastination has been the subject of countless books, essays, blogs and laments, but today I want to argue in its defence: distractions aren’t always a bad thing.

When I was wee, I was one of those really annoying kids who goes home and does their homework as soon as they get in. I think it had more to do with my love of stationary and straight lines than it did any real desire to learn, but the point is I was technically doing exactly what I was supposed to – except I’m not sure it really did me any favours.

By rushing home and knuckling down, my head still full of school and my tummy rumbling for the all important post-lessons snack, I wasn’t working under the best conditions. If I’d spent a little more time kicking back with the Samurai Pizza Cats I bet I would have paid more attention to my geography book when the time came around (and then I might be able to read a freaking map today!).

I reckon the same is true today. When the ‘all work no play’ head goes on, the work may happen, but I can’t help wondering about its quality. Last week, I struggled to get a single thing done. Cut to a weekend drinking mulled wine and playing the XBox, and suddenly the boy Ink is dying to get home and draw and my head is bursting with ideas.

Why? Because we let go of the projects we were wrestling with long enough to get a little perspective. And, as we chatted and defeated pixelated monsters, we were using different parts of our brains – giving the creative, problem solving areas the change to stretch and get comfortable again. The same is true whether your preferred vice is reading, watching TV or shooting the breeze with your friends.

It’s a dangerous game of course, because if you’ve got a deadline going – especially if it isn’t a self imposed one – a week lost to a new box set or computer adventure could be disastrous. But on the other hand, can you really afford not to waste a little time on your favourite pastime? Don’t let your ideas stagnate, shake them up with a little healthy distraction.

2 thoughts on “The fine line between good and bad deadline distractions

  1. I need to pile on the distractions because I hate feeling like I’m ‘wasting time’ – I waste as much as anyone, I just trick myself into thinking I’m not by being falsely productive.

    It can definitely go too far though, and the day I finished my annoying novel, and had no proper work to get on with, I actually got *ill* (for the first time ever), which I reckon was mostly psychological (my feverish dreams were all about me writing and thinking “no, I don’t have to write any more! I can’t even save this, it’s in my head, not on the laptop. Nooooo!”)

    Wow, got off topic there. I meant to say I agree, having time off to let things settle is definitely the best way! Deadlines be damned (says the guy terrified of ever missing a deadline).


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