Doing two important things at once improves the quality of procrastination

Doing two important things at once improves the quality of procrastination. I don’t mean actually doing two important things at the same time, but having two important things you’re working on.1

This is what I’ve noticed. Usually I have a few projects going on. I’m writing something, editing something else, and maybe doing something that would fall under the realm of ‘producing’, i.e. booking a location and scheduling actors. So when I wake up in the morning to work on something or when it’s late at night and I can’t sleep because I didn’t work on anything that day, I have to pick one of the three to tackle.

If I’m feeling brave, I tackle the most difficult one (usually producing, which is not my favorite thing to do). If I’m not feeling brave or if I’m just not in a good mood, I’ll procrastinate on the difficult thing and write or edit instead. So I’m procrastinating but I’m still working on something important. If I get blocked on one thing, I have something else I can work on, which to me is the big advantage of working on multiple things at once. The disadvantage is that I’m splitting my subconscious free space among several things.

I don’t know which way of working is ultimately better, but I suspect that the marginal value of another project depends on whether or not it utilizes a mental state not already engaged by one of the existing projects. So if you’re writing one screenplay, starting a second one before the first is finished will hurt you more than it helps you.2

Why not just procrastinate by doing the dishes or surfing the web? I think I don’t because I trained myself through brute force (willpower) into working on something important every morning.

And I’ve convinced myself that I will go insane if I don’t at least write a page or two per day. This guilt comes in handy when I can’t sleep. It’s the type of anxiety that moves you forward rather than holding you back, so in a way I found a way to harness my anxiety for good.

I hope that writing all this down will allow me to stop thinking about it so much.

  1. I say you because it’s advice, but it’s really advice to myself, so buyer beware.  

  2. Although, what if you’re brainstorming one and rewriting another? Those are pretty different modes of thought. I still think that you should probably only write one big thing at a time, but I’m fairly new to this.