me playing ukulele

Me when I have something more important I need to do

I am a serial procrastinator. If I have something I want to do, like work on a side project or write something, I will find ways to anything else except that. I go through phases where I can keep myself somewhat focused, but I always seem to drift back into my old bad habits after awhile. Recently though, I’ve started finding ways to turn this procrastination time into something better, what I’ll call “productive procrastination”.

My usual activity when I’m wasting time is watching people play video games on Twitch, or just watching whatever comes up in my Youtube feed. This time is completely useless. I don’t learn any new skills, I don’t grow as a person, and I can’t even discuss it later with friends because nobody I know watches this stuff. This is just pure time annihilation, that time just disappears from my life leaving me nothing to show for it, as if it never existed to begin with.

Recently, I’ve started finding ways to channel my brain’s craving for distraction and avoidance into activities that do have some benefits. I’d still rather I could stay focused on what I want to work on, but this time it isn’t a complete waste, and might even have the potential to be life-changing. My new addictions are learning Ukulele and cycling, although not at the same time (yet!).

My newfound love of Ukulele came as a real surprise to me. My girlfriend bought me a cheap Ukulele about a month ago almost as a joke gift, and I started watching some Youtube videos to see if I could at least learn how to to play something really basic. I’ve never played a musical instrument before, and I always assumed I just never would. Growing up there were people who did music, and those who didn’t, and I was always firmly in the latter camp. But for whatever reason, I’ve found Ukulele really addicting. Whenever I feel that wall of mental resistance to doing the task at hand, I just pick up the Ukulele and start trying to learn some new chords, or try playing a new song. It’s a perfect size to be able to just have next to me whenever I’m at my apartment, and I can see progress really quickly. Most importantly, my brain treats it as a fun distraction, so I’ve been able to sneak Ukulele practice in instead of my usual binge Twitch watching. Now while I’m procrastinating I’m learning a real skill, and feel like there’s a whole world of music that might be just around the corner if I keep it up. Who knows, maybe I could even join a band someday!

My other new distraction has been cycling. Cycling was something I used to love years ago, but since moving around and living in tiny apartments I’ve never owned a bike. Now, with the covid lockdowns and my reaching the limits of my sanity staying inside my tiny apartment all day every day, I decided to get a tiny folding bike. Since then biking has become my go-to way of distracting myself when I should be doing something else. Now at least I’m getting good exercise and discovering all sorts of new places around me I’ve never even known exist. I can go on rides with friends and who knows, maybe I’ll even join a biking group once things start calming down and get some social contact out of it. Instead of feeling sick and disgusted with myself laying on the couch watching hours of Youtube nonsense with glazed over eyes, I can come back from a several hour long ride feeling refreshed and amazing. Still, I’d rather I could keep myself focused, but if not at least I can stay healthy in the process!

I’ve come to realize not all time spent procrastinating is equal. There’s definitely a hierarchy of how I can spend my time while still distracting my brain, and I’ve started trying to nudge myself into these higher-value activities when I need a break. I’m still procrastinating, but I’m doing it productively!