This week I bought a product that I think will revolutionise my life. It is called Freedom and it is designed to assist goons who cannot handle having unrestricted access to the internet. Increasingly I have noticed the internet robbing me of time, drawing me into her depths like I am a puppet on a string. Owning me. I cannot fight this. My only hope of escape was to buy software.
I don’t know if anyone else out there suffers from procrastination. I’m plagued by the stuff. I have a job – I am a columnist – which requires an enormous amount of self-discipline, but I have none. The internet knows this and preys on my weakness. And there’s plenty of weakness for it to get its talons in to. I am, as a human, infinitely distractible.
I will stop work to eat a bun or tidy my desk. I will spend time trying to balance a candle on a cotton reel. I’ll give myself an hour off to frame a poster or pop out to post a letter or look at a truck. I will stabilise and plunge myself into my work for five minutes, and then I will go again. Waddling into my lounge to consume daytime television or straighten pictures on my wall. Another bun. Anything. Some painting.
It’s a funny thing, procrastinating. It is something that, even while doing it, generates self-loathing. Zombie-like, I will leave my work-station and blindly fumble around my flat for an alternative. And then, even while I am opening paint in order to touch up a door frame, I am hating myself. I am gazing wistfully back at my laptop, knowing that that is where I should be. I should be there, typing. And yet I am painting. But I do not have the strength to stop. It is a terrible feeling. The paint drips down the frame like tears. I promise myself I will be back to work by midday. I paint.
Even writing this column, I’ve been procrastinating like an absolute balloon. I started this piece on Monday and already I have washed my trainers, polished my yukka and slept twice. If I’m honest, writing this paragraph alone has been stop-start. I’ve mopped my floor, devoured a rectangle of Garibaldi and taken apart my laminator since I wrote the words ‘Even writing this column’. I’m now going to have some Ribena and call my agent for a chat before pressing on.
But in spite of all that is on offer, the biggest risk to a procrastinator is the internet. It is a terrible scourge for the columnist who cannot maintain focus on the job in hand. Even once I have dragged myself back into the right room and locked eyes with my screen, even when I have the look of someone who is ‘hard at it’, the focus is momentary. I am powerless against the pull of the net. I want to crack on with a Word document, I really do. But I always slip, I always tumble into the web. My foot is gripped by her tentacles and she hauls me in. And then I bounce around her innards, and I lose myself for sometimes days on end. I examine cricinfo.com. I befriend someone. I surf. I float away.
Fortunately, help is at hand. I have no idea whether I’m allowed to tell people about useful things in my column, but I’ll give it a go. There is this product called Freedom. God knows how they do it, but when you apply Freedom to your laptop, it has the effect of killing the internet. Not permanently, and only your bit of it, but it’s a start. You type in how long you want to be free of it for, press GO, and it denies you access. You’re out. Plunged into a situation where you are forced to focus on Word. You have to get on with your column. Or organise your photos. Or play Minesweeper. Or eat.
I am delighted to be liberated and am now munching a chocolate-spread toastie and drawing cats on my desk. Waiting for Freedom to wear off. So I can send this to my editor-figure.