When the Future-Trap Snaps


So I’ve spent all week waiting for that mythical particle of inspiration to strike a spark in my imagination. It didn’t.

Thanks to Victoria, I have a back-up plan.

Module 7 of my training with Quest dealt with, amongst other issues, performance enhancement which you’ll know, of course, because you’ve read ‘You’ve Got The Power‘. On that particular weekend’s training course I worked with Victoria and the particular performance we worked on was my evolving writing skill. I’m still very new to this, having only really started any form of meaningful writing, (sales reports and technical bulletins don’t count), three months ago with this blog.

However in that short time, I’ve found that there are, on occasion, times when I just start writing with no real idea exactly what I’m going to write other than following that spark of inspiration that fired the post in the first place. I found a place of flow. On occasion.

To be fair, I also spent a lot of time not writing anything and wracking my brains to tease out the best next word for the sentence. There have also been more than enough sentences and, indeed, entire paragraphs that really should never have turned up on the screen in front of me at all.

So the performance enhancement became my Plan B, (yet another great musician – you should check him out but beware Strickland Banks is not representative of young Mr. Drew’s usual work, parental guidance most definitely applies). With Victoria’s help, I worked on being able to re-create that feeling of finding flow in my writing. Of not really knowing what will come next, just starting out and trusting to the knowledge that it’s worked before and will work again. This post will be the test of that. I haven’t a clue where I’m headed and to fair until 20 minutes ago, I didn’t even know that I’d get this far writing about the fact that I didn’t even know that I’d get this far. I’ve even managed to pull another musical reference in.

Moving on.

What is really taking up my attention this week is that HPD. Remember? That source of my mini rant about TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) back at the beginning of September. A major part of my being able to qualify and practice as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist is the Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma. I need to gain the qualification and if I want that qualification to be in place by the time I finish my course in January, the HPD must be completed by the 1st December.

I have twelve and a half days to write 12,000 words. I’ve already done about 9,000 but that’s taken me since the beginning of September. Extrapolate that one out and you’ll find that my target completion date is 2nd of March.

I’m on track to miss my deadline by three months.

Fortunately my engineering education, (yes, I qualified as a Chemical Engineer, spent three years as a Brewer of beer, twenty-seven years in Financial Services and am now becoming a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, don’t you just love consistency), allows me to be appropriately disdainful of statistical projection. I’ve also learnt to embrace my innate tendency to procrastinate. After years of trying to manage it, of being told from early school   days through my adolescent and adult life that procrastination is just another version of laziness, I’ve discovered it is actually a talent that allows me to embrace the here and now.

It doesn’t work for everyone and annoys the hell out those who can’t do it. I simply work at my best when something is both important and urgent. If it’s just important, like the HPD, it’s not enough. It needs to be urgent as well in order to get me working at maximum efficiency. The HPD is a classic case in point. I know that I have the skill, knowledge and capacity to pass. I’m not at all worried that I can’t do it. I qualified as a Chartered Financial Planner this year and that took me many years and many exams to complete so the HPD definitely lies within the realms of a do-able thing. It’s taken me 11 weeks to write 9,000 words. I’ve got 12 days left (and a half, don’t forget the half, it’s important). Plenty of time.

Which brings me to the title of this post.

For years, I’ve managed both my propensity to procrastinate and my talent for forgetting anything important, (my most active auto-trance-phenomena is Amnesia), by setting myself traps for the future, to ensure that I really did deal with those important things that are not yet urgent or that I would quite like to avoid but absolutely had to prepare for. I would set up tasks or meetings or presentations which would walk me towards whatever the goal in mind would be. It was the only way I’d ensure that anything actually happened. I’d break down my target event into to trip-over-the-next-important-section style sub-events. Now you might think this sounds quite familiar, good time management practice and project goal setting. You should never forget that I once turned up five hours late for a time management training course. Honestly.

For me, though, what I was doing was setting a trap in the future, a trip wire that’ I’d fall over and fire a shot of deadline adrenalin into my system. I knew that I wouldn’t work towards those goals, I’d forget them secure in the knowledge that at some point in the not too distant, I’d fall flat on my face, pick myself up and deal with it. Efficiently. And always to standard. I’d set the trip wire so that it would give me just and only just enough time to get the whatever it was that had to be done done by the whenever it was it had to done by to whatever the standard was that it needed to be done to and meet the deadline.

Somehow, it turns out, I was aware enough of my trance phenomena preferences to move effectively into the future at my most efficient, even if I did have to do it by repeatedly tripping myself up. In effect, I’d become my own game keeper, trapping my effectiveness at appropriate points to prevent my amnesiac consciousness from wandering off and populating my future with a total lack of achievement.

In a clear demonstration of serendipity, which the more astute among you will recognise as nothing more than negative hallucination allowing me to ignore anything that didn’t fit in with the serendipitous trend, I’ve come across three totally independent rationalisations of why it’s important to embrace procrastination. Two of these were people my alter-ego works with and another was a blog on Psychology Today way back from April 2011. Somehow it turned up on my Twitter feed a couple of weeks ago which is very much a phrase I never thought I’d be using in the middle of a blog that I’d no idea I was going to write.

It talks about active procrastination. I’m an active procrastinator. I have always worked best under pressure, with just enough time to get something done. And I’ve always felt I had to treat this as a negative trait and strive to build in more ongoing work to try to counter act it, to be more ‘in control’. As it happens it didn’t make me feel in control at all. I’m convinced that all I was actually doing was giving a sense of control to my erstwhile elders and betters. Now those are two words should never be used together automatically, only sparingly and when really deserved. I’ve met a few elders who are indeed better and have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share.

However, I’ve met many more who don’t. They wallow in their thirty years of experiencing the same thing and mistake it for being truly thirty year’s worth of experiences. They’re wrong. And usually so fixed in their ways and so ingrained in their own world that they cannot see, let alone comprehend, anyone else’s point of view. You’ve probably met them. They are only older. If you suspect you might be one of them, it’s never too late for new experience. Try it. I’m loving it.

As an active procrastinator, I get to spend more time dealing with and enjoying the here and now than if I try to meet a non-procrastinator’s ideal of ongoing, manageable bite sized chunks.

You know that well-worn phrase, (sorry Trevor), about how to eat an elephant? Apparently perceived wisdom is one bite at a time. I prefer a feast. Stuff your face until you’re fit to burst. Accept the burst and feast again. In my mind, if you try to eat an elephant one bite at a time, your future is full of, guess what, elephant flavoured food. Breakfast lunch and dinner. Hey guys, what’s for dinner? Elephant – again. For four months in total, I’ve been avoiding the elephant. I’ve had a taste every now and then but it wasn’t cooked right. Didn’t quite have the right texture.

In the meantime, I got to eat all manner of mental flavours and concoctions. All my meals were and are different. And every now and then… guess what.

Bring on the Elephant feast!

Are they all the same?
© Tony Burkinshaw 2012

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5 thoughts on “When the Future-Trap Snaps

    • Helen! I’m delighted that you’ve had time to read it and more so that you like it!

      In case you’re interested, I was half way through HPD Question 16 when my mobile politely told me you had left a comment for me.

      How are you and your nearest and dearest over there in foreign parts?

      All the best
      Tony

  1. Great post Tony. That flow state is clearly working for you!

    I found that an Elephant breakfast – a leisurely drawn out one of 2 hours every day – was the way for me to go when I was writing my HPD. You’re right that eating it for every meal would be super dull and un-motivational.

    Good luck with it. You’re so nearly there, and getting your certificate on weekend 10 is a fabulous thing. You’ll get a huge Whoop Whoop moment!

    • Hi Kirsty,
      I’m pleased that you liked the post. I’m about half way to finishing the HPD now and will have it completed soon. All I have to do now is come up with this week’s post topic!
      All the best
      Tony

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