Sideways Procrastination

Procrastinating by accomplishing other things.

Tipping over in 1, 2, 3.

Several very large deadlines lurk on my horizon. Instead of clicking into high gear to get going I’m barely pedaling fast enough to keep from tipping over. The more I excoriate myself for falling behind, the farther I fall behind. I could easily blame this on chronic insomnia or existential angst or a nasty case of what-the-hell-did-I-get-myself-into. Blame, however, is useless for motivation purposes.

I was raised with the Puritan ethic: work hard, be polite at all costs, and avoid the unspeakably vile sin of laziness. Yet I’ve come to believe it’s in our do-nothing moments, like lying in the grass watching the clouds stroll by, that we most truly inhabit our lives. This probably explains why two tigers, named Full Tilt and Full Stop, tend to snarl at each other in my mind. I compromise to keep those tigers at bay.

I do this by letting myself be lured by the call of other things I want to do, things that suddenly seem delightful in comparison to the things I have to do. Here are a few examples.

  1. When I agreed to help a non-profit streamline their mission statement, I stalled by reorganizing kitchen cupboards.
  2. When I committed to editing a dissertation on organizational differences in international companies, I put it off by planting a few dozen strawberry plants and weeding the asparagus bed.
  3. Heck,  a few years ago when I was supposed to be editing an anthology, I dawdled by writing poetry. That turned into a whole poetry collection!

This, my friends, is what I call Sideways Procrastination.

The practice is weirdly energizing. For rationalization purposes, I tell myself that by doing something amusingly unrelated I’ll return to the task I’m avoiding with a fresh outlook and enhanced enthusiasm. I’m not sure it works that way, but it’s my operating excuse.

Here are three of my recent Sideways Procrastination endeavors.



My dear friend and filmmaker Susan took me along on her latest adventure, filming Artocade in Trinidad Colorado.

Artocade art car festival 2015, Trinidad Colorago

Here are a few of the amazing entries in Artocade 2015.

To send her a small token of my thanks, I turned a toy truck into a toy art truck. Gluing baubles and beads was play to me,  and play, as we all know, rejuvenates the spirit 

tiny art car, er, truck



I dug around in the sewing supplies left to me by my mother and grandmother for a project. I turned an unused piece of red satin,  an old white sheet, and lots of vintage notions into a Red Riding Hood costume for Liv.  It was challenging (especially turning a tiny scrap of quilted fabric into a vest) and it was fun.

vintage notions, Red Riding Hood costume




My daughter and I invited a few arty friends over for a Day of the Dead art party complete with skull painting, Barbie head alterations, finger cookies, and shrunken head punch. Preparations were a blast, the event was even blastier. ((I know “blastier isn’t a word but it should be.)

dead of the dead art party


Many people seem to be great at focusing, but I’m not. I’ve got to sidle up to a task, peek around, and then break in burglar-style.  Sometimes that approach works and the marvelous state of flow settles over me. Often it doesn’t and I find myself escaping into more Sideways Procrastination.

Chances are good that right now I’m in the kitchen concocting something fussy for dinner, or outside hauling something around in our old blue wheelbarrow, or curled on the couch reading a book I promised to review. I’m doing this even though I should be at my desk clattering away on the keyboard. What can I say? It’s just what Sideways Procrastinators do.

15 thoughts on “Sideways Procrastination

  1. Laura, What is this mysterious “direct attack thing” alternate to sideways procrastination? I’ve never accomplished anything without three times as much time avoiding the work-at-hand and fearing it for at least 24 hours before I actually slide into a any forward gear. I am your student!👀 c

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I always think I want and need to spend all my time WRITING. I fight against the other things in my life, but usually end up being reminded that new ideas and energy often come when I’m forced to socialize, get out of my head and possibly help an actual human being. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Get out of my head” is the biggest challenge. Maybe that’s the silver lining to my general clumsiness, When I’m lunging to grab the honey jar falling from the counter or trying to unlock the car to release the edge of my jacket caught in the door I’m nowhere but in the moment.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Hey there, dear Laura!

    This is WONDERFUL!!! Love the term you share. Do you suppose MANY creative people experience this? I sure recognize the tendency. I wonder about more linear-thinking folks. Do they procrastinate as much?

    I think you’re on to something with the ultimate effect of enhanced enthusiasm for the task you’re avoiding. It’s like this sideways adventure allows the mind to relax and flow and so the task seems but an extension of that fun. A warm-up exercise? Certainly it’s more fulfilling and beneficial than slogging through something with the promise to yourself to do the fun thing as dessert. My mom used to tell herself that she could go down to the basement and work on sewing projects, like her beautiful braided rugs, ONLY AFTER she completed her duties as a housewife—different generation, different mindset.

    Could I get that finger recipe? Those are AMAZING!!! So wish I could have crashed your party. I soooo have to find Laura-like folks here!

    Love you! Amy

    Liked by 1 person

    • My mother did the same thing, not the braided rugs but the “work first, play later” philosophy. I’m not sure she was ever convinced that her work was over. She’d actually unload cupboards to clean them. I only unload cupboards to move into another house….

      I’m pretty horrible at staying on task even when I’m actually doing the task. I do know creative folks (especially, for some reason, painters and crafters) who are not only able to work on their art hour after hour but also devote every spare moment to it. I am terribly impressed.

      The finger cookies were pretty easy. My daughter used some of the leftover dough to make dinosaur foot cookies complete with almond claws. Here’s the link:


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