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Procrastination Nannies

12 April 2017

From Fast Company:

At a little before 9 a.m. on a Sunday in late March, a small group of people stood sheepishly eyeing each other in a lower Manhattan office building. Their friends, it’s safe to say, were sleeping in, sipping mimosas, and walking their dogs at this hour. Meanwhile, this group of bleary-eyed professionals—most in their twenties and thirties—would be spending the next eight hours hard at work. And they’d each paid $40 to do it.

Today was “Cave Day,” an event series that’s sort of like a pop-up coworking space; rather than sign up for a weeks- or months-long membership, you register for a single day. The price of admission includes two meals, snacks, coffee, and a handful of work-related services doled out by a briskly energetic group of facilitators—whose sole job is (as the program’s website puts it) to help you “GET STUFF DONE” with “NO DISTRACTIONS.”

Getting stuff done with no distractions is a challenge many fail to overcome on their own, especially when it comes to passion projects. There’s no shortage of reasons (or excuses) why—work got really busy, you had to travel for that wedding, your cat got sick, Veep started up again—and before long, you realize you’ve been procrastinating on that one thing you’ve really been meaning to do, whether it’s finally drawing up that business plan or banging out the next chapter of that novel. It’s long put-off solo projects like these that Cave Day’s organizers seem to believe are best tackled together.

. . . .

The lobby elevator doors opened to reveal Molly Sonsteng, one of the day’s organizers, who had a bat-shaped name tag on her black turtleneck and a spelunker’s lamp cheekily strapped to her head. Inviting us to pack into the elevator with her, Sonsteng held out a bowl filled with little strips of white paper and told us to choose one. She asked us to imagine that our strip of paper represented something we didn’t want to bring into the “cave” (which on non–Cave Days is the coworking space ImpactHub), something we feared might stifle the productivity binge that awaited each of us.

“Mine, for example, is Facebook,” said Sonsteng.

“Can it be an emotional thing?” a woman asked.

“It can be anything.”

“Great, okay. I’ll make mine self-doubt,” said the woman.

Upstairs, we were greeted by Jeremy Redleaf, another Cave Day creator, outfitted similarly to Sonsteng. Redleaf gestured to two lit white candles on a blue table. “Step right up, one at a time, drop the paper onto the flame.” And so we did. Goodbye, Facebook. Goodbye, self-doubt.

Next, Redleaf furnished a large lockbox. “Phone check?” One by one, we “cave dwellers” surrendered our iPhones and Androids.

We were officially lashed to the mast of productivity.

. . . .

A little while later, Redleaf, Sonsteng, and their third collaborator, designer Jake Kahana, convened the entire group of some 40 participants, asking them to go around the circle and share what they’d be working on through the day, and how far along they were. “Molly, short stories, 10%.” “Cesar, blog posts, 15%.” “Lily, wedding planning, 60%.” Then the group broke, a low-tempo remix of “Eye of the Tiger” came over a set of nearby speakers, and everybody made their way to a workstation.
At 9:49, Sonsteng took a microphone and announced: “The first sprint begins in three . . . two . . . one.” Our heads were down. It was time to work.

As Redleaf explained, the idea for Cave Day was borne of desperation. Last November, he turned up in his therapist’s office noting that while he was excited about many creative projects, none of them were “crossing the finish line.” So, countered his therapist, what would it take for him to make real progress on any one of them?

“I think I just need a kind of cave day,” Redleaf blurted out.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

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6 Comments to “Procrastination Nannies”

  1. Bleary eyed at 9 am?

    I think I spotted the problem.

    • I know I am ALWAYS bleary-eyed at that time in the morning, but especially on a Sunday. Catch me around midnight and I’ll be wide awake.

      • Night owls aren’t often ‘early bird gets the worm’ types (I should know! 😉 )

        Nor have I seen much success picking a place or a time for ‘ideas’ to flow. They it you when they hit you — far too often when you can’t stop to jot them down.

    • The east coast has different work hours than the west coast. It was a serious shock at my first day job here when the office opened at 7:30.

  2. To get my Cave Days when my kids were middle grade, I used to hang a sign on my back that said, “Mom’s not here.” Sometimes it worked.

  3. This sounds like a nightmare. Can’t imagine paying money for it, but to each his own. My procrastination solution is ritilin.

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