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Dear Kay,

The other day I made a list of the things I’m allegedly working on—it was so much that it ended up being a list of lists! Seeing all that stuff to do instantly brought on a bout of me not doing anything on any of those lists.

As in: I stood up and went to go feed the birds.

While I dumped a bag of bird seed under a half-dead shrub, I thought about procrastination, and how sometimes it feels so delicious, so good to let go of the LOL (list of lists) and play hooky.

Once I finished setting up the cardinals and bluebirds with some high-quality chow, I reluctantly came back inside and searched “procrastination.” Along with a lot of goofy office humor, I found a post, “The Perks of Procrastination.”

Adam Grant’s point? Sometimes better ideas emerge when we slow down on a project. He even talks about “precrastination,” where somebody dives in on a project and finishes it crazyfast. Would it have turned out better with a bit more time spent on it?

Love this idea! I’m improving things by not doing things!

But, turns out, my procrastination may have a more sinister component: emotional avoidance. This New York Times article spoke right to me: “Why You Procrastinate: It Has Nothing to Do with Self-Control”:

Procrastination isn’t a unique character flaw or a mysterious curse on your ability to manage time, but a way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods induced by certain tasks — boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment, self-doubt and beyond.

“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem,” said Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Great. Fine. I guess I kind of knew this, but gah, Dr. Pychyl. Could you be more blunt about it?

I could tell you about my Crowberry Sweater. Which I’m about to start because I’ve been paralyzed by color indecision. I’ve been thinking of this as plain old I-am-short-on-time procrastination, but now I’m seeing that I’m anxious about getting my color combination exactly right.

Which of course sent me straight to a skein of yarn I got in South Carolina a couple of weeks ago.

A quick hat, I thought. I’ll get back to my Crowberry Sweater any second now.

Except that I didn’t want to finish the hat because then I’d have to face into the stumper of my Crowberry Sweater colors.

Anybody else out there procrastinating knitting by knitting something else?




  • You betcha! I’ve been putting off using my Pebbles yarn because I need to do it justice. I hope I’m inspired to use it before the moths find it. So far it’s resting comfortably.
    And there are others…….

    • Don’t wait too long, my treasured possum merino silk directly from NZ ended up as moth food because of my paralysis :(.

      • I feel for you! I have a possum silk yarn sweater gifted to me from NZ, and the moths love it. Wonderful yarn, but needs protecting.

  • Oh my. Those same emotional drags- like delaying making decisions- are causing clutter according to some too- so logically – i should go feed the birds! …. and there are 9 new hats since November here- although none are a wonderful stocking hat!! Love it!

    • YES!!!!I have completed a sweater2 shawls, and 2 hats since setting Marie Wallin’s Fair Ilse Club 8 project aside last summer.

  • My husband calls them squirrels running around. My knitting buddy calls it Amuse bouche knitting. An adorable little knitted bird in a nest with eggs, or a cowl, or a quickie hat, a garland of pumpkins and leaves, or ooooh Norwegian knitted Christmas ornaments (I’m Jewish) comes across my screen enticing me to drop everything and start that project NOW. And I don’t quit until I obtain everything and COMPLETE it. Meanwhile a large baby blanket languishes and the baby turns 2 before it gets to the now toddler. BUT – the sense of satisfaction when you complete something is still there. At one time I had many many projects piled up. I now try to discipline myself to no more than 2 possibly 3 but I have to finish at least one before I replace it with anything, even a knitted squirrel, which I have made and have the picture to prove it.

  • I do! But, as a bonafide mental health professional, I call it “different projects for different concentration levels “. Sometimes I love cables, sometimes I don’t.

    • I like that concept, thanks for the brain shift that I can use to explain why I need both easy and difficult WIPs to be around at the same time!

  • I must interject a bit of ironic humor regarding my own lifetime habit of procrastination: I purchased a well-recommended, 4 star book last summer dedicated to this frustrating “habit”. I’ve yet to read it… How long can I blame my dedication to knitting as the blame for my chaos?!

  • Love the hat! And it reminds me that I use a similar procrastination technique with other things on my list: put off doing something hard by doing a similar thing that’s easy. Put off cleaning the kitchen by just wiping the counters; put off digging a new garden by pulling a few weeds. But I realize that completing the hard thing (if that ever happens) is much more gratifying – yet I procrastinate over and over.

  • LOL – as in laugh out loud. I’m a professional procrastinator, one who fully understands that if I just pick that nearly finished sweater up, spend a couple of hours to finish the last sleeve it will be done and I can move on. Why do I not do it? What is stopping me?

    • Boy this hit home, professional procrastinator, I’ve got a few things the only thing I need to do to “finish” is to block them. In quilting it just might be the binding, or using my hand spun. What is wrong with me, why can’t I finish?

  • I have already knit the plain back for a beautiful intarsia pullover, but I can’t bring myself to s tart the front with the intarsia pattern. So instead, I am working on a long, flowing lace weight cardigan that will take forever to complete but is all stockinette stitch – top down so I can keep going till I run out of the 2400 yds of lace!

  • Hah! Well, I don’t know about your procrastination, but you are a lovely writer. Such a fun moment in my morning. —Brilliant pictures of the hat!

    • I’m a PP too! (Professional procrastinator.) In college my room-mate and I found ourselves procrastinating studying, yet again. I was naming all the things we’d just done to avoid it (cleaned our room, did laundry, had a snack…) Then I had a brilliant idea: let’s make a list of all the things we do to procrastinate! And 10 minutes later, “Let’s put ‘making this list’ on the list!”

    • Absolutely! Especially when I wander into my LYS and start buying yarn for projects in my cue….. especially when I’m still trying to get gauge on my Crowberry !!!

  • Absolutely! Especially when I wander into my LYS and start buying yarn for projects in my cue….. especially when I’m still trying to get gauge on my Crowberry !!!

  • Amen Ann! I do not believe in ‘New Year Resolutions’, but try to set an intention each year (actually I start in NOV)… This year it’s all about FINISHING projects – some that I started years ago. It’s not always easy, but boy oh boy, the sense of accomplishment is so gratifying! I’m taking it easy – one project a month and yes, I have started other projects that will get finished in time and I’m OK with that. I’ve also taken a hard look at some projects and decided that they just don’t bring me joy and now I can let go of them – hello shawl that used horrible yarn (I’m officially a yarn snob now) and even as a beginner knitter I knew the pattern was written incorrectly. Now I just need to win the lottery so I can have more time to knit, cross-stitch and paper craft!!!

  • Oh Lordie, yes. But sometimes you just have to do what you want to instead of what you should do.

    • “Sometimes you just have to do what you want to instead of what you should do.” Amen to that!

  • Oh yeah, all the time. Last year I couldn’t face completing the second half of a delightful-to knit lacy vest I had started. So I knit a sweater instead which had even more complications than the vest. It’s almost done now and that vest is beginning to look like a piece of cake. From the Comments your issue at least does not include the hurdle of having to tackle a difficult new technique. Your task has a delightful side – color is fun. Procastination can be fraught with anxiety any decisions involved tend to be half-baked (anything to get that monkey off our back). My personal experience is to – oh, dear – let it go – for a little while. Sleep on it. Bake a pie. Buy spring tulips at Trader Joe’s. Maybe someone there will be wearing exactly what you had in mind (but didn’t even know it.). In the meantime that aqua/teal color of your hat is – according to the Seasonal Color People – universally flattering, if that is any help.

  • Haha! That’s hilarious! I’m not procrastinating when it comes to knitting. I’m knitting as a way to procrastinate cleaning my dang closets!

  • Oh hell yes , I have knit many hats and cowls waiting to finish my granddaughters Love Note. Fear of lace anyone???

    • I made the Love Note for my granddaughter. She loved it. Finish it. Just beware of the neck. I had to pull it out as it wouldn’t get over her head. Others have had same problem.

  • Wow! Needed this discussion! Explains some of the issues in my office with employees chronically failing to finish projects and why, now that I am retired, I have put off stained glass projects for years…… glad to know I am in good company! Love the hat….still hesitating on Crowberry for the same reason, Ann! I explain it to myself as too many too many lovely color choices and too many WIPs!

  • Oh. Crowberry doesn’t come in that color…..never mind! All those other colors are good, too!

  • Ann, love your writing…and this explains why you’ve been missing (and missed) in the Crowberry Zoom discussions! Can’t wait until you join in!

    • She’s there, she’s just quiet!

  • Thank you! This topic is in the “essential understanding of life” file!

    My mother had declared war on procrastination. She raised her kids to believe that it was a mortal sin worthy of eternal damnation in hell. And yet, she had a houseful of unfinished projects of all kinds, knitting, sewing, painting, unread books, unused boxes of jello and puddings, papers to file…..her mind was a mess. A mind never cleaned up by emotional sorting processes! A mind that made an emotional mess of her home, too.
    In the end, her kids “finished” her UFP’s, donated to charity, sold in yard sales, plural, lovingly placed in the dumpster. Took a while, but not as long as it took her to recover from procrastination.

    Hmmmm, me says, as I look at, I counted them, 11 unfinished sweaters, including Crowberry. Crowberry is on ice while I try to decide whether to knit the sleeves down before doing the colorwork, or do the colorwork and then knit the sleeves down. I think there might be a difference between “trying” to make a decision, (always doomed to produce inertia) and procrastination, LOL!!!!

  • Oh yes! I’m knitting a summer cotton sweater (Magic Dots Raglan) instead of blanket squares that I’ve been working on/procrastinating on since last summer. Right now I feel like anything’s more palatable than that!

  • Oh Ann. My advice is, make a Crowberry in your current favorites, and if you don’t like it (but you probably will), gift it and make another. They knit up so fast!

    • Wonderful advice… Mine is going to my niece, as I didn’t have enough lettlopi in one color to make my size…

  • Loved this insight into the emotions. So True. I can find a range of things to do to avoid the one thing , I know needs to be done. I even acknowledged the guilt and escaped anyway
    Ahhhhh such is sometimes being human.

  • I totally agree with you, I have many projects on the list of lists. My go to has been the Emotional Support Chicken. I have knit 2 and I am working on the crochet version now. But, in between I did cast on another sock and worked on the heel flap of another pair. Procrastination at it’s finest.

    • I just spent the last half hour reading all these insightful comments, then I came to your comment. (Squirrel!!!!) I had to go to Ravelry to find the Emotional Support Chicken and oh, there’s a tutorial! Now another half hour later I have watched several tutorials on YouTube. Must go make breakfast…grrr; I’d rather be procrastinating.

  • Oh yeah! But my favorite is to spend time searching patterns and finding yarn for FUTURE projects, which is great fun but is not putting that time into working on current projects.

    • Me – but also, a thing I really like to do (plan and dream of projects). And possibly see also Adam Grant’s theory.

  • I, a knitter through and through, have held quilters and those magnificent works of art in highest esteem. Replacing the worn out, falling apart back of my grandson’s comforter ( it had been his uncle’s for whom he is named ) prompted me to embark upon a quilt for the youngest granddaughter. I found a block, made 24 of them, assembled the top. When assembled it created 12 large white diamonds that drew in the eye making the beautiful fabrics and colors recede into background. Took 2 -3 months of procrastination for me to see the solution. Procrastinated past Christmas, but made it for her birthday. And then there’s the cat in the hat socks on needles. But the crowberry vest is almost complete.

  • Reading Ann’s wonderful piece and comments I realize that I am – like many of you – a VERY BUSY procrastinator! Today, let’s each find a little joyous satisfaction in getting to, if not finishing, some(small)thing!

  • Dr. Pychyl is a psychologist? Isn’t that a great name for….oh, right, I should be knitting now.

  • You know, picking colors IS paralyzing! I know about taking pics of potential color combos in grey tone but still I would LOVE a class from one of your experts about how to pick colors. Just a suggestion…

  • No, but I do put off housework by going into my craft room until the feeling passes.

  • Procrastiknitting

    • Love this word and practice it quite often.

  • I think Procrastination is an emotional regulation SOLUTION! It has taken me years to learn that I don’t have to push myself, ever, about doing anything. If it doesn’t feel ok to do now, then don’t do it now. I trust that eventually I’ll want to do it. And if I don’t finish that knitting, so what? I enjoyed the part of it that I did. Is having a finished object the reason I knit? Maybe not…although I do like wearing them. I’m still aiming at being softer with myself, more like kid silk haze than aran weight wool.

    • Love this so much! Thank you for your gentle reminder.

    • <3 <3 <3

  • Yes, yes and yes. I keep setting the Crowberry down and picking up my fifth Rowan felted Tweed blankets. Love that yarn. I’m go back and forth about my choice of Crowberry colors and using Lettlopi yarn. The more I do the more I’m ok with it. I guess……

  • This is why I like projects that take a long time. I get the most crafting bang for my decision buck with them. I also like to make sure I have the next project lined up, ready to go. before finishing the current one(s). This gives me a long time to futz about details and decisions without feeling rushed.

  • Went back to bed (it was very early previously) and realized I had said Crowberry colors, when I meant Plütolopi. Plus hadn’t realized the length (and humor) of your hat/sleeve. That IS procastinating:).

  • Dye that hat green for St. Patrick’s Day, then re-dye it red for Christmas. Works both ways.

  • I logged into my work computer, checked emails on my personal computer while my work station was loading… read this adorable missive (and is that an INFINITY hat??) and… what was I doing? Why is my work station on? I have one more round before starting the Crowberry color work… maybe I’ll go in the other room and knit a round before clocking in…

  • You might have bought the yarn a couple of weeks ago, but weren’t you going to make that hat for one of The Lads…when he was 6?

  • All the time!!

  • This is so me! Paralyzed by perfection. I just want it to be perfect, so I am scared to start it. And I love the hat! Please tell us what the pattern is!

  • My problem is procrastinating on starting projects! I have the yarn, I have the pattern, I’m paralyzed by what project to choose!
    Also, my MIL is 100 and dying, and so I’ve had to set aside the sweater and blanket projects to have hats and socks and scarfs — small, easily portable projects that I can pick up and put down without spending 5 minutes remembering where I am. Sometimes being the sandwich generation makes life more difficult.

    • You are right about sandwich generation. Take care of yourself too.

  • I am 66 years old and retired. I have decided with not too many years left on this earth to do basically whatever I want, whenever I want. Yes, I will get required things done like laundry, taxes and keeping my cats (and husband) alive but I no longer worry about all those things other people think I need to do. My life would have been a mess if I ALWAYS lived my life this way, but not now.

    • Hear! Hear!

  • That hat says it all. Thank you so much for this!

  • Thanks for this and all your affirming articles. The birds thank you too.

  • I’m with ya. Procrastinate is my middle name! Gotta ask – which yarn did you use for the hat?? It’s lovely.

  • Procrastination is my middle name.

  • Oh, Kay, you hit it exactly! I am a procrastinator par excellance. This fact has troubled me at times, but mostly it worries my loved ones.
    I totally believe Dr. Pychyl. Thank you for the quote! Its validation calms me even more.

  • I literally LOL’d when I saw how long you procrastinated on your hat! I feel you; I have umpty-million UFOs in canvas/cotton/linen bags scattered about my house. Oy.

  • I almost choked on my coffee when I saw the incredibly long procrastination hat. Too funny! I have managed to put off sewing six sequins onto an embroidered wool applique quilt for several months by knitting and sewing other projects. It is ridiculous as we are talking about six silly sequins and I love the rest of the project. I know how to attach them; I just don’t enjoy doing so.

  • That hat is hilarious.
    And maybe the next high fashion trend?

  • I’m procrastinating blocking a large rectangular ripple shawl, which I knit from a kit that a downsizing friend gave me. It’s not something that I will ever wear, but the yarn was beautiful and expensive. So I’m knitting all kinds of small things like hats and mittens instead.

  • I started a mitten set for a KAL. There were 4 colors in each row. I stop to unwind the yarn after each row, and every 4 rows I stop to unwind my mind. And do some plain knitting. Bonus: I have 2 hats ready for next Christmas.

  • I just finished my third procrastination project (a Pheasant Plucker hat in Flaco the Owl colors, more or less) to fend off finishing a bespoke sweater for my son. I’m terrified it won’t fit. And I just found a pattern for Yip Yips on Ravelry. I have some stash yarn that would be perfect for a Yip Yip …

  • I read somewhere that procrastination isn’t all bad because it frees up your day today and gives you something to do tomorrow!

    • Brilliant!! That should be embroidered on a pillow! I’m keeping that mantra in mind.

  • I knit an entire cardigan while procrastinating about knitting the edging on a large shawl. I’ve been wearing the cardigan for weeks, and I still haven’t gone back to finish the shawl.

  • I am a process knitter. I knit to figure out a problem, explore the unknown, find a better way, or to answer a ‘what if…’ I very rarely knit to actually complete a garment. If you saw my workspace you would definitely believe I was a procrastinknitter but you be mistaken, it just looks that way and I suffer no guilt or emotional baggage it’s just how I knit. The finishing isn’t in the completion it’s in the attainment of the ah ha moment.

  • I should be finishing the baby blanket for my friend’s first grandchild; he is due to arrive this Monday. Instead I am working on yet another pair of socks for myself. Loving the yarn, pattern and the notion of procrastination all together. Thanks for reminding me that I am not a lone procrastinator in the knitting world.

  • Yup. Daughter’s wedding bolero. It’s lace and a complicated sleeve construct, knit from the top down. And I am struggling with the way the pattern is written. Then, after about 6” of hard-won progress, I noticed a small blue stain!! Timeout for you!!

    Grabbed stash yarn and started yet another shawl, that I don’t need or particularly want but the pattern was interesting.

    Good thing the wedding’s in July!!?

  • Along those lines, I have started the three strikes guideline. If I begin a project with a yarn and it isn’t working, there are then two more chances for it and after that it gets donated. Really lifts the weight off the shoulders not having to see it again.

  • I bought 6 balls of Bernat Blanket yarn in Mallard Wood in April 2020. I found a pattern that was complicated, but doable for someone who has been knitting for 25 years. I was excited about. I was excited about it, but I also wanted to do the project justice. The yarn sat around for months while I procrastinated with life, new job, lots of reading, writing a novel and sending things off to literary magazines. The yarn came with me on more than one trip, but I’m finally nearing the end and come next winter I’ll be able to curl up under a throw that I made – very cool.

    • Writing a novel??!!

      You have taken procrastination to new heights!


  • Yes!! Except I’m currently procrastinating on three shawls and a blanket! By crocheting squares for a fun cardigan, using leftover yarn from my grandson’s baby blanket. Those other projects are having a vacation for a while. I’ll see them soon.

  • Yes, getting to the packing up “house” as the moving van is arriving in 10 days.

  • Totally cracked up when I saw the 2nd pic of the procrastination hat!! PERFECT!!

  • Oh, my, yes! I’m on the sleeves of a cardigan that I stared last July. And lookie there, knitted braids cowl! Possibly some fingerless mitts next. But I suppose those sleeves aren’t going to knit themselves.

  • Oh yes! Just finished a shawlette in a yarn I bought on a day when I needed cheering up. Then thought up the project. All because I don’t want to deal with the second sleeve of a sweater. And now the shawlette is done and the sleeve still isn’t. But I just saw a really cute hat pattern ….

  • Do I procrastinate knitting on a project by knitting something else?
    All the dang time!!!
    I have 4 (?) sweater WIPs languishing and I keep casting on yet another pair of socks (with an occasional cowl or hat tossed in for variety).
    The sweaters will be completed…eventually! But I get immense pleasure when I veer off and make “just one more pair” of socks.

  • I love to procrastinate. My favorite thing to leave for later is cleaning my shower. I hate that job and with bad back and knees it is physically difficult now as well. I do plan—supplies and techniques. Knitting is kinda the same way. I realized over the weekend how many projects I have left to finish—including weaving in ends and blocking. Oh well, I am trying be a monogamous knitter and I get so bored or frustrated that I just don’t knit at all, glad to know I am not alone.

  • Yes! Even though spring is here, I’m knitting more mittens because mittens are Fun. Knitting dishcloths for my mother-in-law is BORING. Boring has a place and time – not right here and, you guessed it, not right now 🙂

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