(Un)Productivity

Procrastinate on TASKS, not on your LIFE

The Beach. Procrastinate on your tasks, not your life

While in the 17th century procrastination was only a concern of some overly pious reverends, it has become a main preoccupation of the whole mankind nowadays – especially since the invention of Twitter and RSS feeds, it seems. Everybody is worried about procrastinating on the tasks they should be getting done. In times of ever more efficient machines, human beings apparently should adapt – but instead of doing that, they’ll just idle around.

But consider this: First, machines don’t think. They compute. And second, procrastination is not necessarily a bad thing, as even the ancient Egyptians knew. It can just be a sign of one of the following: Either the task at hand is annoying (and should probably be avoided), or it’s a task whose carrying out still requires some thought. Outsource it to a machine, and you will never get an answer. In contrast, procrastinators generally don’t have problems finishing their stuff – they only decide to put it off… and to provide results “just in time”.

The problem then isn’t procrastination – it’s stressing out. So to prevent this, you could just embrace your inner idler and enjoy procrastinating on tasks by doing other, more enjoyable things: Work on interesting projects you never had the time for (cleaning the kitchen probably doesn’t count!), lie at the beach or, better yet, meet some friends. They will help you to relax and at the same time give you some kind of non-task-related input. This might support your idle brain to process the information it needs to solve the task you’re procrastinating on.

On the other hand, check if you are procrastinating on your life. Way too many people do that. Instead of doing stuff that matters, they just carry out tiny tasks thrown at them by others. While there will always be some tasks you cannot avoid to do – be it at school, at university, at the office, or at home – nothing will prevent you more from living your dreams than to concentrate on the urgent trivia instead of on the important few.

The classical symptom for procrastinating on your life is telling yourself you will “do that trip when you are retired”, “enroll in that course when you find the time”, “pursue your passion when you are financially independent”. During all this time you may be very productive on many minor tasks, but you will be losing your life – instead of taking it into your own hands and making big, probably difficult decisions and changes (that, like everything, start with just one tiny little step).

So as you’re reading this article on The Friendly Anarchist, think about the small and the big escapes you took this hour, today, this week: Were you procrastinating only on your tasks – or on your life?

Personal note: I am currently experiencing a lot of trouble with getting internet access in my house. Until the not so friendly, but certainly anarchistic ISP sends some guys over to fix things up, please be prepared for slow comment moderation, but feel at home like always! Thanks!

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

David Turnbull November 28, 2009 at 2:31 am

This is so true. Time and time again I see people focus on the tiny inefficiencies in their life, yet they fail to just step back and look at the big picture, the core of why there are those inefficiencies. :-)

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Fabian November 28, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Go to the roots of the problem, that’s always a good advice. It’s just so much easier fiddling around with the details, maybe that’s why we seldom do it! :)

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Nate November 29, 2009 at 3:12 pm

I’ve had big problems procrastinating in my life. I’m finally getting to a point where I’m doing instead of waiting for something to happen.

At the same time, it is crazy how much ‘needless’ doing people do. I was away from my computer and twitter for just a few days and when I came back there were hundreds upon hundreds of twitter messages, etc………I don’t know, it seems like there’s some overload out there with that stuff.

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Fabian November 30, 2009 at 3:04 am

Nowadays, all of us have to find ways on how to select the important parts of all the information that is thrown at us all day long. As I see it, it’s not only “some” overload, but a HUUGE one – so it’s definitely necessary to learn more about being a kind of personal “curator”. On the other hand, the information provided is maybe not necessarily result of “needless” doing. It may be a helpful activity for the author to write it, it may be very helpful to other readers… but you’re absolutely right that we have to ask ourselves if it is of use to US. Checking Twitter and feeds after some days offline is a good example indeed for experiencing this kind of questioning. (Have been through the same these days due to the internet problems around here! :) )

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Oscar - freestyle mind December 1, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Great message here. It’s better to go out end enjoy life rather than trying to live with stress at home ;)

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Fabian December 1, 2009 at 9:55 pm

This is exactly the way to go, Oscar! Enjoying life and enjoying the tasks it brings up, but only the important ones! ;)

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Travis December 6, 2009 at 6:42 am

I’d have to agree whole-heartedly… after a while, I think any competent individual gets so fed up with dealing with what others say is important, that they realize that the time to act is now.

In other words, constantly worrying about what SOCIETY says we should be doing instead of worrying about what we TRULY want to do is nothing but a waste of our time and effort. Set your own goals, blaze your own trails, and enjoy life at the tempo you were meant to enjoy it at, not what others say you should enjoy it at. If everyone else wants to run around going crazy doing this and that than that’s fine… but don’t rain on MY parade!

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Fabian December 6, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Absolutely, Travis. It’s important to keep other people in mind and let them do their thing, too. Although it might not appeal us, of course it’s everybody’s own decision. (Although we may continue to diffuse our idea viruses to see where it leads us!)

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