Even though I have a love-hate relationship with procrastination, it’s a tad ironic that I’ve been surprisingly busy just during the days that Michael Nobbs has declared procrastination week. During this week, I’ve been taking care of two houses, one garden, and one elderly lady, I worked on the first release of the ILIAS LMS online help, organized my next trip (and an interesting speaking gig on Colombia), brought some order into my task lists1, and plenty other tidbits. I had less time to read and write than ever.
On the other hand, this unusual lack of free time actually made me procrastinate on publishing a new post this week. Which is why I decided to give you an inside-look into my thoughts on procrastination. Think of it as a best-of compilation, and as my contribution to #procrastinationweek!
Click on any of the links to read the complete article!
My Love-Hate Relationship With Procrastination
The real problem with procrastination is that people don’t know how to cope with it. And this comes to no surprise: We live in a culture of wannabe effectiveness and fake productivity, teaching even young children to make impeccable use of their time. Most 12 year olds in the suburbs of the USA seem to have a tighter schedule than I am ever going to have. Relaxing and doing nothing, they are taught, is a bad thing, just like using swear words or eating their finger nails.
As a result, people often fall into a trap I’d like to call the Möbius Strip of Fake Productivity: You don’t feel like you’re ready to work on any task that matters, but you don’t feel you’re allowed to do nothing, either. So you will just nervously fill up your day with minor tasks, getting nothing important done, but neither taking the time to relax and give your idle brain some freedom. Just like walking on a Möbius strip, you could go on and on and on like this until you reach retirement age.
The alternative? Embrace this lovely human quality called procrastination! Grab your scissors, cut the möbius strip, and decide to turn pro not only in your work, but also in procrastination.
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.
Procrastination is part of the loop.
It costs energy and motivation and time. It costs what we call our life.
It costs the life of that girl.
It costs a whole chunk of life – an hour, a day, a week, a month – until she finally gets back to her core.
Back to what she is.
Back to what she wanted to create.
Back to her art.
That’s the first round of the loop: Create art, passionately. Become doubtful. Procrastinate. Then, finally: Reconnect. But immediately, it begins again.
It’s maybe just a play with semantics, but for me, laziness is simply dead and sterile: You’re lazy after work because you don’t have any power left. You just feel exhausted, and you don’t want to do anything else, so you retract to your couch and TV.
If laziness is nothing but apathy, procrastination is the desire to escape from boring or gruesome work: You don’t want to do a certain thing, so you start doing something else. In this sense, procrastination is an “away from something”.
Idleness, on the other hand, is a “towards something”.
While idlers don’t feel bad relaxing, looking at clouds, daydreaming and generally doing nothing, we don’t do nothing all the time – we also know when to start doing stuff, and how to do it efficiently. We won’t probably get moving on Monday mornings at 8am just to please the system. But then, maybe we would. Or we would prefer a Thursday afternoon or a nightshift on the weekend. We’ll find the appropriate moment.
The core of idleness, at least for me, is not doing nothing, but avoiding stupid work. While your mileage may vary, stupid work for me has a lot to do with filling out forms, storing documents in large manila folders and sitting in neon-lit meeting rooms with a bunch of badly-dressed office clerks. I just don’t enjoy that stuff and generally don’t consider it a good use of my time.
- Even more irony! [↩]