I wanted to write to you about “National Procrastination Week”. A full week? Yes. ” National Procrastination Week is a national holiday (in the USA) devoted to procrastination and putting-off important tasks.” It is an annual event that takes place during the first two weeks of March, but, in the spirit of the holiday, the specific dates change annually. That’s from Wikipedia. More on that later. This note is about ‘telling time’ well, which is one way to fight procrastination.
By the way, National Procrastination Week does not advocate sloth and inaction during that time. It places emphasis on ‘accomplishing tasks and leisurely activities that could not be accomplished while one had other responsibilities’.
Somehow, the whole idea doesn’t sit well with me.
So, I ended up pointing my attention towards procrastination and reading more about it. I have been having it in my mind for a while, and putting it off for another time. Like many other things.
The Many Dimensions Of Procrastination
There is abundant material on this. It’s obvious that the topic has invited attention for a long time. From the Greek poet Hesiod to numerous authors have said prescient stuff on what it is about: Intentionally or habitually putting off doing something that ought to have been done.
Research points to many reasons. Fear of failure (& success), being judged, avoiding unpleasant work, perfectionism, difficulty in planning and subdividing work are amongst the common ones. Along with others that include causes that are biological and those that are interpersonal and cultural.
Dr. Piers Steel, a Professor of Motivational Psychology and author of “The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done.”, calls it ‘self harm’.
I sat up when I read ‘self harm’ and quite like his ‘equation’. Look it up here
It was only 3-4 hours later that I realised I was getting lost in piles or research and literature on this topic. Very interesting debates, like “are procrastinators more creative?” Check this out.
Which is when I tuned into the need to get better at telling time.
The works of Jane Burka and Lenora Yeun mention getting better at telling time an important aspect of handling procrastination better. “You have to start by understanding your relationship to time” they say.
For instance, Are you optimistically vague about the time that you will take to finish a particular task?
I found myself nodding in agreement.
Since then, I have now been working on developing additional muscle in predicting how much time a task will take before I get into it. And for the last few days I have been finding that I under estimate the duration of effort on a particular task. Often by a wide margin.
And for some tasks that I do not like to do, I horribly over-estimate the time required. In both cases, I end up procrastinating on that task! I hope to get better with telling time for a task with accuracy, for it gets me to procrastinate less. Like I found in the last few days.
Did you know that the capacity to estimate how much time has passed diminishes with age.
Before I hang my hat on old age, let’s return to the basic question: How important is telling time?
Well, I am beginning to understand that telling it is helping me to get started and not stay daunted. It adds a large measure of realism into my unreasonably optimistic ways. I get on with it.
I do two things. One, I estimate how much time I would need to finish a task. Two, review it at the end of that time to check how I have done. I then reflect on whether it was the task that I was misreading or it was a function of interruptions. Perforce, it’s getting me to get more disciplined with my tasks and more importantly, gets me to reflect on how I work my time.
I have gotten a lot more done. It has given me more hope!
Still At It
The whole topic of procrastination and the mountains of research around it has me fascinated. But in this short burst of time, this is all for now. My one piece of exciting advice: p practice telling time. And when you get better with it, give me a shout. I will point you to more material on the topic 🙂
Thank God for National Procrastination Week, that sent me down this road. By the way, did you know when is “Fight Procrastination Day”? Well, September 6th. That’s a good six months away.
I am in the mood to fight right away. You?
Some Changes To The OWL Despatch
I have been writing and putting together The OWL Despatch for a few years now. Typically, one ever fortnight that has a short essay and five interesting reads that I have read the past fortnight. I have also been cross-posting the entire post online. From the previous edition, I am sharing the curated reading lists and other pieces with subscribers while leaving the essay on the web. The subscription remains free. For now :).
If you are yet to subscribe, may I invite you to click on this link please. Besides sharing it with your friends! Typically it takes less than 180 seconds. That’s to help you with telling time for this! 🙂