jump to navigation

Procrastination Theories II Sunday 2/5/12

Posted by smcgamer in General, Help and Fixes.
add a comment

Read this first for a basis: http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/10/27/procrastination/

And then this: https://smcgamer.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/an-expansion-on-procrastination/

I have another theory.  Again, I’m no psychologist.

Procrastination, as defined in the You Are Not So Smart article by David McRaney, as linked above, is a constant war of want versus

Coffee table with coffee table book

Okay, that's one book. Image via Wikipedia.

should, now versus later, and so on.  This war cannot be won permanently, but tools can be employed.

Let’s take another analogy.  Let’s say you have a large paper to write.  It will involve hours of hard work, sitting at a desk with twenty separate books open before you.  But then you see a half-eaten box of donuts on the coffee table beside the remote.

Guess what happens next.

But what if something were changed?  What if the donuts weren’t on your coffee table, instead in a bakery’s front window somewhere?  Suddenly, acquiring donuts becomes a trip to the donut store.  It becomes something that takes more effort to do.  The tables have turned, and suddenly the paper seems more appealing than heading out to a bakery.

This is my theory – procrastination isn’t so much about doing as it is starting to do.  If it’s easier to plop down on the couch and watch four hours of Home Improvement, then it’s more likely to be done than a 20-page essay on macroeconomics and its effect on the greater social structure.

Home Improvement (TV series)

You know you want to. Image via Wikipedia.

But if fun gets harder – donuts at the store, Internet blocked, or TV switched off, then it becomes easier by comparison to do the hard stuff.

Let’s call the energy to start work EW. And let’s call the energy to start procrastinating as EP.  If EW is more than EP (if it’s harder to work than play), procrastination will win again.  But if you turn the tables such that EP is greater than EW, work becomes more appealing.

I base my theory off of a comment by McRaney that he couldn’t fit in the article.  It says that motivation occurs after starting, and waiting for inspiration isn’t realistic.

So, what can you do?  If, like a lot of people, your procrastination mostly stems from pictures of cats with funny captions on the Internet, Chrome extension Whitelist can help.  It will block all websites that you don’t put on the whitelist to prevent you from wasting time.  The whitelist feature is great, because it won’t block, say, MSDN, but will block YouTube, if you want.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  “If I can disable it, I will.”  But I don’t think EP has to be infinity – you don’t want to fight through layers of safeguards just to have fun when there’s nothing to do.  If you have doubts, the best advice I can give you is just to try it.

Now, this is just a theory.  I may be 180 degrees and 20 miles off, but it makes sense.  And I reiterate, I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

An Expansion on Procrastination Wednesday 2/1/12

Posted by smcgamer in Help and Fixes.
1 comment so far
I’m a procrastinator, probably like a lot of us.  While browsing the web for ideas on how to fight it, I came across this great article on David McRaney’s blog You Are Not So Smart.  It basically says that you don’t procrastinate because you’re lazy and cannot manage your time.  The reason you procrastinate is that you think that your future self will actually do the task you set him/her.

On Account of Procrastination

I’ll give you an example:  say you have a book you want to read.  It’s about advanced calculus, and it would help you out significantly in your studies, but it’s not required reading.  You wake up one morning, and task your future self to start reading it, perhaps get a good 20 to 30 pages in.

You go about your day, but when you return home, you see the TV on and a box of donuts on the table.  You really, really don’t want to read that book, even though you were so sure that you did just this morning.

“What the heck?!” you think.  “Earlier, I was all for starting my reading.  But now I don’t want do.  Why?”

According to the article, it’s because you’re not that great at making certain decisions.  You usually always want to go for the donuts and the TV, but you think that Future-You will love to start reading that calculus book.  But Future-You probably won’t.

But I think there’s a little more to it than that.  There’s a reason why you can show up for work or school day after day but not read a calculus book, despite that being easier than work or school.

There are a few kinds of tasks:

  • Tasks that you have to do:  Including school, work, picking the kids up from soccer practice, what have you.  These things have immediate negative consequences if not completed, so you do them.  An authority of some sort is holding you to complete this task.
  • Tasks that you have to do, but not now:  Such as writing a midterm essay or studying for finals.  There’s a set deadline, but it’s in the future.  There are no immediate negative consequences for waiting, just delayed ones, which is why so many students cram on the night before the test.  You know, in the back of your mind, that there will be massive problems if these things aren’t completed, but you figure that you don’t have to do it now.  And Future-You does that, too, at least until it’s almost too late.
  • Tasks set forth by you alone:  Tasks such as writing a story, or other such hobbies.  This is the worst kind of task; there’s no authority but the one who set it, and there aren’t going to be any negative consequences for not finishing it.

So what can be done?  The article suggests that you have to think about thinking.  To quote:

Thinking about thinking, this is the key. In the struggle between should versus want, some people have figured out something crucial – want never goes away.

Procrastination is all about choosing want over should because you don’t have a plan for those times when you can expect to be tempted.

Go check out the article, it goes way more in-depth than I do here.

Also, disclaimer.  I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, just a guy trying to figure out the world.  If you see anything wrong, please leave a comment and I’ll fix it.