Do more! Procrastinate.

I’m off on my hols this evening, but I’ve spent most of this weekend so far procrastinating.  There’s one phone call I have to make, and I’ve managed to put it off for 48 hours.  But that has left me fidgety all weekend.

In fact, when I look at my to do list I see I’ve done it all including stuff I’ve avoided or forgotten for weeks.  But since everything I did was a displacement activity, it’s all been strangely unsatisfying.

There’s an irritating exercise they do in Time Management classes:  The tutor gets a great big open topped glass jar and a bunch of rocks and puts the rocks in the jar until it’s full.  They then say “is it full” and of course the students say “yes”.  Then the tutor gets a bunch of medium size rocks and puts them in the jar and shakes them down so that they settle down around the big rocks and says “is it full”.   Some students get it and say “no” and some don’t and say “yes”.  Then the tutor puts in sand, and all the students think it must be full by now. Finally the tutor pours in water.

The lesson you are supposed to draw from this is to do the big stuff first and you’ll get much more in than you expect.  The other lesson is not to lift up a large jar full of rocks sand and water because it will smash on the floor if you drop it.

You see, I disagree with that lesson. (I would, of course).

Procrastination is the most wonderful tool if you fill in the time with displacement activities.   I have actually done everything on my list, except make that phone call.  Procrastination may be unsatisfying, but it can be remarkably effective.  You just have to choose what to procrastinate about.

Right, that’s me.  See you in a fortnight.

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3 responses to “Do more! Procrastinate.

  1. Isn’t it odd how appealing the ironing, or cleaning out that dusty cupboard can become when procrastination is called for?

    I have just meme-ily tagged you, if you wish to participate on your return (you could even use it as a displacement activity!):

    http://singinglibrarian.wordpress.com/2008/09/09/quirky-but-unspectacular/

    I am wondering just how spectacular the dropped jar/rock/sand/water would be. I suspect ‘very’.

  2. I went on that course when I was Willy Wonka. I was surrounded by corporate cyborgs, ambitious little strivers who’d been snapped up straight from Uni, brainwashed, and as a result if you cut them they’d bleed chocolate.

    The subject under discussion was stress management and work/life balance. Quite a few people in my position had been working 14 hour days seven days a week for months, and as a result had been crashing their cars on the way home or getting divorced.

    So instructor chappie puts the rocks in, is it full, yes, no, snooker balls, is it full, yes, no, marbles, sand, water, yadda, yadda. And then he says “What does this show us?”

    And no word of a lie, the IMMEDIATE answer from one of the cyborgs was – can you guess?

    “Even if you think you’ve done everything you can, you can always do more.”, i.e. even if I’ve done 14 hours at the office, I can still spend some time at home doing work. And around the room, heads actually nodded.

    The look on the trainer’s face was priceless, as he realised just how massively his point had been missed. He pointed out that the rocks were the IMPORTANT things in life, i.e. NOT WORK. And that these things should be prioritised first, because if you fill the jar the little stuff – the snooker balls, i.e. work – first, there’s no room for the big stuff.

    Three things I wondered in situations like that:
    1. Do these people, these ambitious strivers, really believe what they’re saying, or are they saying it because they believe it’s what “the company” wants to hear and they’re desperate to keep their jobs and get on?
    2. Either way – how did they get like that so young? Because they must have been like that in the first place or they would never have got onto the graduate training scheme.
    3. Is there something wrong with me? Before I even graduated, before I even went to university, I had a deep cynicism about companies and ambition. I saw nothing big or clever about working 14 hour days. You’re not thanked or rewarded for it. People who do it are just as likely to be made redundant as people who are not. Time and again it is proven to me that one gets on by having the right friends, having been to the right school etc.

    At fifteen I turned away from a career as a professional actor, and I’m glad I did. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I now realise there would simply have been no point. I’m not gay and I’m not Jewish, and that demographic (hetersexual Gentiles) are, in the acting profession, about as common as gay Jewish footballers.

    In a room full of people who believe that work is more important than their social lives, I feel like an alien. Still, I don’t work there any more, and where I am now is rather different. There’s two kinds of people here – people who are entirely clear that work is subordinate to their life… and the Japanese.

    Then again, that may have a lot to do with a particularly depressing fact: when I first got a “proper” comical engineering job, I was, at 25, one of the youngest engineers in the business. Not suprising, since you can’t really be one very much younger. Then I became Willy Wonka… and because Wonkas had stopped recruiting graduates years earlier, I was still, despite being a “Senior” Engineer, one of the youngest engineers in the business. “Senior” was a courtesy title, as there was nobody to be senior to. Then I came here… and at nearly 40, I’m still one of the youngest people in the company.

    Manufacturing industry is, in my experience, living through a demographic timebomb, and it is me and people my age who will suffer most as, over the next ten to fifteen years, the last people who knew anything retire and leave us to try to keep their aging machinery from falling over.

    Blimey, that turned into a bit of a rant.

  3. I am the master (or should that be ‘mistress’) of procrastination. Plonk me in front of a computer to do some writing and, as if in a daze, I find myself playing spider solitaire, or surfing the BBC website, or making myself a cup of coffee, or deciding to tidy up my email inbox, or standing on my head while whistling Dixie (OK, so I made that last one up). Hope you had a good holiday.

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