Procrastination

  • Pomodoro technique

Let me make a confession here. I am suffering from a disease, and that disease is called procrastination. I have known about it since my early childhood or as far back as I can remember. For the last 17 years, I have been actively trying to fight it and I have achieved some considerable success. That being said, there is a long way to go. For it catches you by surprise when you are not paying attention.  The reason I am writing this blog is that while I am going through a minor episode of procrastination, this is one way of confronting and overcoming it. I thought also of taking it by the horns and see what different tricks procrastination uses against you and which tricks I can employ to beat it.

So let us look at what different things have worked so far for me to beat procrastination.

  • Dividing tasks into small parts
  • Employing a sense of urgency

Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time

This is my favorite line which I use at least once every day. The idea is that a project looks big when you look at it as one huge, whole enchilada. If you divide it into smaller pieces, however, it becomes easier to deal with and digest.

Sense of Urgency

One of the tricks procrastination uses is to make you believe that things can wait. But if you pull out weapons like a sense of urgency this trick by Mr. Procrastination loses its power. So a sense of urgency should be made part of anything and everything you do in life.

Let us now look at what causes it and how symptoms show up.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.             –Charles Dickens

The Internet age has introduced the best of times and worst of times at the same time. While it helps productive people become more productive, it makes unproductive people remain unproductive.

Twenty years back, if you wanted to waste time, there was a cost to it. For me, it was a ordeal just to go and watch a movie at a movie theater. Plus, there were very few sources available for leisure reading, and it did not take long to exhaust them.

I remember in India the virtually unlimited source of leisure reading was the newspaper. Everyone would read a newspaper in the morning as a ritual. Folks who did not have something better to do would spend hours and hours together munching on every appetizing section. It did have a silver lining, though. In India, if you go to a remote village and ask where America is or who Obama is, they will tell you. They track international events including foreign affairs on a daily basis.

I was surprised at the lack of general knowledge when I came to America 15 years ago. Here, drinking beer and watching football has been a favorite pastime of the lazy for a long while, as opposed to reading newspapers.

What the Internet has done is it has given many more options to folks who seek to waste their time consciously or unconsciously. While the most unproductive class of people may be spending most of their time playing games, the most productive class may be spending hours surfing Wikipedia pages while important projects are sitting on their desk awaiting their needful attention.

Everyone having an Internet connection in their office made it even worse. Then smart phones with unlimited data came along and put a death knell to any hope of getting productivity out of employees. Add instant messaging to the mix and its addition is worse than drug addiction, not to mention it is so much more widespread. Heck, it’s an epidemic.

There is a bright side to the Internet era obviously, though. I run a high-tech company and know it inside and out. I use both the smartphone and Internet to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of every minute I have in a day. Even while driving I listen to tech videos which are helpful for the topic I am working on. I also clean out my mailbox while waiting in line at the supermarket or bank and while waiting for take-out food at a restaurant.

So, for me, after so many years of fighting with procrastination, it has lost its momentum, although it certainly has not given up. Now it shows up during those times when I am overworked. It disguises itself as disinterest. That disguise, however, does not last for long, as I do very interesting and exciting work for a living.

I am sure I am not alone in this fight against procrastination. It is a cancer which needs a long treatment and a lot of patience before a permanent cure arrives. And I’m looking forward to its arrival. The cure, that is!