Stop waiting

There are limits here: if you want to quit your job then you should indeed wait until you can do it but what you shouldn’t is wait to begin. Start doing the thing that will get you out. Start now. Stop waiting.

Productive people sometimes confuse the difference between reasonable delay and true procrastination. The former can be useful (“I’ll respond to this email when I have more time to write it”). The latter is, by definition, self-defeating (“I should respond to this email right now, and I have time, and my fingers are on the keys, and the Internet connection is perfectly strong, and nobody is asking me to do anything else, but I just … don’t … feel like it.”).

When scientists have studied procrastination, they’ve typically focused on how people are miserable at weighing costs and benefits across time. For example, everybody recognizes, in the abstract, that it’s important to go to the dentist every few months. The pain is upfront and obvious—dental work is torture—and the rewards of cleaner teeth are often remote, so we allow the appointment to slip through our minds and off our calendars. Across several categories including dieting, saving money, and sending important emails, we constantly choose short and small rewards (whose benefits are dubious, but immediate) over longer and larger payouts (whose benefits are obvious, but distant).

In the last few years, however, scientists have begun to think that procrastination might have less to do with time than emotion. Procrastination “really has nothing to do with time-management,” Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, told Psychological Science. “To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”

The Procrastination Doom Loop—and How to Break It – Derek Thompson, The Atlantic (26 August 2015)

Read the full piece. Via and Lifehacker.

The Not-We

If you should stop beating yourself up when you fail to get as much done as you planned, you should certainly pat yourself on the back for doing stuff. We don’t do that and if you want to really appreciate how important it is, how much it matters, then work with someone who fails.

Last month I did a thing that I reckoned would take me an hour’s research and up to two hours writing. No more. There are lots of reasons why I took it on, including that it was fun, but the fact that it would be swift was a big factor.

It wasn’t swift.

It required working with another writer and I thought I was ready for this. Even when they failed the first time, I shrugged: I knew what would happen. Sure enough, I got the predictable excuse email when they hadn’t done the work, the one you read going yeah, yeah, so when am I going to get it? The thing with predictable stuff is that they’re not surprising so I was narked but not surprised.

The nark/surprise ratio did not improve.

I don’t care about the excuse – if it were that someone had died, okay, but this wasn’t even at the level of pets chewing pages. I can well imagine that the writer has more important things to do. I can well agree too. She is far more important to the project than I am, far more, and she has more jobs to do in it than I ever will.

But all I see is that her job is to do what she agreed to do.

I think that’s simple and if you can’t do it, don’t agree. If you agreed but then can’t do it, say so.

I wasted a lot of time on that project and it was true waste: the waste where you are left waiting with nothing to do. It was brilliant for every other project I was working on, but I could’ve been working on those straight through if she’d just said.

All the stuff we do about being creatively productive is meant to help us, ourselves, we. You and me. We work better, we handle things better, we do more things better. But it also helps other people enormously when we do what we say we’ll do and we do it when we said we would.

And last month I was other people. I’ve left it five weeks in order to cool down about it and to make it so that I can convincingly say “no, no, it was this other project” if anyone from that gig reads this. I’m still not cool about it but no, no, it was this other project.