Wednesday, June 17, 2015

I'll Write This...Later

This blog post is due today, so naturally I’ve spent the morning on Facebook. Well, not all morning. I had to eat breakfast after all. Can’t write on an empty stomach. And I had to take a shower, otherwise this post might stink. And that article on The Atlantic’s City Lab website about anti-collision technology was very interesting.  Naturally I had to rant—I mean write—about it for all my Facebook friends. I would have put in on Twitter too, but I’ve abandoned my Twitter account.  I was wasting too much time there.

I just did a Google search of Internet procrastination and came up with 1.2 million results, so I guess I’m not alone in my struggle. One fun article, again from The Atlantic—a fine procrastination tool, er, publication—discusses ways to break out of the "Procrastination Doom Loop". Any article with that fun
Stressed man
Can't talk now, I'm on deadline!
phrase deserves a look. Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait for you to come back. offers
"15 Ways to Overcome Procrastination and Get Stuff Done", which isn’t nearly as catchy a title, but it does have colorful graphics. Readers should be able to skim through it quickly and get back to their real work.

Some hardcore advisers recommend eliminating Internet access from your home. Such is the advice of Joshua Fields Millburn, co-author of The Minimalists website who penned the article "Killing the Internet at Home is the Most Productive Thing I’ve Ever Done." He asserts that by making his home Internet free, he doesn’t get sucked into random ‘net surfing. He keeps a running list in a paper notebook of specific tasks he needs to accomplish online, like uploading articles he’s written. When he goes out the library or coffee shop to get online, he’s more likely to attend to his tasks and not get trapped in mindless browsing.

You’ll note that one of his recommendations is to visit the library as a means of rationing one’s time on the Internet. All Montgomery County Public Libraries offer computers with Internet access and free WiFi

If cutting the cord at home seems like too much, there are many online tools that can help you step away from the keyboard. Google offers an extension for its Chrome browser called Stay Focusd. It allows you to set time limits on whatever sites you waste too much time on. You can also block sites altogether. Inc. magazine reviews Stay Focusd and other anti-procrastination apps in its article "10 Distraction Killing Tools for Better Concentration." I’ve been meaning to try some of these out, but well, I haven’t gotten around it it.

Eat That Frog! book cover
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Some of those apps are free, others have a price tag. But don’t worry, everything the library offers is free. I have read several books about procrastination, probably when I was suppose to be doing something else. There’s the humorous Art of Procrastination, by Stanford University professor John Perry. He recommends structured procrastination. This involves placing your most important tasks at the bottom of your To Do list in the hopes that you’ll complete these tasks as a means of avoiding whatever you’ve placed at the top of your list. I’m not sure how effective the method is, but his book is fun to read. For a more conventional book on overcoming procrastination, there’s The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done, by Piers Steel.  For procrastinating foodies, there’s Eat that Frog! 21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less TimeFear not amphibian lovers, no frogs were harmed in the writing of this book.

If you too, suffer from occasional bouts of procrastination, don’t worry, you’re in good company. Revolutionary War era political activist Thomas Paine, in his famous pamphlet Common Sense, felt the need to chastise his fellow American colonists for dragging their feet on the task of rebelling against the British. In the conclusion of Common Sense, he notes, “... until an independence is declared, the [American] Continent will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some unpleasant business from day to day, yet knows it must be done, hates to set about it, wishes it over, and is continually haunted with the thoughts of its necessity.”

The American colonists overcame their reluctance to take on a difficult task. Whatever difficult tasks we’re avoiding, they probably don’t involve kicking out the British Empire, so sign off Facebook and get to work!

Mark S.

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