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» The Ornery American Forum » General Comments » Why Procrastination?

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Author Topic: Why Procrastination?
cperry
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I think there may have been other threads about this topic, but I want to explore not the solution to it but the underlying cause of it.

For specific, real time example:

I have to produce a program for a conference that will be held next Friday-Sunday. I actually like doing stuff like this, so I can't figure out why I'm ... not doing it!

Yeah, I know the tricks: divide the tasks up into smaller chores, etc.

Still not getting it done.

Fear of failure?
Fear of finishing?

So tell me, why do you procrastinate when you procrastinate?

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Gaoics79
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My problem is that I'm very good at living in the moment. I can wrap myself in a little bubble of the present, and insulate myself from past and future. Unlike some, I don't worry about problems that lie in the future. It's a blessing and a curse. It makes me a more laid back, less stressed kind of guy, but it also makes me a hopeless procrastinator.

I guess it's only a reasonable reaction: what you feel in the present is always more compelling and more forceful on your mind than something you may or probably will feel in the future. So why do an unpleasent or difficult task now when you can do it later?

Fortunately, in spite of my procrastination, I always get the job done. Just last week, I managed to put out a 30 page (single spaced, no footnotes) seminar paper in three days. I had done almost no work the previous weekend, even though the first draft was due on thursday. And in the end, it was a pretty good paper.

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KnightEnder
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CP, I can't figure it if it's something you like to do? Are you doing things you like to do more instead?

Maybe you should trick yourself into getting started. Tell yourself you'll just do the first page or first part or whatever. That's how I get myself to lift weights. I'll tell myself I'll just go in there and do one set of biceps or something easy and then once I get going I end up getting a full workout done.

KE

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cperry
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Actually, jasonr, I tend to prefer the future to the present. (Bad habit when I taught -- around March, I'd start thinking about the next school year and how I would do things differently. Okay, not so bad, except I still had this group of kids for about 3 more months!)

And I've done what you have described here -- pulled out a pretty hefty task in a short amount of time. But I always regret it. Yet here I go again.

KE - Yeah, I really love desktop publishing and rarely get to do it. Maybe it's some of the other tasks around the program that are dragging me down. NOt sure. I'm like you on the workouts -- usually if I can just get down to the basement (where we keep the elliptical, treadmill, free weights, and other workout stuff), I usually keep going. And I've done some of the work on this today, but I keep getting caught in distractions.

Maybe I just need some down time.

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0Megabyte
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Hmm. Why? Well... oh, I'll just tell you tomorrow.
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cperry
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heh heh heh

But I really am interested in the psychology behind this truly dismaying behavior.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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I actually managed to produce a 47 page paper for a Technical Communications class in a single night.

I was patting myself on the back for about a year over that one (...and I got an 'A' [Wink]

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IrishTD
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If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would get done.

Without a deadline, I don't finish stuff. I also tend to get very little done when I'm tired because I don't have much focus.

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javelin
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No matter how much I love to program, I can't spend all my time doing it - and yet, I have enough work that I could easily do so.

For example: I write code in my normal, 9 to 5 job (not my actual hours). I've got two other businesses, where are large part of my workload is writing code. I LOVE to write code. However, there are times when, after eight to nine hours straight of writing code, after day after day of writing code for eight to twelve hours a day, I'm not actually capable of sitting down and getting any code writing done. That's when a break is REQUIRED - not just needed. And thus, procrastination.

Not sure this is your situation, cperry - but that's where a large bit of my procrastination problem comes from today - on things that I love to do.

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cperry
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That makes a lot of sense, Jav. This is just ONE MORE THING on a long list of things to do, and it's been hard as heck just feeling like I could give up some other task to tackle this one.

Man, FDR, I think that's a record!

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cperry
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Stayed at work till 10 last night. Almost done, at least with the program. 8)
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LinuxFreakus
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At least with respect to coding sometimes I notice that I'll spend a week straight staying up until 3AM building up a grand elaborate scheme to make the best program ever for whatever it is that I'm working on... you know, perfect in every way, and so flexible that no possible business person could request any change that might take more than a few minutes to accomodate, no wasteful code, scalable, rock solid, blah blah...

And then once I get my wonderful creation architected, I totally lose interest in it and it takes me a month to actually code it because I don't feel motivated to work on it at all outside of normal work hours, and I'm already thinking about the next project.

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LinuxFreakus
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Actually with regard to academics, the same thing seems to manifest with me. I often get much better grades in classes which are more technically/intellectually challenging. Unfortunately, 99% of classes I've ever taken in my life were a total joke and seemed like an utter waste of time to me, so as a result I usually have about a 'B' average because I just do enough to get by, sometimes even skipping certain assignments which don't count for a significant portion of the final grade.

[ October 24, 2006, 05:01 PM: Message edited by: LinuxFreakus ]

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LinuxFreakus
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I can think of two classes I've ever put a lot of effort into.

1) I took a sociology class once, and although it seems strangely out of character for me, I was very interested... maybe it was the Professor, maybe it was the group of students in the class, I'm not really sure why, but I actually was interested in it. I even remember the Professor's name over five years later and that is saying something, since I can't even remember the name of my professor for a class I just finished a few weeks ago!

2) Computer architecture... probably interesting because it showed me a side of things that I hadn't really spent a lot of time with before. I learned a lot about how to optimize code based on the hardware capabilities. The uses for this knowlege are somewhat limited in real life, but it was fun for some reason.

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frogcat2
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I have a theory related to our need for down-time. That especially when we get stressed, we seek ways to have "time to ourselves"

The trick is to find a way to satiate that need that is time-effective. For example, reading blogs and forums is a way for me to procrastinate, but it never really "satisfies" me... and so I can spend a long time doing it without really getting the stress relief that I "really" need.

(edit) Oh, and Getting Things Done is a widely popular system that a lot of computer savvy people seem to like. http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient-ff&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGGL,GGGL:2006-22,GGGL:en&q=getting+things+done

[ October 25, 2006, 06:44 PM: Message edited by: frogcat2 ]

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