I once worked with a client who was perpetually behind the eight-ball – and not in the “everybody is busy” way, either. She was busier than a squirrel at harvest time on a triple-Starbucks, and a double-hit of Speed. She claimed this busy-ness extended to her personal life too, where she never had the time to do those things that were truly important.
Then she told me about her addiction to non-scripted television (I refuse to call it “reality TV” because Stargate is closer to reality than The Apprentice). As it turns out, her problem was not one of too much work, but too little discipline.
She’s not alone.
Back when I was in University, I elevated procrastination to an elegant form of art. Around the time every semester when I was supposed to be producing term papers, I would find just about any excuse not to do them. I would do the requisite scheduling of time to get them done, and lock myself in either the school library or my bedroom so something would get done.
As it turns out, I would have been better off going to the pub (where at least I would have had some fun) because those long lock-down periods produced either:
a) a thorough reading of the complete poetry works of Ezra Pound (more fun than managerial economics) when I was locked in the library
b) the cleanest bedroom ever, if I was relegated to home.
Luckily, twenty-five years later I’m starting to understand procrastination for what it is: a total and complete lack of discipline. Dr. Piers Steel recently wrote a book called The Procrastination Equation to help further understanding of this systemic problem. According to Steel, procrastination affects 95% of the population (I assume the other 5% are buddhist monks who spend upwards of 20 hours per day in meditation).
Dr. Steel spent about 10 years researching procrastination for his book. He probably could have gotten the research done in five years, if he was more disciplined, but I’m sure his room was as clean as mine was as a university student. Interestingly, he tags coffee shops as a huge enabler of procrastination. Add to this ubiquitous internet, television, video games and other people, and it’s remarkable we don’t all live in a catatonic state that Captain Christopher Pike found himself in in the original Star Trek series.
Now… I better get back to my writing – before I head over to the coffee shop.