During my writing session, I noticed how she would frequently turn towards her laptop to click around on the internet. In addition to this primary distraction, her cell phone vibrated every few minutes. Each time this happened, she let out an exasperated sigh, picked up her phone, glanced at the display, pressed its buttons maniacally, and set it back down.
She did this for the entire duration of my visit. Send text, place the phone back on the table, and turn back to the computer. If the phone vibrates, let out an exasperated sigh, pick up the phone again, and start from step one.
It amused me because every time she sighed, I imagined she must be thinking “Stop distracting me, I’m trying to procrastinate!”
You might argue that perhaps she was using her computer as a reference tool to aid in her work — but chances are that she wasn’t. She was browsing the easily recognizable social networking site “MySpace.”
So here she was, in the library with an intention to get some work done, constantly being distracted by the electronic devices she had brought along with her. Although both devices could be turned off to prevent them from interrupting her work, she preferred to keep them on.
I don’t blame her, because I do the exact same thing. I leave my phone on all the time. If I feel it vibrate, then I know someone wants to talk to me. It takes priority over whatever I’m doing and I happily let them interrupt me to see what they need.
Similarly, my home computer is a tool capable of doing multiple things, often at once. It’s a word processor, a publishing platform, a calculator, a copy machine, a photo editor, a dictionary, an infinite information resource, and all-purpose productivity powerhouse. Computers are designed to increase productivity, and when used for this purpose, they are a valuable tool indeed.
Interestingly, computers are also an incredible time-wasting tool. As such, they are a procrastinator’s best friend:
You can use your computer as an encyclopedia, or a television. You can download research, or hardcore pornography. If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can watch Saturday morning cartoons that haven’t been aired since the 1980s. Or you can play classic Nintendo games using your Internet browser. Or you can play old Apple IIe games. You can compete in online Pictionary tournaments. And when your Internet connection is on the fritz, you can always play solitaire — or minesweeper if know what the numbers mean.
There’s an infinite number of things that can be accessed using your computer that can usurp your attention and distract you from the task at hand. I know this because it happens to me all the time.
Today I want to accomplish a set amount of things: I want to publish a new blog post, I want to write two more pages of my manuscript-in-progress, and I want to reply to two important email messages. That’s not much — so it seems reasonable that I should be able to accomplish most of these things before my girlfriend comes home from work around 4pm.
By 9:30 this morning, I already had tonight’s dinner cooking on low in the crock pot. I already had an idea for a blog post inspired by an experience I had yesterday. I wrote down the working title for the post and hopped into the shower. My subconscious mind went to work at it while I was showering, and by the time I was dressed I knew what I wanted the article to say.
So I turned on my computer. Although I should have started writing immediately, I checked my email first. My email inbox contained nothing but spam, so then I wanted to check Reddit for something more interesting. Reddit linked me to a YouTube video, so then I browsed YouTube. I found a funny video, so then I wanted to share that funny video with some of my friends. I launched Instant Messenger, so then I chatted with several of my friends. It was taking a while for my friends to reply to my messages, so then I decided to play a game of Monopoly against the computer while I waited. The computer beat me the first game, so then I had to keep playing until I had my revenge. My email program notified me that I had a new message from an old friend from high school, so then I caught up with an old friend from high school. I was reminded of the video games we used to play, so then I beat the first 6 stages of Megaman… and then I realized it was well past noon and I hadn’t even started the tasks I truly wanted to do today.
This is the story of our lives. We want to accomplish things but let other things get in the way.
Typically, the things that distract us are relatively unimportant, but we welcome the distraction. In many ways, the distraction is an escape. We watch television because it’s easier to watch other people do things than to actually do things. We even watch television reruns — not because there’s any new value in them, but because the feeling of familiarity is comforting, which is a value in itself. We spend our workdays looking for interesting things to read online just to kill time, and promptly forget the vast majority of all that we read.
This creates an interesting paradox. Perhaps you expected this article to discuss methods for getting motivated. Instead, I simply talked about things that tend to distract me. Maybe some of these things even sounded fun to you, and you plan to search for them once you’re through with this article. Or maybe you’ll just click the next feed in your reader and look forward to the next escape.
Oh, and if you’re looking for advice on how to conquer procrastination, please know that you probably won’t find that advice in a blog post. Unless it’s a really short blog post:
How to Get Things Done in 2 Simple Steps!
- Stop reading this blog.
- Start getting things done.
|If you've found this website helpful, please click the PayPal button. You will be helping me pursue my dream career as a writer. Thanks for your support!|