Friday, May 17, 2013

Procrastinating by Working

Courtesy of Astronomyboy, Flickr
As an undergrad, I remember talking to a TA about avoiding work/homework that we disliked by doing work/homework that we enjoyed.

"Procrastination," he said. "We have so much to do that we have to procrastinate by working."

It was funny, but his comment presented the situation in a negative light.

Penelope Trunk kind of addresses this in a cool post she wrote about how rethinking time can help you be more productive. She suggests that people divide their time into hours they spend engaged in what they are doing and hours they spend on unengaged tasks:

Engaged time/Unengaged time: People actually don’t mind working long hours when they are engaged. Burnout is not a result of how much work you’re doing but what type of work you’re doing. So instead of organizing time into work time and personal time, you could organize it into time when you like what you’re doing and time  when you don’t like what you’re doing. This is actually my big gripe with Tim Ferriss. He says he only works a 4 -hour week, but he really means he only does four hours a week of work that is not engaging to him.
People are doing this with learning as well: binge learning. This is when people take courses that are compressed, and they watch all the courses at once, sort of like watching a whole season of Arrested Development at once.

She also hit on a good idea when she suggested that people think of getting things done in terms of weeks or more, rather than days.

Days/Weeks: A lot of times you have a day where you do no work or a day when you do all work. And then you might feel that the other part of your life is in trouble. But instead, you can think in terms of weeks and months. You can have a week where you mostly work, and a week where you mostly don’t work. That’s balance, but in a larger picture. The idea of balance seems impossible hour by hour, but there are other ways to think about having a balanced life.
And you know how you can tell if your way of thinking about time is working? It feels good.

It makes sense, because this is also the best way to think about food and working out. It's okay to have a chocolate truffle at lunch and then a milkshake after dinner Friday night because you know you didn't have truffles or milkshakes every day last week, or even any day last week. Same thing with exercise -- maybe Monday you skip the gym, but you know you'll spend twice as long there the next day because they scheduled two classes you enjoy.

I enjoyed Penelope's post because recently I've been trying to approach my homework with these two methods. I'm getting pretty tired of my thesis, but I have a lot of poetry homework, so I'll work on thesis stuff and then reward myself with a "break" to write poetry. Plus, writers are always saying you have to write so many words every day, but really, if you write 500 words a day or 1,000 words every other day, will it make that much of a difference? If you can still finish your novel and get it published I'd say not. (Though, I'll let you know if/when that happens! :)

PS Aren't pocket watches the bomb? (Sheldon thinks so, too!) I have one from high school that I used to wear a lot.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a great post - I'm actually about to embark on a journey that involves more study, and I know how easy it is to find yourself procrastinating when you aren't engaging in what you're doing! Ah thanks :)