The File Exists

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Whenever a new task is added to my to-do list – be it an assignment or a report for a client – I get started right away. I take the first step. I jump right in. I initiate. I launch into the work. I catapult the productive juices. I create the file.

Suddenly the blank page of doom is no longer blank. It has a title. I then click on the floppy disk icon in the upper left corner of the screen, and voilà! The File Exits. How can I be procrastinating when the file exists?

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For the next hour or so, I am as productive as a bee on a sunny day. I re-organize the magnets on my fridge, take my dog for a long walk, and reunite my socks with their lost siblings.

This “Creating the File” method (I should trade mark it), provides an immediate answer to anyone who asks for an update on the project. “How is Thomas’ report coming along Rana?” “Oh that? The file exists! I’m on it like jam on PB“.

Researchers love to categorize (perhaps as a mean to procrastinate). One of many ways to categorize procrastinators is into two groups: active and passive.

Active procrastinators put the task off because they strive on the rush of the deadline and believe to perform better under pressure.

Passive procrastinators unintentionally avoid tasks due to an underlying fear of Failure and indecisiveness.

I am the latter. I am chicken without a head under pressure, not fire.

Granted – sometimes I procrastinate because the task is boring. That happens more often than I would like to admit. However, by creating a file, and leaving it to marinate on my desktop is actually a way for me to post pone an encounter with my greatest Fear: Failure. I fear that it won’t be good enough, that it will be inaccurate, dumb, average. Therefore, I wait, and stare at white page beneath the title.

Eventually, Fear takes a smoke break, and I allow myself to take the plunge. Once that happens, I write the first sentences. The initial attempts are typically horrible, error filled cliché sentences that vaguely convey whatever message I am trying to get across.

Full disclosure: I actually started a draft of a psycho-educational report with the following sentence:

“Children around the world suffer from learning disabilities, but little Thomas is different: he has the motivation others’ don’t have”.

Cue the violin and tears.

Obviously, that sentence was left on the cutting room floor because it is an impressionistic sentence that is not data driven. However, I initially, make no attempt of restraining these horrible sentences: I let them go loose on the page. Once I allow myself to “Fail” by writing at least three horrible sentences. I am free. The worst is out of me and I can move forward.

The benefits of procrastination are evident once I return to the task at hand: increased attention, less susceptibility to distractions, flow-like experience. According to some, the quality of the outcome may be not even be impacted by the fact that it was put off for an hour.

Fine a week.

Regardless of the period, there is always a moment where I am convinced that I cannot complete the task. That it is beyond my abilities. As I stand on the top of the Average curve, I cannot think of an example when that was actually the case.

My tips to defeat the procrastination monster (to use at your own risk):

  1. Create the File
  2. Allow yourself to fail (yikes).
  3. Do it for ten minutes, and if you  still don’t want to do it after 10 minutes stop. WARNING – this tip has left many sentences half-written, emails unsent, and workouts that ended after 10:01 minutes.
  4. Promodoro method: Work 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break. Check it out: http://mytomatoes.com/

 

Do you procrastinate?

What kind of procrastinator are you?

What are your tips for procrastination?

Averagely yours,

 

the candidate.

References

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2 thoughts on “The File Exists

  1. Have to admit I’m a big fan of the pomodores. Find them pretty helpful , otherwise when it comes to the documentation side of my PhD I would never get anywhere. I’d just faff around organising my desk.

    • Exactly! What’s nice about it is that you get to “record” whatever you did in that 25 minutes, so at the end of the day you have a concrete visual representation of your accomplishments! R :)

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