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Blog / 2007-10-13-Procrastination

On Procrastination

Two things that conspired to give me a nice litle train of realisation lately.

Firstly, I was primed by Arnold Bennett's 'The Human Machine': "The veriest automaton of a clerk ought to have the wherewithal of a whole year as a shield against the caprices of his employer. It would be as reasonable to expect the inhabitants of an unfortified city in the midst of a plain occupied by a hostile army to apply themselves successfully to the study of logarithms or metaphysics, as to expect a man without a year's income in his safe to apply himself successfully to the true art of living."

And then a highly unusual chase scene in a film provided the trigger. The film was called Paradise Lost (or Turistas), and the chase scene was in an underwater cave system, and nobody had scuba gear. There were two parallel threads of suspense going: the chase, and the requirement for air. I thought it was a pretty innovative piece of film.

So what was the realisation that I came to?

Arnold Bennett says you need a whole year of buffer in order to really get down to the business of learning how to live. The people in the film literally had their current breath's worth of buffer.

Sometimes glimpsing two ends of a scale can be very valuable. At one end, lucky Arnold Bennett with his minimum of a year's buffer. And then the crazy horror film people with a minute or two's buffer at most.

I don't think the scale gets all that much crazier at the short end, but can get indefinitely long, as some of the ideals of living in a monastery or something like that.

And where do most people fall? And where do I fall?

And then I realised something else. When you have a short buffer, your course of action is pretty much predetermined, and you get fast feedback on whether or not you made an OK decision.

When you have a long buffer your course of action might be predetermined, but the feedback is slower. When you have a long buffer the environment isn't pressuring you for an answer. It's up to you to provide one yourself, and that can be daunting.

It's awfully tempting to get yourself back into a situation where you have a short buffer. And perhaps that's what procrastination, and maybe even laziness, are. Simple methods for shortening the buffer. Simple methods of saying: I don't want to choose, choose for me.

The scariest thing is knowing that you want to choose, but having had no practice. Great. Now I have a long buffer. And no experience with how to use one.

They say recognising the problem is half the solution. Excellent.

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Page last modified on October 13, 2007, at 08:19 PM