On My Procrastination

Let me describe the situation and tell me if you know the feeling. You go online to look for something, maybe check your email or something else relatively trivial. No worries. You’ll be done in a few minutes. One of your emails has a link to a YouTube video. Okay, no problem, let’s watch that and then get back to whatever you were doing. After watching, you see the list of recommended videos after it. Oh, that one looks good, better watch it as well. You watch one video, then you watch another, and another, and the next thing you know it’s been several hours, it’s one o’clock in the morning and you’ve wasted your entire evening.

Amen.

Let’s look at another possibility. You go to search for something online, and naturally you check Wikipedia first. I’m not saying you completely trust Wikipedia, you certainly wouldn’t use it as a source in a university paper, but it can be an informative read on some things. You read the article and feel more knowledgeable because of it. That said, there were a couple of things that you wished were explained in a bit more detail. Fortunately, those things are links on Wikipedia, and you can now learn in that depth you wished. While reading you click a few more links, because they sound interesting, and then those links beget more links, and the next thing you know it’s one o’clock in the morning and you wasted another evening. When will the madness stop?

I don’t have many vices. I’m not addicted to anything, I mostly eat healthy, I partake in wholesome and healthy exercise and activities, so I’m doing most things right. Unfortunately, my main weakness is the only resource I cannot get more of: time. You can always get healthier, fitter, smarter and so on, but you can’t have more than 24 hours in a day. For some reason, I abuse those 24 hours.

Lack of time is always used as a great excuse, but that’s exactly what it is, an excuse. When you really look at it, it’s pretty bad one. Let’s assume you sleep eight hours a day and work eight hours a day. You probably have a long commute, so let’s add two more hours. You need to eat, so let’s assume that takes one hour for every meal. You also likely have various odds and ends that you need to accomplish each day, from groceries to getting your haircut, and that could probably take two hours as well.

If you have that all up, that’s 23 hours. This means you always have one hour to yourself every day. There are also some pretty crazy assumptions in the above paragraph. It would be incredibly hard to spend three hours eating every single day, and even if that were the case, it would almost certainly overlap with other things you are doing, such as commuting or odds and ends. Most people also don’t get eight hours of sleep, though perhaps getting less sleep during the week is compensated by sleeping in during the weekends.

Nonetheless, let’s stick with this figure. It tells us in the worst possible scenario, you have one hour to yourself every single day. That’s seven hours over the entire week. Actually, it’s likely more than that, as people don’t generally work eight hours every single day. Still, let’s stick with it. Seven hours a week. What can you do in that time?

You better do something with that time, because if you don’t, well…

In truth, you can accomplish anything you felt like. What’s important to you? Whether you want to spend time with your kids or learn how to paint or get into ice sculpting, you got seven hours every week to do that. Heck, you can accomplish all these things. Spend one hour each day on one of these things, because that’s still 8 to 10 hours each month invested. You do that on a consistent basis and you can accomplish anything you want.

Personally, I have three areas I strive to get better at. I wish to become physically fitter; I wish to become a chess master; I wish to become a great writer. It actually takes me roughly two hours to get all this done, but I have no trouble fitting it in. I cannot exercise every single day, for instance, and so some days are rest days. I can then use my workout time for some other pursuit, whether chess or writing. I can also do both studying chess or writing while eating, and I frequently do. Food enhances the learning process, I feel.

Could I get all three done in one hour a day? Yes, but likely not very well. That would mean only 20 minutes spent on each, which is better than nothing but still not ideal. Better seems to be a half-and-half approach, in which I devote 30 minutes to two elements, and I would cycle through the elements each day of the week. That seems feasible, and would keep things fresh.

I have more than one hour free time each day. I have more than two free hours. Even on my absolute busiest day of the week, in which I work 10 hours, I still have three hours left over to do whatever I want. There is no reason I cannot do everything on any given day. Well, no good reason, I have a terrible reason: I waste time like it’s going out of style.

Get it? A clock in a waste basket? Wasting time? I thought it was clever.

Today is one of my easiest days, as I only have a six hour shift and virtually no commute to speak of. I have the entire day to do what I want … and I spent most of that time literally doing nothing. Seriously, nothing. I tried to do a time inventory, in which I figured out what I was doing all day, and I just drew blanks. The best I can come up with is this: I was sitting at my computer, staring at the screen. I can give you no more detailed and that.

In those many hours, I likely checked my email, checked a few websites, checked my email, watched a funny cat video, refreshed my websites, re-checked my email, waited for a video to load, watched the video and the list goes on. It’s easy to see how I could waste an hour doing this, but I somehow wasted my entire morning. How many times can one person check their email?!

At this point I really want to lie, to make something up that sounds better, or is at least less pathetic. I don’t even know what I could say. What would be an acceptable waste of time? I wish I could say I was doing something important or something fiendish or something, anything, beyond sitting in a chair and staring at a screen waiting for it to refresh.

You see, time isn’t really the issue. In terms of my own personal goals, I accomplish the same on my busiest days as I do on my least busiest days. Some days I have much more time but, relatively, I accomplish far less. Why? Because I get stuck watching fail videos or reading TV tropes.

For your own safety, I will not link to TV tropes. You’re welcome.

It doesn’t make sense. If you ask me what I want in life, what I want to accomplish, I’ll tell you that getting good at chess is far more important than watching the latest adventures of kittens playing with each other on YouTube. I really mean that, too, but somehow I spend more time each week watching videos than studying chess. And I’m not alone.

I don’t mean in terms of studying chess. Well, I guess most people watch more videos and they spend studying chess, that’s not the point. Most people waste more time doing things they know are unimportant than they spend on the things they really want to do or accomplish. Everyone does it. I don’t know why, but we do. Whether it’s distracting ourselves through YouTube or Wikipedia or television or our inbox or radio or whatever, we find ways to not do the things we need to do. I wish I knew why.

It’s not that I’m unhappy with my life or my progress or anything like that, but I’m unhappy with my realization of my potential. I could do so much more, but I don’t, and I don’t know why. I’ve got to think on this. I’ve got to find out why procrastination happens.

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