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Archive for January, 2007

So very true

“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.”
- Don Marquis

How bad does it have to be to teach you?

I have had major hard drive failures, I have accidentally deleted things from my computer permanently, I have had my computer stollen. Each and every time something like that occurs I feel like I am the dumbest creature for not having an appropriate system to manage my data.

After any of these things occurred before, I have – without fail – done something like started to do regular back-ups, put in a new email server or client, etc, etc. Time passes and something goes wrong again – either because the thing I put in place didn’t really fix the problem or because I got lazy, or because I’m just so damn unlucky.

But the pain of losing data sticks with you. Thinking about that loss makes you sweat and feel just as uncomfortable about it than the day it happened. And yet, it’s never painfully enough – APPARENTLY – for one to do something concrete and long-lasting about.

This whole blah blah blah wouldn’t be happening if I hadn’t done it again. At least now I know who to blame (I guess *this* lesson has been learned). I was “cleaning up” my emails and the incredibly intricate and thorough referring system I use to keep everything from interesting conversations to proof of purchase emails to registrations to pretty much any other electronic data I find worth keeping. ‘Cleaning up’ meant moving some things around and ‘rationalizing’ some spaces and organization systems, which resulted in utter and absolute failure. I pretty much delete every piece of information I have ever kept in email format from the past 4 years.

It is 5:15am and I decided that no further staring at the screen and opening and closing folders desperately seeking pieces of lost data will reverse the situation, so I decided to write this for future reference, hoping that perhaps I’ll actually do something smarter about it for the future.

But will I? It’s not like this hasn’t happened before. Truthfully, never to this extent, where everything is gone and the last back up I have (from December 2005) is corrupted (ha!). I don’t feel I even deserve the time to mourn the loss, but the feeling of uttermost dumbest would not pass me by as easily.

Perhaps looking towards the future is a good thing, but it is definitely hard when you want to scream from the top of your lungs with anger (or smash your forehead against the desk repeatedly). So what does it take to teach you a lesson?

Maybe I shouldn’t invite the idea, but at this point, I don’t know if I would learn even if my house burned down (or would I? Is that what the phrase ‘blessing in disguise’ means?). Regardless, I’m pissed off and I really don’t know how to answer the question.

One way or another, if you emailed me and you are waiting for an answer of any kind, try again.

More on Procrastination

I’ve been studying procrastination, motivation, etc to help me with the issues I mentioned when I made my New Year’s Resolutions last November. Reading Getting Things Done (I think Jess recommended it) has helped me put some structure around my natural processs for doing things.

Today, I learned this from taking a Procrastination Central test:

Accuracy = 96.55% – “You rank in the top 10% in terms of procrastination. That is, when it comes to putting things off, you often do so even though you know you shouldn’t. Likely, you are much more free-spirited, adventurous, and spontaneous than most. Probably, your work doesn’t engage you as much as you would like or perhaps you are surrounded by many easily available and much more pleasant temptations. These temptations may initially seem rewarding, but in the longer-term, you see many of them as time-wasters. Though you are likely incredibly productive just before a deadline, you might not get all your work done and there is a lot of unwanted stress. You may want to reduce what procrastination you do commit.”

Hmm… “incredibly productive just before a deadline”. Check! “surrounded by many easily available and much more pleasant temptations” Check! “when it comes to putting things off, you often do so even though you know you shouldn’t” Check! It’s nice to see this in this evaluation, because these are the things I’ve been focusing on as ways to improve. I’m particularly focusing on the best ways to prevent me from putting things off.

Being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things to do has always been a challenge for me and the Getting Things Done approach is really interesting in that aspect – in how it recommends putting everything out of your hand onto paper. I still haven’t finished the initial exercise of clearning out my mind of my unfinished business, but the little I have done has already helped with my motivation and ability to handle the amount of things I have to do.

On a related note, a 10-year study from the psychologist Piers Steel resulted in a formula to map your procrastination response in a particular situation: Desire to Complete Task (U) = Expectation of Success (E) x Value of Completion (V) / Immediacy of Task (I) x Personal Sensitivity to Delay (D), or U=ExV/IxD. From Scientific American: U = E x V / I x D. The argument for this forumula seems interesting (thought its application sounds a little too exagerated), but I really don’t think you can answer “Why we do what we do?” with a generic formula.