Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Procrastination: Tomorrow Always Dies

Interesting follow up to the previous post in which I contemplate going on a Circadian clock and decide not to (although I have been up since 4 am my time after going to bed at 1 am, which is still stupid even if I don't make this a three-week survival strategy):

Jeremy Freese, mighty sociologist (click on the link!) and blogger, writes the following about procrastination and how tomorrow never comes with the most interesting analogy to riots and other such social movements that require some precipitating event in the post "Tomorrow Never Comes":

Procrastinators have all kinds of things they want to do, they just don’t want to do them today. Maybe they don’t feel like it; maybe there are so many other things they feel like they must do today they can’t possibly contemplate embarking on the others. The problem is that it is always today, and so if you don’t do tasks some today, you will never do them. Sure, one might think changing “someday” to “some today” involves just deleting the middle syllable, but if that was the case then why are there so many things I’ve been meaning to do someday that any realistic appraisal would indicate I’m never going to get around to?

An interesting counterstrategy I read in a book once was to pick some day on the calendar several weeks hence and write “SOMEDAY” on it. As in, “You said you were going to do this ’someday’ and here, with plenty of advance warning, ’someday’ turns out to be Thursday the nineteenth.” Writing “SOMEDAY” rather than “Organize office” or whatever else is the task in question might help reinforce to oneself that this is a task that one is never going to get around to without some kind of cognitive artifice to underscore its tendency to fall into the Vortex Of Tomorrow. And if someday does come and one still doesn’t do it, at least it can prompt reflection on whether waiting for someday was really the problem or whether one is delaying doing the task for other reasons.

With somedays like “I really need to start a diet someday soon,” I wonder how much it’s like the way people talk about the causes of riots. There are background conditions–as in, expanding backside background conditions–but these don’t manage to mobilize great effort to reverse daily routines all by yourself. After all, how much of a difference is it really going to make for your long-term situation if you start that diet tomorrow instead of today, and besides you already messed up today with that donut you had with breakfast. (Except, of course, the great illusion is that ‘tomorrow’ is a place in time that’s less than 24 hours away; instead, 24 hours from now it will still be ‘today.’) So, then if the diet ever commences at all, it’s because of some precipitating event, as if the Rodney King verdict had been about your fat ass. Seems like many people who have lost a lot of weight on a diet have some story–and, more often, multiple stories from multiple episodes of loss in a yo-yoing weight career–of an event that pushed them over the threshold of resolved and changed “someday” into “now.” As people who’ve known me for any length of time know, I’ve had my own struggles with weight and my own “preciptating event” stories, which I was going to launch into here but this post has gone on long enough. Someday, maybe.

At any rate, I need to return the thing I was procrastinating on while procrastinating on other things. I'd write a follow-up post to this, but, like Jeremy, I'll say "someday, maybe."


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