Deb Eleanor Really Meant to…

The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown

There was a fascinating book review recently in The New Yorker about The Thief of Time, a book of essays on procrastination.  I read the article, but have put off buying the book.  Surprise.  The article points out some ways in which procrastination can benefit us,  which made me feel a little better about my habits of putting off ’til tomorrow what I could easily do today, but mostly it left me with the uneasy feeling that all of us would be better off if we just got our behinds into gear.

Here’s something that stuck with me from the article:  “According to Piers Steel, a business professor at the University of Calgary, the percentage of people who admitted to difficulties with procrastination quadrupled between 1978 and 2002.”

I blame the internet.

No, seriously.  Computers are an inexorable part of most of our lives, and it’s oh-so-easy when we’re supposed to be doing something productive to slip on over to Facebook, or Twitter, or Wikipedia, and then we look up at the clock and an hour has gone by.  I’m not even going to get into the numbing effects of games like Farmville and Bejeweled.

Freedom softwareMy friend and fellow Amy Einhorn Books author Alex George is a big fan of an internet blocking program called Freedom, that cuts off your internet access for up to 8 hours.

I’ll admit I’ve been tempted by it, but I keep thinking I should have enough willpower just to do it.  Just to write, or finish my blog posts, or catch up on my e-mail. I think that’s where a lot of us run into problems – we’re sure that elusive key to Getting Things Done is lurking somewhere inside us if we just had the strength to stay away from distractions.

But sometimes distractions are real – family and friends and housekeeping and day jobs, and all the things that keep us from doing whatever it is we really meant to be doing.

So what causes you to procrastinate?  Is it genuine life stuff, or are you a sucker for wandering the tubes of the internet until you find yourself reading the Wikipedia entry on cheese?

23 Replies to “Deb Eleanor Really Meant to…”

    1. Facebook is a vortex. Plus, the more friends you get, the more easy it is to waste time there. Damn you, Mark Zuckerberg!

      Maybe I should go see The Social Network so I hate him and am not tempted to use his product.

    1. I LOVE to-do lists. I am one of those pitiful people who will put things I have already done on the list just to check them off.

      I do get in moods where I’m all about getting things done – J.C. says I’m “in the zone” when I get like that. But I do have my moments, and I fully blame the internet.

  1. I have to avoid computer games like they’re hard-core drugs. In college through my early twenties I’d waste HOURS on them: first Risk, then Tetris, then Spider Solitaire. Now I stick with the NYT crossword puzzle. One a day, and if it’s Mon – Wed it takes no more than 10 minutes. Of course, on a particularly challenging Fri or Sat I might be at it an hour, and of course I have to do the every-other-week Acrostics, but hey, puzzles thwart Alzheimer’s, right? It’s good for me!

    1. It is good for you! Though if we tried hard enough, we could probably find studies that argue computer games are the same way.

      I was seriously addicted to Bejeweled for a while. I tend to go in waves – I’ll love a game for a while, and then one day I just stop.

      My dad does the NYT Crosswords. In pen. Every day. It’s depressing how fast he is at the Sunday puzzle.

  2. Uh….wandering through blogs like, er, Debutante Ball. Seriously. Blog-hopping has become the newest excuse not to go what really needs to be done. Of course, I have also wandered through “cheese” on Wikipedia and for a while it was Solitaire (so even without Internet, you can find a bazillion ways to waste your time). Writing letters to friends rather than finishing the current chapter of the dissertation or getting that paper out… Or, ahem, contributions to blogs.

    Of course, in the background is a real serious problem (for which I actually really went to therapy) with avoidance — loooooong story behind that, going back to a traumatic incident about 10 yrs ago. However, have always had a bit of Last Minute Charlene in me… ;>

    1. Good point. Blogs can be fascinating – I love that little glimpse into people’s lives. And book blogs, for me, are the worst, because not only can I spend ages reading them, but then my to-be-read pile keeps growing, and growing….

      The avoidance issue is interesting – I hope the therapy helped resolve it.

      But I LOVE “Last Minute Charlene”!

      1. Yeah, but remember this, when my book comes out with this title – I HAD IT FIRST.

        (All’s fair in love and authorship…)


        (But I still mean it!)

        1. Okay, as long as I get to sing the theme song to the sitcom spin-off. Just give me a few years to come up with a good rhyme for ‘Charlene’.

  3. I’m sort of tempted to get Freedom, except that I don’t think that I have very much work I could get done without using the internet (for some reason I’m totally unable to write blog posts anywhere other than the composer, I just cannot do it in Word and copy/paste). What I really need is something that only blocks Twitter/3rd party Twitter sites and Google Reader for a certain amount of time. I would pay big bucks for that.

    1. Do you have Mac, or Windows?

      There’s for Mac, but I’m betting there will be a Windows version soon if there’s not something similar already.

      I don’t know how Alex does it with Freedom, as I am always hopping online to research something quickly while I am writing. But if I’m in the zone, I don’t tend to get distracted. It’s those times when I’m not in the zone….well. Wikipedia. Cheese. Any port in a storm.

  4. Freedom really is wonderful. It has increased my efficiency massively. Knowing that I cannot go online for anything means that not only do I not do it, but I don’t THINK about doing it, either. Which means my head is free to think about what it should be thinking about, e.g. you know, words on the page. It costs ten bucks, and is worth every penny. Of course, you’re absolutely right, Eleanor, I SHOULD have the willpower to resist. But I don’t. Recognizing the problem is the first step towards the solution, isn’t that what they say?

    1. I think willpower is a lie.

      But your point about its removing even the thought of it is a good point – I hadn’t thought of it in that way.

      You should really get referral bonuses from them, btw.

  5. Don’t procrastinate in seeing “The Social Network.” I’m not an avid movie-goer but did see this film three weeks ago and its fascinating. Lots of food for thought even if it is fictionalized.

    1. I’m terrible about seeing movies in the theater, but it is definitely on my list. Glad to hear it’s thought-provoking. I read a profile about Zuckerberg in the New Yorker recently, so I’ll be interested to see what they change about the story.

  6. I’m the same way thinking I’ll actually have enough willpower to quit screwing off with the internet. Ha! Willpower is NOT my strong suit. Pardon me while I go read that entry about cheese.


    1. I’ve actually read that entry about cheese. It’s kind of interesting.

      Wait, that wasn’t the kind of supportive comment I was supposed to make, was it?

  7. Now that I’ve gone cold turkey on Farmville and Pet Society, the internet is not my source of procrastination. Truth told, if I don’t want to perform said task, I will use any excuse. Even my RPG To-Do-List app, Epic Win, only helps a little bit. Scooping the catbox earns me 300 experience points, and I’m still only a level 3 Mage. Don’t you find, though, that your final product is a bit better when created under pressure? That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

  8. I am so downloading Epic Win. You can come clean Chester’s litterbox if it would help. I’m generous like that.

    I do work best under pressure, but I don’t think that’s true of everybody. And I think it’s a learned behavior, probably. From procrastinating too much. 🙂

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