The Lumber Room

"Consign them to dust and damp by way of preserving them"

Too mild

with 6 comments

People commonly use the word “procrastination” to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what’s happening as merely not-doing-work. We don’t call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working.
— Paul Graham, The Acceleration of Addictiveness

Also see: Disconnecting Distraction (with a frightening new note at the top).

To be continued…

Written by S

Mon, 2010-09-06 at 13:11:20

Posted in procrastination

6 Responses

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  1. Both articles very interesting. Two things that have been bothering me a lot:

    1. The addiction mentioned above really is scary, complete with withdrawal symptoms and cravings. I was somewhat shocked when I decided to go on a 1-week diet that excluded Google Reader and Reddit and felt myself almost fighting with myself for it. (Maybe relevant)

    Another disturbing effect is that like with other addictions, it becomes a way of life and I can relate better with other addicts than normal people who don’t care to read AskReddit’s walls of text.

    2. I’m sure there’s a name for this particular kind of procrastination: just not doing things despite knowing they are extremely important, easy to do, and without having anything else (not even something addictive) to do. I just didn’t file my tax returns a couple of years ago – I fully understand that it was quite a big sum of money, that it is extreme easy to do, and that I was doing nothing at all instead, but still didn’t do it, and can’t understand why. That’s just one of a whole bunch of such events, with the more frequent ones being just not making some very necessary phone calls. Usually when there’s a crowd this doesn’t happen, but when I have to do stuff alone, sometimes it simply doesn’t happen!


    Wed, 2010-09-08 at 11:05:26

    • Hey,
      I’ll email a reply to you eventually; posting it all here would get endless and depressing. :-)


      Wed, 2010-09-08 at 14:40:59

    • BTW, I’m happy to report that I did file my tax returns, though there was a trip I never got myself reimbursed for, even though it was a big sum of money and the form was much simpler than tax returns.

      You’re right that involving others helps, a lot!


      Thu, 2010-09-09 at 02:10:37

  2. Heh, did you find you were too distracted to complete the post? And are you procrastinating over completing it now?


    Wed, 2010-09-08 at 14:13:43

  3. On Working: I’ve tried everything suggested on the Internet. Minimize “transaction costs”, keep work within arm’s reach, disconnect distractions, and they all work to some extent. For instance, I had assigned to localhost in /etc/hosts for a while. Now I have it leechblocked. It works. I don’t feel the urge to check it every half hour. I took two three month breaks from Google Reader and got over it more or less completely.

    But ultimately, none of the above measures seem to matter because disconnecting distractions is just one half of the productivity equation. When I can’t get myself to work[1], I don’t care what kind of triviality I engage in; the fact that I’m here typing this out is proof enough. The essay on the acceleration of addictiveness was the scariest thing I read this summer, but the bigger problem to me is figuring out what triggers the emotion that drives me away from work, not what I am pulled towards.

    @KVM: “Just not doing things despite knowing they are extremely important, easy to do, and without having anything else (not even something addictive) to do.”
    I’ve paid almost as much in late bill payment fines as I have in bills, with no excuse whatsoever. Heck, I’ve lost more than money to this affliction. I lost an year of grad school. I’ve noticed that this is a problem endemic to certain personality types. Some people don’t have this “singular procrastination” problem–the types who can’t concentrate on anything while they have these tasks to do; the serial serial-processors, and (on a separate note) the ones who’re constantly enticed by the thought of the remaining ice-cream in the freezer.

    [1]: For some value of “work”. This includes both the parts I love and loathe doing.


    Wed, 2010-09-08 at 14:59:42

    • Exactly. Individual things can be blocked somewhat easily, but there’s always something else.

      Some things help with work — to pick something at random, it helps to get perspective: often we’re either focussing on the too small unpleasant task without good awareness of the long-term reward, or on the long-term goal without a clear awareness of how to get there… but it’s hard to fix this, since you are vaguely aware of everything and it’s a matter of focus only.

      Again, if I start talking more I probably won’t stop, so I will now. :-)


      Thu, 2010-09-09 at 02:38:34

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