Before reading this, just picture this: a man kneels on his knees for a moment that he and his beloved one waited for so long, he puts his hand in his pocket, it vibrates with the shiny light from the screen. He got a social media app notification , so he checks it for a little bit,… nice ! one of his buddies tagged him in a post, thats cool. Then he continues the proposal rituals and put his hands into the right pocket to ask his girl to marry him. Hold your thought about this image for now. And let’s talk about Procrastination and Good work !
What makes a good work ?
We tend to be harsh over ourselves sometimes. Some other times we would slack and blame the lousy work on the other things. Today, I’m going to try to understand why creative and smart people would make their Procrastination Proclamation ! This is something usually observed by graduate student, creative and knowledge workers, and typical human beings.
These thoughts are for you if you ever slacked on an assignment that you considered as very important or very interesting. Not because you can’t do it. But because you might be afraid of not perfecting it. My dear father once promised me to help me out with skipping a school grade if I would translate a chemistry experiments manual into Arabic. Well, I did not finish that. Not because I couldn’t, but because it looked to me very hard to do, and very great accomplishment to make. Surprisingly, under the encouragement of the same great man, I happened to ‘invent’ an electronics circuit that broadcasts any voice that is captured from the speakerphones into an FM radio channel of your choice ! My intention wasn’t that complex at all. It was simply using two circuits from my electronics kit manual, one that broadcasts morse code signals into an FM Radio and another one that amplifies an input sound from the speakerphone into an earphone. What I did was simply combining the two circuits by connecting the output of one to the input to the other one. Such ‘simple’ accomplishment was way easier to do for me compared to translating the chemistry experiments manual, I was experimenting with different circuits while not expecting failure. Or perhaps expecting failure to happen many times but it really didn’t harm to try. I found the joy in trying, thinking of what could happen if I try, and see what happens. Unlike my other experience of not translating the chemistry kit manual, I didn’t see the value of what I do in the reward of completing the work. Probably I saw the reward, it was too big for me despite the relative simplicity of the task !
This might sound familiar to your thesis, senior project, dream project, dream job application, marriage proposal, a crush first date request, or invention ( uh my ! I just remembered I have to file a followup write up for a patent application that could get abandoned if I didn’t follow it up through in the next 24 hours ! Actually, let me keep the parentheses unclosed and talk a little bit of my patenting experience, it’s quite a good example ! Since my undergrad years I’ve been working on this table tennis automated refereeing system invention with my dear friend Hassen Turigi. At every time we have a deadline to submit something to the patent attorney we feel we didn’t do a good ‘complete’ job. Recently we got multiple patent application claims rejections from the patent office inspector, a pretty normal and expected thing, which should motivate inventors to be more critical and innovative about their idea and develop more precise and generic invention claims than what they already have done. Well, not in my situation, it seems frustrating at the end that we are almost loosing our invention. My whole expectation from this experience was to go through the process and learn from it. Still, every time I add something to the patent application or I clarify something about it, it makes me feel incomplete in my work. There is still something better I could do about it. That realization matters, but what matters more is the choice between trying to make my work better and start with a simple action and thought toward it or just leave it. Close parantheses )
Who to blame other than myself if I fail ?
I want to leave you here with a very thoughtful talk by the writer of the best seller of “Eat, Pray, Love”. She says “We’ve completely internalized and accepted collectively this notion that creativity and suffering are somehow inherently linked, and that artistry in the end will always ultimately lead to anguish — are you guys all cool with that idea?” Our societies became to think about creativity as something coming from the individual genius. Is it that a good writer, inventor, learner have a genius or is a genius ? They are different.
Ancient societies might have thought of ‘Genius’ as something separate from the individual. Would that make a relief from emotional risk? Would it help you to put your procrastination proclamation into rest ? I believe that you need not to fear wither your next adventure would be a disaster or the best thing you ever expected to make in life ? In Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk: “Your Elusive Creative Genius” provides remarkable thoughts over these questions. It was a valuable 18 minutes of listening for me. The most valuable 18 minutes in my day so far. Enjoy listening: http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html.
If you would have thought about what could we do to escape procrastination, anxiety, or fear from failure into just enjoying what you do and do it the best way you could, then bravo , ¡Olé! , Allah !
May you find a great resolution from the paradox of wanting to excel what you do while still having the fear from such excellence to chase you. I’m not sure if I found such deep resolution into this. Philosophically I found great comfort in thoughts of Clay Christensen’s book “ How will you measure your life”. Here is a TEDx talk version of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvos4nORf_Y . In a nutshell of what this academician is trying to say is that you got to treat what you do differently from what businesses accumulate their accomplishments into a balance sheet. Do what you do the best on very specific individual situations. Invest the best of what you do each moment you live. On long term, have a journey that is meaningful and try to do your best at it. You might reach there, you might divert for a better path, or you might never reach there. But you always considered the right direction and never settled for less. This is what matters.
(Spoiler : This paragraph is not completely secular) I’m also a creature who enjoys spiritual guidance, wither religious or not, spirituality adds a meaning for humans life and embraces their ethical system close to their life practices. Spiritually I find the great resolution in surrendering my peace of mind to Allah, as he empowers me with inspiration, willingness and capacity to innovate and produce. It is enough for me to have the peace in trusting the guidance I already have, the blessings that I already got. It shall result into great results. I should just do what I can do and never settle down for less than perfection, if I perfect it then Bravo, ¡Olé!, Allah is to be praised. If I didn’t perfect, it is my journey and I shall walk through it trusting my spiritual guidance. If you belief system is purely secular, think of whatever reason you live for. I’m not sure if that would work. But whatever guiding system you have and is beyond your individual being might help you feel humble and relieved. It might be your nation, humanity, nature, family, parents, or beloved ones. Being selfless in attributing what you do to those who have helped you to be what you are is a great way to feel the beauty of being one among many, and a contributor to the universe harmony.
Summary of thoughts
Trust what you do, unless you are doing nothing. Trust yourself when you start working. Just give it a push. Procrastination is the escape from starting a great work you are revealing from your future. I hope you find a good resort in what I shared to stop procrastinating. Have you ever started very important work on your computer .. like a homework.. and then suddenly you start the browser … type letter ‘f’ … ‘enter’… Your life is better with things you are actively participating in. Stop browsing Facebook, write a blog and share it on Facebook ! Stop watching a football game .. play .. well… play cricket or soccer they are way safer. But don’t settle by being passive. Unless you inherently comfortable that you won’t regret doing it.
My Procrastination Proclamation simply is : I shall decide that when I procrastinate, It is me who decide on that and I own it .. I shall never regret it. And I shall remember that things we regret when we die are the things we haven’t done … words we did not try … proposals we did not offer .. ‘I love you’ statements we shied away from saying. I will remember that great work and important work can’t be interrupted by any activities of procrastination.
Remember the man who’s on his knees ? Don’t be him, wither you are asking the girl of your dreams to be your life long partner or you are working on your school or groceries, don’t let life disruptions to encourage you to procrastinate and leave what matters in your life.
Links you might procrastinated opening :
“Your Elusive Creative Genius”
“ How will you measure your life”