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The Thief of Time

Updated: Mar 19, 2021

It’s ironic that the draft of this post has been sitting in my laptop for at least a month now. All I managed in that time was the heading and the image before I consigned it to the dark space that is my “I must get to that…” pile…the pile I pretend to ignore but which seems to mock me from afar every time I think of it. I am a typical procrastinator. I am easily sidetracked from my intended goals by other seemingly important things. The advent of the internet has made my procrastination even worse. There’s a whole world of useless information out there that I must get my hands on urgently, right now, while the washing piles up and the dog looks at her lead and the front door with longing and that press in the kitchen gets fuller by the minute even though I’ve been promising myself I’ll sort it out for at least six months . We can’t just blame the internet however. I can remember one of my teachers, a long, long time ago telling us that “procrastination is the thief of time” a quote from an 18th century writer (Edward Young) he in turn was influenced by a writer called Robert Greene who, in 1584 wrote that; “you shall finde that delaie breedes daunger, & that procrastination in perils is but the mother of mishap.” So, thanks to the wonders of the internet I have been able to find out that procrastination significantly precedes its invention! The problem with procrastination is the way it creates much bigger tasks from tasks that would have been much more manageable if started in a timely fashion. If you’re like me, you will ignore those tasks until such time as some crisis means you have to get to work. For students this might be the deadline for an assignment (how many of you have pulled all-nighters to get an essay in on time?) or looming exams might mean a frenzy of ‘cramming’ in anticipation. Tim Urban’s highly entertaining Ted Talk explains why we procrastinate and how it affects us. Ted Talk.

So, I know I have a problem…what can I do about it? There are loads of resources available on the internet (oh, the irony!) suggesting ways to become more focussed and less easily distracted. If getting housework is your issue then flylady is a good resource to help you bring order to the chaos. Her tips include setting a timer and getting as much done as you can in that space of time, starting with small basic tasks and building from them and developing habits and routines that help you become more naturally orderly and organised.

You could try

  • Making lists of tasks that you need to complete and including a time frame within which you need to do them. So instead of “sort out kitchen press” I might put “sort out kitchen press on Monday afternoon”. That makes me more accountable to myself than an open-ended task.

  • Prioritise the most urgent tasks.

  • Tackle the unpleasant stuff before the easy stuff.

  • Plan a reward for when you complete the task, even something as simple as planning to watch a programme you’ve recorded. You will enjoy it much more without the guilt of knowing you still haven’t finished that job you were meant to do.

  • As far as possible, get rid of distractions such as mobile phones or limit yourself as to when you can use your devices.

  • Get someone else on-board and encourage each other.

  • If it’s a big job break it down into more manageable chunks and just get started.

It’s amazing how much time you can create when you get into better habits and stop allowing yourself to waste time dodging responsibilities. No longer rushing to finish things at the last minute and in a panic will increase your sense of satisfaction as well as your self-esteem and will help you to make better use of your time and will make your leisure time more enjoyable because it’s now well earned instead of something you feel you’re snatching from more important things that you never get around to doing.

You’ll have to excuse me now…I’ve a kitchen press that needs my urgent attention!

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