Before we get going, you should probably watch the video of Tim Urban’s TED talk. This won’t make sense otherwise so I highly recommend it.
I was good at procrastination before I knew there was a word for it. The frankly ridiculous volume of unused children’s craft kits my mother has thrown out or given to charity over the years is proof of that. The situation has only gotten worse with age. All throughout secondary school, I have left homework to the very last-minute, in fact, I don’t remember doing a single piece of homework at home for the entirety of year 11. Not to mention avoiding revising for GCSEs by watching 15 seasons of CSI. There’s even evidence on this blog with a conspicuous 10-month gap in posts. So it’s no surprise that I related to pretty much every part of Tim Urban’s talk.
The first thing I picked up on was instant gratification. Firstly because it made me think about how we (or certainly I) don’t pick up on it when it’s happening. For example, checking the fridge five times in thirty minutes but passing it off as just being hungry and not realising that we’re procrastinating. Secondly, one point people always bring up when criticising social media is that we have become an instant gratification society with short attention spans and the need for quick validation. Procrastination is definitely not a new phenomenon and is, therefore, proof that we as a species have always been reliant on the short-term rewards rather than automatically looking at the bigger picture. Seeing the bigger picture does not come naturally to us. This is why we are often reminded to ‘take a step back’ and why many people have ‘tunnel vision’ when it comes to certain puzzles or problems. The success and/or infamy (depending on how it was introduced to you) of the selective attention test proves this.
Another thing that popped into my head was something that Tim Urban didn’t really touch on and that is self-control. I feel like one of the main problems procrastinators have is with self-control (or control of the instant gratification monkey). Lack of self-control is a problem that is rarely limited to one aspect of life. It is far more likely that it will become a theme across everything that you do and some areas are easier to control than others. For example, limiting internet usage and eating less is easier than consistently tidying up or staying on top of work. Possibly because the first two examples require less active ‘doing’ than the latter two. Self-control problems and procrastination often go hand-in-hand, sometimes they are even the same thing.
The final takeaway I got from the talk was workload distribution. Specifically for me, I thought about revision. Now, I have tried everything to try to do efficient revision; timetables, not using timetables, making notes, reading notes, past papers – the lot, and I can never figure out when or where to start. Probably the best actual advice for revising is: try to break each subject down into smaller sections, maybe topics or types of questions, and then assign an appropriate amount of time to each section. Unfortunately, I’m still working on a way to motivate myself enough to actually do the work once I’ve done this so if you have any tips, please let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts on the talk? Did you like this type of post? What other TED talks would you recommend (related to this one or not)? Let me know in the comments.
Relevant links: The Video (in case you didn’t watch it at the beginning and now you’re confused), Tim Urban’s website, Some Opinions on Standardised Testing… (a previous post of mine that’s kind of like this one)