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Stupid Questions: Volume 3
Yet again our forum members share questions that they must suffer though while at work, home, or while out and about.
 
Does technology lead to procrastination? E-mail
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Studies have shown that people are beginning to spend their time on everything but work while at work. Workers are now checking email, browsing the internet, playing fantasy sports online, and looking at pornographic material at alarming rates.

Take for instance what you’re probably doing right now. You’re probably at work reading this article from behind your desk when you could be doing something more valuable with your time. Unless of course, your sole job is to browse the internet, but those are called spiders and usually aren’t in the form of a human being. Though I do appreciate you taking the time to read this, even though your boss probably doesn’t appreciate me writing this.

By viewing this website while at work, are you doing it on purpose in an effort to put work on the back burner, or have you completed all of your work for the day because you’re efficient and are buying yourself some time at the expense of your employer? I suspect that both could be the case, but most only believe that the first reason is the only reason why people procrastinate while at work. They’re simply using technology as a scapegoat when it comes to procrastination in the work place.

It would be almost a sin for me to say that technology is a bad thing on this website, whose title is “The Geekery”, but I will admit that there are some people who waste far more time than they spend working because their technical possessions such as their cell phone, computer, and gaming system(s) have taken control of their lives. However, as a proponent of technology, I must also say that when used correctly, today’s technology allows us to be more efficient and effective than ever before and every year it only improves. In fact, it’s only a matter of time before the traditional 40-hour-yeah-right-more-like-60-or70-hour American work week can be reduced to 32-hour-yeah-right-more-like-50-hours because our technology has grown to be so efficient.

First and foremost in the argument: Just exactly why do we procrastinate, and has procrastination always been something that the working class has had to put up with even in the past, or is this some new phenomenon that has been brought to light with the introduction of modern technology?

Why do we procrastinate?
Everyone puts tasks on the back burners for different reasons. There is no one simple answer as to why us humans procrastinate as much as we do. I might look forward to going to the gym while the next guy may make up 1001 excuses as to why he shouldn’t go today.

One reason why we procrastinate doing tasks is because we’re not totally honest with ourselves. Have you ever told yourself, “Oh, I’ll do that later after I go out to lunch” or, “I’ll feel like doing that tomorrow; I’ve had a bad day today!” When you say statements like that, you’re only fooling yourself. Do you honestly believe that you’re going to fill out those tax forms tomorrow as opposed to today, or you’re going to “feel like” doing them tomorrow as opposed to today? They’re still the same tax forms tomorrow as they are today, it’s still going to take you the same amount of time, and you’re still going to have to pay the same amount of money (Possibly more if you wait too long). So you might as well just sit down and get the job done before it’s too late.

Some people are also concerned that they might be making the wrong decision so instead of making a decision right away they put it off until there’s either no time left and are forced to make a decision or the decision is made for them by default. Sadly, however, all procrastinators face the same paradox: No matter what the outcome is, a procrastinator who doesn’t make a decision and whose decision is made up for him or her actually did make a choice. They chose not to make a decision, which was a decision in and of it self. This can be exemplified by home owners who know their appliances are getting old and need to be replaced soon, but don’t want to because they think they might last several more years. Several days later the hot water heater finally kicks the bucket and they are forced to purchase a new one, causing themselves several days of hardship because they wanted to wait.

For some, procrastination can even be a learned trait that they have grown to master over the years just like how professional athletes grow better at what they do by practicing for hours on end. Looking back on my middle school years I can remember one girl who openly admitted to others that she was a “hard core procrastinator”. I can see her life got off to a great start – her parents taught her well from the begenning. I hope she has since grown out of that habit and has learned to pay her bills and renew licenses in a timely manner instead of waiting for the decision to be unknowingly made by her.

How can we avoid it?
The solution to procrastination is simple and the sneaker brand Nike has known the answer for a long time – Just do it! Do things now before you make up reasons as to why you should be doing something else as opposed to the task that you really should be getting done.

Here’s an example: Suppose you wanted to go to the gym today, but for some reason you didn’t. Subconsciously your mind most likely made up excuses as to why you didn’t want to go to the gym:

    You feel too tired and will go tomorrow when you’re better rested
    You’re too sore from the previous day’s workout and need time to recover
    It’s too late or too early to go to the gym

And the list can go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. The reason this happens is because your subconscious mind-over powers your conscious mind and tricks it into thinking that there are better things that could have been done with the time that would have been otherwise allotted to the task your conscious mind wanted to get accomplished.

If you keep your conscious mind aware of the subconscious mind and the tricks that it likes to play on us, then you’re one step ahead of the game and stand a chance at beating procrastination. The next time you set out to do something, actually do it instead of coming up with an excuse as to why you shouldn’t do it. Let yourself know that if you come up with an excuse that the excuse is merely an illusion manufactured by your subconscious mind and is a trick in order to try and get you to do something other than the task you really wanted to get done.

In short: Cut the crap and just get it done.

Is technology to blame?
I’m sure this is what you’ve all been waiting for. You want to know whether or not your cell phone is a part of the down fall of society, or if you playing Grand Theft Auto 4 for 16 hours straight is somehow contributing to global warming and the war in Iraq. The answer, I believe, probably isn’t what you wanted to hear. The answer is: “Yes, if you want it to be.”

Before sending me hate mail about how if it wasn’t for technology I wouldn’t be able to write this so I should keep my mouth shut, it’s important to realize that never before in the history of man kind have our workers been more skilled and efficient than they are now thanks in part to our technology. This means that they are able to accomplish much more work than they were able to in the past thanks due to technology. With this gain in efficiency comes a gain in the amount of time that workers stand idle since they don’t have work to occupy themselves with.

Personally, I believe that this new found unused time is what people refer to when they claim that technology is promoting procrastination in the work place. College students have always notoriously put off papers and other work until the last minute and skilled workers are almost no different (Recall meetings at the water cooler). When given a deadline someone immediately looks at a calendar and automatically thinks to themselves, “If I have until this day, I can start on this day and be done by this day with this amount of time left over.” This same thought process went on in the 1970s, and it still goes on today. The only difference was that in the 1970s there weren’t many computers accessible at the time.

To further free technology of the burden of being the downfall of society, look at the amount of deaths that were caused by guns from the time Jesus Christ was said to have walked the Earth. There weren’t any because there weren’t any guns at the time. However there were deaths that were caused from blunt objects such as stones and sticks being used to murder people. This same logic can be applied to technology causing people to procrastinate. It didn’t go on in the 1970s because it didn’t exist then like it does today (In the forum of personal computers, cell phones, gaming consoles, etc.), but there were other forms of distractions in the 1970s that could have promoted procrastination such as the television, books, and radios.

The word “procrastinate” itself dates back to 1588 and its roots comes from the Latin word “procrastinatus”. Clearly people had a need for the word dating back to 1588, just like there was the need for the word “murder” dating back to the times of Jesus Christ. Though, of course, it wasn’t exactly “murder” because the English language wasn’t yet developed.

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Motivation for Geeks E-mail
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Have you ever felt as though you just didn’t want to go into work because there was no use in doing so because every day is the same thing? You’re not alone. In fact, millions of people feel this same way each and everyday that they go into work.

Recently I have noticed myself having a lessened sense of motivation on all fronts of my life – both professionally and personally. I have noticed my enthusiasm towards work dwindling and my devotion to weight lifting almost have no meaning at all. I have taken it upon myself to begin to read up on self-motivation skills and find out just what goes on inside of our minds that lead us to believe that sleeping all day is the right course of action to cope with our lack of motivation.

What lies ahead is a collection of ideas and thoughts that I have gathered while reading countless articles on self-motivation, as well as trying a few different methods over the last several weeks while at work, at home, and generally out and about. Ok, well maybe not countless articles. But a fair amount.

Be honest with yourself
Personally, I think the first step towards effective motivation in the work place is simply being honest with yourself. Ask yourself this string of questions: “Is this really what I want to do? Is this a job or a career? Is my personal life and my professional life congruent with one another?” The answers to these questions should begin to shed light on to whether or not you can truly be motivated to the point where the benefits of the work you produce serve as motivation to you. If you can honestly say that the results of your work motivate you to produce more work of the same caliber, then you have found your calling. Think of this calling like a turbo but instead of utilizing exhaust to produce more power, more motivation leads to more passionate motivation and it feeds on itself.

If however, you only see your job as a job and not a career, and don’t allow your personal and professional lives to be congruent with one another, then it might take some outside motivation to help you realize that the job you are working is indeed a career and should be allowed to intertwine with your personal life. This doesn’t mean that any “job” can be turned into a “career”. Being a police officer isn’t for everyone, just like being a professional football player isn’t for everyone. You have to use your own judgment when it comes time to call it quits and move on to hopefully finding the career that’s meant for you.

Have a positive attitude
Motivation and attitude go hand in hand. If someone has a poor attitude towards whatever it is they are doing, then most likely they lack motivation as well. If someone has an eager “can do” attitude towards what they are doing, then they most likely have the motivation that is needed to be successful in life.

This is something that I suspect almost all workers do from time to time: Complain about their place of work. People tend to complain about customers, co-workers, superiors, and even the environment in which they work.

This is probably one of the worst habits that a person can pick up aside from hard core drugs that create an attachment stronger than a mother has towards her child. Take weight training as an example. In order to be able to lift 300 pounds, you must first work your way up to 100, then 120, then 140 and so on. By doing this you are conditioning your muscles to be able to endure the weight and stress of the object you are trying to lift. With that same thought process, by continuously believing that everyday at work is the worst day of your life you are conditioning your mind and body to believe that it’s true. For those of you familiar with psychology, this idea is very similar to learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is a condition in which the subject has learned to believe that it is helpless in a particular situation when in fact there are solutions to the problem at hand.

How can you expect to be motivated towards something that you have conditioned yourself to dislike and/or hate? If Olympic athletes told themselves every morning when they woke up that they hate the sport that they have so passionately trained for countless hours in order ascertain a feat that only a hand full of individuals in the world can relate to, would they be able to succeed and become world class athletes? Most likely not.

Instead of having a negative demeanor, challenge yourself to do the following: When you are woken up in the morning by your alarm clock, resist the urge to proclaim, “Oh god, another day of work from hell!” Instead make an effort to reinforce in your mind that the day ahead is going to be a good day. Make this a conscience effort for a month; Everyday for one month. By the end of a one month period, you should no longer have to force yourself into thinking that the day ahead of you will not be a day from hell, but instead be the first day of the rest of your life. If you need help accomplishing this goal, keep telling yourself that you will think positive thoughts about the next day upon waking up before you go to sleep. Keep repeating this mental reminder for several minutes while you are trying to go to sleep.

Set Goals
Before I go on about goals, it’s important to note that the way in which you construct your goals determines the outcome in which you will likely derive from that goal. If you make your goal too broad then the chances of you achieving that goal during the allotted amount of time are greatly reduced. If your goal is very specific and you are honest with your own abilities, then the chances of you achieving your goal are greatly increased.

Setting goals is a good idea because it gives direction. If you go into work everyday and you don’t know what you are working towards, then you have no purpose, and without a purpose, you most likely don’t have any motivation to get the work done. Setting goals solves that problem of not having a clear direction in which to work towards.

Think of goals having a structure that is shaped just like a triangle. At the pinnacle is your definitive goal which is impossible to reach without the goals that are below them – This concept is very similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in which in order for self-actualization to take place (Which is located at the tip of the triangle) the needs below it must be fulfilled. What you decide as your definitive goal is up to you, and the height of the triangle depends on that very same goal. The more outrageous the goal is, the higher the triangle will have to be in order to accommodate such goals. If you find that you have a somewhat difficult goal at the pinnacle of the triangle, yet the height of the triangle is very short, your lower level goals may be too broad and you might be setting yourself up for failure before even starting.

Remember goals are like pennies: A penny is a penny, 100 pennies make up a dollar, and so on and so forth. Each large goal is broken down into many other smaller goals that can be reached on an almost daily basis. Wouldn’t it be nice to score a goal everyday rather than once every several months? Winning is a good way to boost motivation, so do yourself a favor and set some goals that you can score.

Learn from your mistakes and failures
If there’s one thing I’m good at while at work, it’s learning from my mistakes. Each and everyday on my way home from work I think to myself what I could have done differently in order for things to gone better. I make a mental note of that and the next day that I work I make it a point to work out that issue before it becomes a problem. This doesn’t mean I just focus on the negative things that have happened during the day – I take time to reflect upon the positive things during the day. Though it almost goes without saying that in order to improve on something I must be able to honestly identify points of weakness.

Don’t be afraid to admit to yourself and to others that you have done something wrong. You’re better off owning up to your mistakes when your boss inquires as to what went wrong rather than trying to lie or place the blame on someone else. Make sure that you learn from your mistakes though. Don’t let them haunt you for they are likely to be the first thing that you think about the next day when that alarm clock goes off and it’s time to get ready for work again.

Switch things up
Vito Whitlach has said this before in his weight loss blog: “The only thing that shouldn’t change is change itself”. Avoid becoming burnt out by doing different things at different times of the day in a totally different order than the previous day if at all possible. This will keep your mind on its toes trying to guess what’s going to be the next thing around the corner.

The idea behind this is to make the idea of working more appealing if you find yourself having a hard time staying motivated and focused on the task at hand. This idea of constantly changing the order in which you do things works great when weight training. If you’ve ever tried lifting weights for several weeks straight you’ll know what I’m talking about. After several weeks of conditioning your body to lift a certain amount of weight after doing a certain sequence of exercises, it’s no longer breaking down muscle in order to endure the strain of such lifts. In this case your muscles have effectively become numb to the daily grind of the same work out routine that you have been following for the last several weeks. In order to overcome this, simply switch the order in which you do things along with changing the amount of resistance, and you should start to see improvements once again.

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