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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
Written by Chris   
Jul 23, 2008 at 10:37 PM
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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Last Updated ( Jul 23, 2008 at 10:44 PM )

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