Procrastination is the thief of time
Who invented procrastination? Or at least, who made up the word? Is looking up its etymology when I should be writing a blog post about it, itself a form of procrastination? Also, could this be one too many rhetorical questions to open a blog post with?
In addition to wrangling with blogger’s block, I am currently in the midst of writing an essay and, despite having a to do list longer than Michael Phelps’ left femur, I can’t seem to go more than 20 minutes without a YouTube break. Which, wouldn’t necessarily be bad – in fact, could arguably be an effective deployment of the pomodoro technique – were it not for the fact that YouTube was designed specifically to keep me watching 80s music videos all day. Did you know that around the world, people are watching one billion hours of YouTube daily? This fact was initially shocking, but having reflected on my own YouTube habit, I think I could personally be responsible for a statistically significant proportion of those hours. In a previous post, I mentioned my apprehension around blended learning – and while I am getting used to engaging with the vast majority of my course content online, the fact that we’re spending longer and longer immersed in a digital environment that has developed into an extremely effective attention-fragmentation and behaviour-alteration machine is making my procrastination habit even harder to control. Which is a long way of saying I need to learn again how to concentrate.
I would really love to hear how you fight the demon and knuckle down without succumbing to distractions. What helps you defeat the almost physical urge to do anything other than that which you know will help you get closer to your goals? In a bid to find some answers for myself, I did the dangerous thing and googled, and as expected, found lots of articles bemoaning the concentration corroding effects of the digital products we have become even more reliant on. There were tips on meditation and dopamine fasting (or not), but the more I researched (this was most certainly not procrastination, promise), the more the situation felt analogous to our obesogenic environment, in which we’re constantly being bombarded with cues to eat and opportunities to buy junk food (or, ‘edible food-like substances’, according to the writer Michael Pollan) and are seeing our waistlines increasing, yet we are not asking serious questions of ourselves and food manufacturers about what kind of food world we actually want to live in. So too, we see parents paying more attention to the phone in their palm than the child in front of them while tech company profits are flying off the charts as we flock to their products that we need to stay connected. This is all happening as we find attaining deep focus harder than ever. All these issues were discussed in Netflix’s The Social Dilemma; slightly dodgy dramatic interludes aside, I did find the argument that we should be deeply concerned about the hijacking of our limbic system for profit pretty compelling.
But I too am a person who can appreciate irony, and as I sit here tapping this out on google docs, I can’t say I am not hugely grateful for all these digital tools. However, I do also think we need to consider what this time online is doing to our brains, and whether the amazing benefits are really free, or whether we’re spending our attention like expensive credit and building up a debt that we won’t be able to escape repaying. A jolly thought to end on as I get back my essay. I mean, right after I’ve watched this for maybe the third time.