Friday, January 12, 2007

The Cost of Procrastination

I grew up in a tv household. My dad watched TV downstairs (and read during commercials; he was a voracious reader), and my mom watched TV upstairs (and read, but I don't know when). They'd come home from work, eat, and then watch TV.

Mind you, they worked. They were parents, and they ran me around and stuff like that. But my childhood impression of them was intractably linked to the television. In my young mind, I was given the impression that their life's purpose was to watch TV. After all, that's what I saw them doing the majority of the time that I actually saw them. (I couldn't see them at work.)

Think about that. What impression do you give your children?

Why do I bring this up? Because children these days ... boy. It sometimes breaks my heart, the time they put into their iPods and their Gameboys and their Wii's and their Television-watching. It's no wonder children think being a celebrity is the most important thing in the world. The time children rack up doing these sorts of things ... people just don't notice it. How often do you hear that children are scheduled to within an inch of their life? (Well, they are, it's true ... but more time could be found for some ...)

Think about it. When you die, are you going to look back and think, "Darn! I missed that TV series, Friends!" Really? I mean, I watched it religiously, but I can remember very little. It seemed so important at the time, to be in front of a TV on Thursday nights. But what do I remember from those years? What did I take away from those 52 hours I spent each year?

Procrastination has reached an all-time high, because of the prolificness of distractions today. And it costs, boy does it cost.

Aside from the financial drain that comes from productivity loss, "it makes people poorer, fatter and unhappier." The more gadgets, the more procrastinators. Of college students, 75% consider themselves procrastinators!

Of course. Our society has become obsessed with instant gratification. Come on, America! We're Americans! We're supposed to be strivers and achievers, people with work ethics that bring to life the American dream!

And I'm not really talking about work time; we work harder than most other nations. At least, we work more hours (in our hourly, clock-punching obsessed workforce).

It's the time we're away from work. Are we really doing what's important to ourselves, or are we putting it off? How important is TV? (Oh yes, important! I love to watch a good show ... but not 2.6 hours a day.)

I love writing, I love words, I love reading. It's been my experience that talent is overrated, and hard work is underrated. Despite that, if you look to all the great talents--even Mozart--they worked their heinies off. For some reason, people like to throw their hands up in the air and say, "he's got talent, what can you do?"

So many people seem to be under the impression that talent is skill without practice.

Dear dog.

I don't believe that. An art requires much work, much dedication, constant study, constant discipline, and always striving for excellence. Even Mozart said that there was no great work that he hadn't studied multiple times.

The best writers? They all say, read, read, read. Study what you read; learn from what you read. Not one of them say "read this book on writing or that book on writing."

Sure, writing books are INCREDIBLY helpful. But ... at some point, I have to learn how to study the REAL books. The writing books can do it for me, but I need to learn. So I keep trying and trying.

And I'm often complaining that I don't have enough time in the day. Well, after reading this article on the cost of procrastination, I'm tempted to practice what I preach. I tell the kids, "Ask yourself: is this who I want to be? Is this activity important to who I want to be when I grow up? Is this activity going to make me a better person?"

I ask myself every night, when there's only a couple hours left in the day, if I've done everything important to myself. Have I progressed? Have I worked on the most important things in my life? Have I become better?

Somedays, it makes for a busy two hours in the day, but ... I want to go to bed every night, knowing that I made that day important.

9 bonus scribbles:

The Insect 1/12/2007 09:18:00 PM  

"I mean, I watched it religiously, but I can remember very little. It seemed so important at the time, to be in front of a TV on Thursday nights."

I'd like to recommend an author, and a book, if you haven't read anything by him yet. Harlan Ellison is one of our greatest living wordslingers, not just in speculative fiction but in general, and his book "Strange Wine" contains a wonderful introductory essay called "Revealed at last! Why the dinosaurs went extinct! (And did I mention you aren't looking so good yourself?)"

He inveighs against the glass teat, and makes damned good (and damned scary) arguments against it that are as valid today as they were during the early seventies when the short story collection first came out.

The Insect 1/12/2007 09:26:00 PM  

Also: I've added you to the blogroll. Your blog is always thought-provoking, and worth a link!

spyscribbler 1/12/2007 09:55:00 PM  

Thank you, Insect! I have to figure that blogroll thing out. I wish I could just import all the blogs from my reader into my sidebar, but I can't!

Harlan Ellison. I need to check that out. I used to read so much speculative fiction, and one day I stopped, by accident. I'm absolutely clueless as to why. I do love it.

"The glass teat." Do you call it that, or did he? That's hilarious! I remember a teacher calling it the "Boob Tube." I had no idea what she was talking about, but the "glass teat" seems to have so much more meaning.

Zoe Winters 1/12/2007 11:43:00 PM  

For some reason, people like to throw their hands up in the air and say, "he's got talent, what can you do?"


hahaha LMAO! You and I are pretty in tune today with our blog posts. heh. I think Buffy made a huge difference for me. It's the only television show that I can say that about. It led me to the discovery that Vampires = Yummy, and finding the genre I think I should be writing in (paranormal romance.)

If not for Buffy I don't know how long I would have floundered before I figured it out. But yeah, in general TV is a time waster. I don't even have cable.

Bernita 1/13/2007 08:28:00 AM  

Very good and true post.

Karen Olson 1/13/2007 02:57:00 PM  

Sometimes I think we work hard enough that we have earned procrastination time. As long as we've done everything we need to do and gotten our work done on time. Procrastination can be terribly underrated.

spyscribbler 1/13/2007 05:46:00 PM  

You're right, Karen! But if the work is done and we've done everything we need to do, it's not procrastination; it's free time!

And free time is fun, for sure!

Edie 1/16/2007 07:55:00 PM  

Spy, I try to limit my TV. We're finally getting cable on Thursday, and I can't wait--so I can get off dial-up! I'm actually sorry I'll have access to more TV shows, but on Friday I'll watch MONK. I hope it's not the start of the slippery slope to hell. *g*

spyscribbler 1/16/2007 08:42:00 PM  

Cable! Wow! You'll love not being on dial-up!

The cure to TV, I believe is DVR. If you only tape what you want to watch, then you don't start to surf, and you can also save time by fast forwarding through the commercials.

Have fun! Let me know how you like the high speed internet!