I recently wrote here about a common apology that people report for postponing: They say that our lives today are much busier than in the past. We seem to have many more around us who are competing for our attention and behavior. But this is a myth – a deceptive excuse, if you will. For centuries, there were 168 hours a week, and life progressed within that time. We cannot control time; we manage myself.
Another common deceptive excuse I’ve heard many times over the last 30 or so years of procrastination research – and it’s also a myth – is that today’s technology makes procrastination easier. Our “technology toys” seem to “suck” all the time when we have to do other things, and these devices and programs interfere more than they help us live satisfactorily.
There is some truth in this myth; most myths have some small level of truth, which is why they are spread and believed: they make sense and we can connect. Clearly, there are some people who feel like “adding to the internet” from using technology so often. This is a serious and seemingly growing concern and treatment is recommended. (See Ferrari, 2010 for detailed details on chronic procrastination).
However, the question remains: Do technological tools today encourage procrastination by making procrastination easier than in the past?
My answer: No.
Let me answer by telling a short story from a media interview I did a few years ago. In 2006, a reporter from a Connecticut newspaper called me and asked me for my opinion on the alarm snooze buttons. Alarm clocks? Delay buttons? Why are you asking me? What did I know about them? (Does anyone still have these buttons – or these watches? I have!)
The reporter went on to say that in 1956 the snooze buttons were first made available to consumers for alarm clocks, and now 50 years have passed since their first availability on the market. He also said that the delay buttons were “the first technology that allowed us to delay.”
How clever! How interesting!
You see, pressing the snooze button on the clock gains another 8 or 9 minutes of “sleep” before the alarm goes off again. Allows a person to delay getting up in the morning.
But also, how fake. While the snooze button allows a person to sleep longer, this was the case no the first technology used to help us procrastinate.
I did a little research after that interview and learned that in 1885 Benz Motors created the first “car” powered by gas. Now, instead of taking the time to pull the horses to your cab, adjust the reins for the carriage, spending a lot of effort and time, with the new “horseless carriage” one could wait until they were ready and just drive down the road for miles. to see your friend. The car industry allows people to procrastinate.
In 1879, Alexander Bell created what we call the “telephone.” Prior to this technology, a person who wanted to connect with others had to write a letter, put it in the post office, and perhaps wait a few weeks before receiving a response. Now, with this new tool, you can turn on your phone, connect with someone called an “operator,” and they can connect you in minutes to your friend or family member. Bell Labs made procrastination easier.
My point of view?
Don’t blame modern technology toys for procrastination. It is myth. There have always been technologies that make life easier. These tools are not the problem; this is how we use or abuse technology that encourages procrastination.
Ask yourself if your smartphone, your instant messaging and your Snap chats make you more productive? I suspect not. Those who know me know that I still use and prefer my old-fashioned diary as a calendar. I find (and laugh when that happens) that I can switch to a date on my schedule faster than others using electronic calendars. Is calendar technology useful? Of course it can be. But with so many technologies, we can spend our time focused on the technology toy instead of living life.
My friend is moving away from technological toys. Don’t use them as your deceptive excuse that you haven’t done things. Instead, focus on others, on relationships, on community. Make the world a better place, not a virtual space. They say we are 70, 80 years old if we are strong. So, ask yourself how will you leave a lasting legacy to improve the world?