Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

I woke up this morning to a wonderful TED talk by Tim Urban,the epic internet writer at Wait But Why, who spoke about procrastination. The title of the video was “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator”

Interesting, as it sounded, and also because we tend to get attracted to such subject matters, like procrastination- an incurable, often mocked and joked, bitter reality of our lives.I was eager to listen what the speaker had to say about it.

Tim got my attention immediately as he commenced his talk describing his university project where he had to write a ninety-page thesis, but procrastination kept him postponing it until the last two days, after which he had to spend sleepless nights in panic and stress to complete the report.True story! Universally! So what was Tim going to say next?

Now he began to tell about the mind of a procrastinator.He said he had got two MRI scans done-  of the brain of a procrastinator and that of a verified non-procrastinator.And he presented before the audience, with a note of expectation that it won’t be difficult for them to interpret the MRI scans, the snapshot on the screen.And the two pictures were these-

This just made me jolt with laughter!

I had all my interest in his presentation now! He went on to explain that a non- procrastinator had a ‘Rational Decision Maker’ in the brain, but a procrastinator had an additional ‘Instant Gratification Monkey’ with it!(I so much appreciated the nomenclature!) “The instant gratification monkey” he  described “tends to believe that human is also a monkey, and all it needs is food, rest, and all things of fun and ease.”

As he went on with the discourse, I found him saying the obvious things, but with a very interesting perspective! It was a delight to listen to him. He said the monkey tends to snatch the wheels from the rational decision maker most of the time, but luckily, there is a guardian angel, that looks over this monkey.It lies dormant, but makes its appearances at the most critical times- when the limits have been reached, the deadline has arrived, and there is a fear of public embarrassment, or something important is on the verge of getting lost.Then the angel strikes!! Wonder what this Guardian Angel is called?

panicmonster

Tim showed the next slide remarking, “Once the panic monster shows up, the monkey runs away to the tree. It is the only thing it is scared of!And the rational decision maker gets on to the wheels with dread.”

panicmonster3

Quite true!

In the final part of the presentation, Tim goes on to highlight an important insight- The panic monster strikes only when there is a hard deadline, upon reaching which it gets triggered, as had happened during his University thesis submission.”But what about the things that we aspire to do, but have no hard hitting deadlines attached with them, like our resolve to call a friend, write that long anticipated letter, to learn a particular skill, to nurture a particular hobby? ”

For these endeavours, the panic monster never strikes, and these pursuits continue to stay uncheked and unattented! This only brings regret and lamentation in the long run.Tim showed his last slide containing a grid of square boxes, in rows and coloumns.

boxes

He called it ‘The Calendar of Life’ and explained that each of those boxes represented one week for a life of 90 years.He said, “there aren’t many of them, because we have already consumed a fair bit of it already.” I liked this.Tim had shared a medium through which we could start seeing deadlines in our lives.A strong visual aid like this will work better than mere harboring the thought of life having a deadline.(Which often seems to get forgotten over time)

Overall the talk left me with a very good feeling.Not only his presentation was interesting, but his message, assorted with smart elements of humor and his excellent delivery of speech, created a memorable and impactful experience!

(The full talk can be watched here)

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