A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to psych myself up to start writing a report that was due today. I ended up scrolling through cricket videos on Youtube which led me to a TED Talk on cricket which led me to the most popular TED Talks of all time which led me to Tim Urban’s perfectly named TED Talk, ‘Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator.’
I submitted my report today before the deadline but I could have finished it a couple of weeks ago if I had not procrastinated. It was a bit touch and go as to whether I would have my report in on time and I put myself under pressure by not starting earlier.
Before I watched Urban’s TED Talk I would have said that pressure was unnecessary. But now I wonder if that pressure was necessary for me to motivate and focus myself to do my best work. I also wonder if pressure is necessary for people to do their best work when I think of how our teachers crammed 2-3 years of work into 2-3 months to be ready for students on August 19.
I created my own pressure by procrastinating in the face of a deadline. Our teachers were given an almost impossible deadline that made procrastination impossible. But we both had a deadline that created pressure.
A deadline is described in terms of time. It could be to the minute, the hour, or year. It could be very specific like 1pm Friday afternoon or could be more vague like before someone might make a decision or the markets collapse. The COVID crisis has created time pressure to act immediately. The longer we take to get it under control the more suffering it will cause. The world has (kind of) dropped everything to fight it and we will beat it soon(ish).
Urban says there are two kinds of procrastination. The first kind happens when there is a deadline. In these situations, a sense of urgency that Urban might refer to as the ‘Panic Monster’ will eventually kick in and we will start doing what we need to do to meet the deadline.
The second kind of procrastination happens in situations where there is no deadline, or at least no deadline that creates enough of a sense of urgency for the Panic Monster to wake up. An example of this type of procrastination is happening in relation to crises such as climate change. We are feeling the full effect of COVID now and the Panic Monster is wide awake as we respond to it. But the monster is dozing as we respond to non-deadline crises that we know have the potential to destroy us but are not feeling the full effect of yet.
So the question must be, ‘How do we create a sense of urgency to effectively start to deal with climate change and other non-deadline crises right now?’ I’m not sure and I know that there are a lot of people in our community who are certainly not procrastinating as they try to create this sense of urgency.
As a school, we have integrated the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the heart of our curriculum to, among other things, create an awareness of and sense of urgency in relation to the crises that the SDGs were set to address. We do not want our students to panic but they might be the ones that need to wake the Panic Monster in all of us before it is too late.