Friday, August 7, 2015

Procrastination: The Robber of Time

All of us procrastinate. Yet all of us deny it. We often overlook this problem only to land in the mire of unaccomplished goals.

Leonardo da Vinci. The High Renaissance Man. Painter. Scientist. Engineer. Sculptor. Architect. Inventor. Astronomer. Writer. Historian. Anatomist. Words often fail to do justice to what he was. Daydreaming to fly, he designed the very first prototypes of parachutes, helicopters and airplanes centuries before modern aviators could even conceive the idea of flying.  He envisaged exquisite designs of robots, armored tanks, assault rifles, swinging bridges, submarines, motorcars, solar panels and alarm clocks. He is regarded as the most creative and versatile genius in the history of mankind. But in his deathbed at the age of 67, this gifted human being apologized to God and mankind for the offence of his "work not reaching the quality it should have". Why?

Leonardo was an extreme procrastinator. If he had taken the effort to finish any of his ideas on technology, 1500s would have been the modern 1900s. If he had published his findings of Sun being the center of solar system and of the planetary motions, it wouldn’t have taken another forty years for Copernicus to initiate the Scientific Revolution. One shouldn’t be surprised to know that he never finished his masterpiece ‘Mona Lisa’ even after working on it for twenty years. It took him nearly ten years to finish the lips of Mona Lisa. Like majority of his works and notebooks, the painting saw sunlight only after his death when his pupil Salai inherited it. He worked on ‘The Virgin of the Rocks’ for twenty-four years against a seven-month deadline to fulfill the commission and turned in the painting to the church only when his patrons threatened to stop paying him. Though known as world-class painter he was, he only had less than fifteen completed paintings to his name. His biography enlists his countless unfinished projects than his achievements. If he had published ‘The Vitruvian Man’ in 1490 (the date in his notebook), the basic foundation of anatomy and architecture would have been restructured two hundred years earlier. He admitted having flight of ideas so frequently that he thought about at least nine possibilities of addressing a problem within two minutes challenging himself to be productive and effective but seldom could he actually solve the problem as he procrastinated on practicing any of his ideas. He always found his own reasons and justifications to procrastinate and block his epoch-making works.

For the relentless thinker, ever-curious inventor, uncompromising perfectionist, time was the biggest enemy. Even when procrastinating to utmost levels, Leonardo could accomplish more in his life than what we can ever imagine because of his incomparable dimensions of dexterity and versatility. But for us, while swimming in mediocrity, the penalty for procrastination could be huge enough to affect our career, success and reputation. Though International Classification of Diseases has not included procrastination as a behavioral disorder, it is worthwhile to analyze this as a major malady of creative minds. Researchers and students often face this ailment, comprehend the issues of lacking well-timed schedules and agonize over consequential inefficiencies. The degree of procrastination is not usually proportionate to the complexity or gravity of the job to be done. Repeated acts of procrastination eventually make it a part of the person’s character that it starts to span from trivial things to works requiring much time, effort and creativity. It could range from filing tax returns, registering for a conference, uploading a file, writing an article, designing an experiment or analyzing data before a deadline. Many a time we fail to efficiently complete this on time because of congested internet traffic or crashed servers due to innumerable procrastinators rushing at the last moment or unusable samples or data. It even extrapolates to various tiers of personal and social lives too when returning a phone call or email or even planning a vacation stays undone forever. But mere analysis of the problem of procrastination cannot save us from its adverse effects, as even a neurosurgeon can get a stroke. The best way is to identify the problem ourselves, tackle it through our own means and overcome it with diligence. Conquering procrastination is a tedious task but it is worth all the efforts to free us the burden of unfinished tasks and unaccomplished goals.

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