In life, procrastination feels almost like a base human impulse. It is so easy to put off tasks until tomorrow. But what is today but yesterday’s tomorrow?
It is difficult to find motivation to do tasks that we find boring, hard or unimportant. But delaying it by a day does nothing to fix that issue. The best approach is to sort out easy tasks early so that they do not accumulate until you feel pressured by the sheer amount of tasks.
A useful rule of thumb is: if something will take you less than 5 minutes to do, do it now. This might include wiping down the kitchen bench, throwing the garbage out, making your bed, tidying a small pile of mess, replying to an email or writing a bullet journal entry.
By clearing these small tasks as they arise, you have more free time to spend on things you are passionate about or find important.
Doing small tasks also gives you a sense of empowerment and can motivate you to do slightly harder or more complex things, such as vacuuming the house, making an appointment or sorting paperwork. Once the ball is rolling, it is far easier to be productive.
In a similar vein, setting up routines such as setting aside an hour or two on the weekend as “life admin” time, or having a to do list in your journal help form healthy habits to fight against procrastination.
At the end of the day, procrastination is like taking a loan out from your future free time, with interest added. It will simply rob you of quality time you can spend on your passions and loved ones.
So think to yourself “What is a simple task I need to do that I can sort out right now?” and just do it. You will find that you had the motivation to be productive and efficient all along.
We look around the world we live in and marvel in all its complexity and grandeur. But Mother Nature focusses on one thing when it comes to design: efficiency. That is to say, that nature strives to design things that will do the job best. For example, stars and planets are always round because a sphere is the most effective way to get all the mass as close to the planet’s centre of gravity as possible (a process known as isostatic adjustment). The wings of a bird have evolved to maximise the thrust generated at the least energy cost, while the sleek, teardrop body shape of fish allow for them to slip through water with minimal resistance. One of the best examples of nature coming up with the best design solution is beehives.
If you look closely at a beehive, you will find that it is made up of tiny hexagons. Each hexagon is a room that a bee can fit in and the walls are made from wax. The interesting thing about hexagons is that it has many properties that make it the ideal shape in construction.
Firstly, hexagons can fit together perfectly to tile a plane, meaning that bees can tile thousands of columns without wasting any space. The little columns even end in a unique pyramidal shape that allows them to tile up nicely with each other at the centre.
Secondly, a hexagon has 6 rotational symmetries and 6 reflection symmetries, making it very easy to tile as every bee will know what orientation to build their cell in using the side of any cell as a reference.
Lastly, in a hexagonal grid each line is as short as it can possibly be when tiling an area with the smallest number of hexagons. Therefore, bees can use much less wax when constructing hives, while achieving remarkable strength as hexagons gain lots of strength under compression. This design also allows for the maximum amount of honey stored in each cell.
Bees have mastered this architectural feat not through physics and mathematics, but through evolution – the driving force of nature. Over millions and millions of years, various types of bees will have experimented with square-celled hives or triangular-celled hives, but they could not survive as long as the hexagonal-celled bees because their hives were less efficient. This is exactly why nature is so good at coming up with the best solution to a problem. Because in nature, the best solution to the problem an environment offers is rewarded with survival.
In 1968, Robert Rosenthal, a social psychology professor at Harvard University, and Lenore Jacobson, a primary school principal with 20 years experience, performed a spontaneous intelligence test on a primary school in San Francisco then randomly chose 20% of the students in one class. They then gave a list of the names of those students to the teachers and convinced them that they were “students with a high possibility of improving their intelligence and career success”. Eight months later, they performed the same intelligence test and found that the students on that list performed significantly better than other students on average. Not only that, but the score for the whole school was pulled up by those students. The most important factor was the expectations and encouragement from the teachers. This study proved that the expectations a teacher places on their students has a real effect on improving their grades.
The Pygmalion effect can be summarised as the phenomenon when a person’s efficiency or results improve due to the expectations and interests of another person. The eponymous story is from Greek mythologies, regarding a sculptor named Pygmalion. After seeing many women be so immoral and vulgar, he could not see beauty in any women anymore. This led him to sculpt the most beautiful woman out of ivory instead. After finishing his sculpture, he gazed upon its face and instantly fell head over heels for it. Every day Pygmalion would caress, stroke and truly love “her”. However, being a statue it could not return his love and he grew sadder and sadder. He went to the Temple of Aphrodite and begged her to help him achieve his true love. Upon returning home, he kissed and touched the sculpture like any other day. And lo and behold, every part of the sculpture his hands touched turned from hard ivory to soft, clear skin and the sculpture eventually turned into a gorgeous lady. Thus, thanks to Aphrodite’s grace the two could live happily ever after in love.
The Pygmalion effect is extremely useful in everyday life. When parents and teachers believe that a child has talent, they spend more effort trying to grow that talent and the child ends up more successful. The simple task of showing interest to the child promotes optimism and the child works harder to meet those expectations. The child did not receive any extra compliments or rewards but their efficiency goes up regardless, thanks to their parents’ and teachers’ beliefs. Similarly, when a boss shows passion towards and has great expectations of an employee, their efficiency will go up. The Pygmalion effect is particularly powerful in relationships, where if the two love each other and are good to each other, their love will naturally deepen and they will become happier.
Unfortunately, people have a tendency to underestimate the power of love and are unable to utilise this great effect. Therefore, children and employees are often plagued by the golem effect (the phenomenon of low expectations causing a fall in efficiency) instead.