Against errands

by on December 31, 2005 at 5:48 am in Education | Permalink

Here is some wisdom for the new year to come:

Other days are eaten up by errands. And I know it’s usually my fault: I let errands eat up the day, to avoid facing some hard problem.

The most dangerous form of procrastination is unacknowledged type-B procrastination, because it doesn’t feel like procrastination. You’re "getting things done." Just the wrong things.

Any advice about procrastination that concentrates on crossing things off your to-do list is not only incomplete, but positively misleading, if it doesn’t consider the possibility that the to-do list is itself a form of type-B procrastination. In fact, possibility is too weak a word. Nearly everyone’s is. Unless you’re working on the biggest things you could be working on, you’re type-B procrastinating, no matter how much you’re getting done.

In his famous essay You and Your Research (which I recommend to anyone ambitious, no matter what they’re working on), Richard Hamming suggests that you ask yourself three questions:

    1. What are the most important problems in your field?
    2. Are you working on one of them?
    3. Why not?

Here is the full argumentAddendum: Here is the correct link for "You and Your Research."

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