Your Surrogate Supervisor — Let a Stranger Whip You Out of Procrastination
Procrastination — it sucks more than just time, it sucks creativity & life
I’ve spent time in every imaginable workspace. I’ve worked in private offices, high & low-cut cubicles and bullpens. I’ve used cardboard boxes as desks and played musical chairs at too many co-working spaces. Yet, it is through this smorgasbord of office ergonomics that I noticed what I later dubbed as the ‘Surrogate Supervisor Effect’. What seemed like a random jolt out of procrastination was actually triggered by an external event. I can now conjure it up at will. This is especially handy for the remote or self-employed worker.
Two Different Work Scenarios
Let’s look at two different situations. Imagine that you’re about to tackle a very creative task. You’ve been looking forward to this for a while. You decide to do this from your couch at home and anyone that stands in your way is going to get hurt. The day flies by and you enjoy every second of the process. That said, you’d probably get the same outcome from a cubicle, bus station or bathroom stall.
Now, take the exact same workspace but swap the task with a more realistic, low-visibility, low-creativity one. The type of task we seem inundated with. Let’s say it’s a monthly report. Suddenly, your couch becomes a black hole sucking your time, pride, life. You bounce between YouTube, Facebook, and low-priority emails. You finish all the cookies and the dishes; everything but the report. It isn’t until the collective screams of those needing whatever it is you’re doing become so unbearable that you reluctantly deliver. Don’t blame your living room, this is happening in cubicles and offices all over the world.
The Surrogate Supervisor Effect
Now, for that surrogate supervisor effect, put me in the cafeteria, on a shared co-working table, or a bullpen style location where everybody can see my screen, I’ll slowly, but surely, grow shameful enough to stop meandering and get stuff done. This works by surrounding yourself with co-workers, a boss, or strangers at a coffee shop. In this day and age of remote workers and work-from-home options, it is too easy to aimlessly roam through life as temptations abound. We need to be reminded from time to time of the gift that is our time and the beautiful things we can do with it. We need to be judged by our peers, and if none are around, the eyes of a stranger will do. I just don’t want to be the guy watching Netflix at the library or aimlessly browsing at the coffee shop — at least not in public. In private… well…
Reality of Procrastination
The insidious reality of procrastination is that it kills more than a task at hand, it destroys time and opportunity. It will shrivel up everything you touch until you free yourself from its shackles. While you are procrastinating, you cannot enjoy the full range of your creative abilities, reaching a meditative state, inventing, and taking risks. It is there and it will keep nagging you, humiliating you, and bringing you down.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as stapling a supervisor to your back. It’s a delicate juggle between liking what you do, having space to think, the ability to take breaks, and the occasional critical reminder that life is short and that you’re squandering it away. Here is the clincher and the advice from a well-seasoned worker, when you feel yourself procrastinating, you may need to trick yourself into getting out of that office, off the couch, and into the visual proximity of strangers and their judgments. This has worked reliably for me over the years. And, to all those that made me feel shameful for my transgressions, a big thanks for that!!
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