Nathan Shumaker, Founder of Analog Data, came to talk with us about procrastination.
Shumaker is an indie game developer who has worked with Solanimus Inc. for 3 years and has created his own working start up called Analog Data. He is a self-proclaimed “massive retro gamer” who loves programming for older consoles. He calls it: “Fun and Challenging”. He’d really like to see a world where everyone can enjoy games together and not be competing all the time. He’d like to see each individual console taken at both its face and intrinsic values: rather than an open debate and competition pushing fanatically with which console is better or which franchise is better.
People (himself included) just want to enjoy games.
Procrastination: Friend and Foe
Shumaker began by questioning our assumptions: Is procrastination bad?
Like all things, he noted, there isn’t just a black and white, yes/no answer.
Speaking from his experiences with procrastination revealed some of the truths which shaped his ability to live, function, and work in a deadline-oriented field. Did it help him? Did it hurt him? The answer to both is yes.
The Role of Procrastination
On the surface, procrastination seems like its only negative. Procrastination is often described only in its negative formats: “Putting off for tomorrow what could be done today”, “avoiding important things”, “satisfying your wants while putting your needs at risk”…
Webster’s Dictionary defines procrastination as “the act of putting off or delaying something”.
What this definition does not touch on, is what if the act you are DOING is quite pleasurable? For instance, have you ever put off pulling a bandaid? What about homework? Instead of doing homework (which you didn’t want to do) did you do something great— like take a walk, play a game, enjoy time with a friend? If you received a great deal of pleasure from the acitivity, can you say you put off pain in lieu of pleasure? Doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?
Positives in Procrastination
Procrastination has several positives. It allows us to take breaks which saves our mental state. It allows us some breathing room so that we can decompress and return to a state of readiness. It gives us a break from anxiety, and allows up to make plans. It allows us to re-prioritize and arrive fresh for a job. But most importantly, it teaches us to work fast and effectively.
In school, we find at first that we are encouraged to work continuously. We are taught that slow and steady wins the race, and that we should put aside set times for us to work. As time goes on, many of us find that we want to work when we’re motivated, and play when we’re not. We manage and manipulate our time so that we work when we’re productive, and slack off when we are not productive or need a recharge.
For a large part of the population, that’s where it ends. Putting away a work-all-the-time mentality allows them to get a short break and know themselves. They have very small chunks of time set aside for relaxing mid-job, and a large chunk of time once everything is done. This doesn’t make any sense. After all this work, you’re keyed-up and frustrated, emotionally and physically drained. Most people want to hit the shower and be done with the whole day, you can only envision going back tomorrow to do it all again. Let’s imagine the opposite scenario: You have fun for long periods of time, and when the time is up, you move into a time where you are motivated by time to complete your work, and improve on it if time permits. You’re fresh as a daisy, and if you need to work longer than expected, you just do. If you finish early… you have more time to do what you want! its the best of both worlds.
Procrastination teaches you to work hard, work fast, work accurately, and understand that work done efficiently is done right the first time.
In The Workplace?
In the workplace, the slow and steady approach is really looked down upon. People are not looking for long deadlines with quiet periods where you are left alone, undisturbed. They want that work NOW. The turnaround time should be as short as possible to do things right the first time. You are expected to create those designs in a day, or by tomorrow at 9am, not the convenient 2-week deadlines you are wanting
For a procrastinator, a late night comes with the territory. An efficient way to complete 4 reports at once? Already been explored and it can be done. Lazy is another word for efficient.
A thorough background in procrastination can actually be a welcome addition to the workplace.
How Can It Hurt?
In ways you cannot even imagine. Shumaker spoke about his personal experiences with it and how he’s coped with it. He went on to discuss how we can do the same when you are in a rut. Procrastination can be very dangerous when it comes to anything in life.
Putting off work that you’ve never done before? Waiting until the last minute for pitch materials and presentations? Skipping deadlines and in-progress meetings during a sprint or a crash period? Deadly. Missing deadlines due to unforseen problems such as computer reboots, updates, vehicle issues, travel plans… Laundry…
In the design industry, I see a lot of the same issues popping up. I encourage my students not to be afraid, but I felt this was more of a cautionary tale of using your wits, delegating authority, and preparing for the worst. It would be nice if it were more about acceptance instead of a “ways to fix yourself” talk. On the other hand, you cannot have everything!