“A shock to the system to get you in gear.” That header last month in the Boston Globe really caught my attention. The article described a wearable device called the “Pavlok”, designed to deliver a small jolt to snap you out of procrastinating . It starts with a beep, progresses to a vibration, and can ultimately deliver a shock up to 300 volts to get you working on that year-end report or other deadline task. It can connect to your cell phone’s GPS system to detect if you’re at the gym at a certain time and zap you if you’re not.
In high school and college, I was a master of procrastination. If I were studying for a test, I would review for ten minutes, then watch TV until a commercial; review for ten minutes, play the piano for fifteen; review for ten minutes, make a snack, maybe even bake something; review for five minutes, give up, go to bed and set my alarm clock for one or two in the morning. There was no snooze feature, so I’d just shut off the alarm and reset it for an hour later. Finally I would get up and do what I should have been doing the night before. With a writing assignment, if I put it off until the last minute, I found the pressure squeezed the words out of me like toothpaste out of a tube.
With this history, it was only natural that when our first assignment in freshman English at Tufts was to write a paper which would describe, step by step, how to do something, I chose “how to procrastinate.” I thought my paper was brilliant, so imagine my shock when the teacher returned the papers, and mine had a big red F, my first ever, on the top. His notation said something like, “This paper does not fulfill the assignment.” Today’s student would have argued with him, but students didn’t do that back then.
This bad habit followed me even after graduation, cropping up most often when I didn’t want to do something – write report card comments, prepare notes for parent conferences- or when I was unsure of how to do something . For example, my boys were about 8 and 10 and needed suits for an occasion. I bought the suits but had to cuff the pants myself. I really didn’t know how, so day after day I would look at the pants until finally, the night before the event, I knew it was do or die so I just did it although I still don’t know how.
Since I have very few deadlines nowadays, the one time I find myself falling into the old habit is when I have to pack for a trip. Once again I will go to bed, set the alarm for very early morning, and reset it until there is no choice left. I have to decide what to take.
I confess I get a little thrill from racing against the clock. But what if I was getting a slight shock when I was delaying? Would that get me started on the task? But what would keep me at it until completion? I’m not sure the Pavlok would work in my case. And besides, I’m not going to spend the $200 to find out.
© Dorothy C. Judd
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