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Procrastination vs Having a good time || IIT Kharagpur (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
15 min
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Questioner (Q): When we are with our friends on the campus, we usually end up wasting our time doing all kinds of nonsense. It serves no real purpose and takes us nowhere, but we do need to relax sometimes and enjoy ourselves. The problem is that this usually leads to procrastination, and then a lot of pressure is created because we lose time and cannot meet our deadlines. On the other hand, enjoying our time here does have some importance also. So, how should we maintain a balance between enjoying and managing the time and the deadlines?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Managing deadlines in context of what?

Q: In context of everything. Like when we are in college, we have assignments. And there are exams, and an exam is also a deadline to complete a particular subject. Even at workplaces we have deadlines to achieve a particular target.

AP: So, you are asking how to adhere to the deadlines while simultaneously enjoying what you are doing?

Q: Yes.

AP: You see, a deadline is required only when you are in a system, a corrective system, an educational system. The presence of a deadline simply means that you are still not mature enough to do things on your own in a timely way, right? So, the first thing that you need is acknowledgment that you are still not there in terms of loving what you are doing; otherwise, a deadline wouldn’t have been needed at the first place, or even if the deadline would have been there, it would have been irrelevant; in spite of its presence, it would have had irrelevance.

We are made to work in deadlines precisely because without deadlines, we won’t work; we would simply procrastinate, as you said. So, you have to accept the deadlines, and you have to accept it knowing that the deadline is useful to you. You have to humbly admit that the deadline is not just an external imposition, it is actually your internal requirement. You need the deadlines; it is not somebody else’s whim being foisted on you as a deadline.

So, now I know that the deadline is indeed helpful. Now I also humbly admit that I am not yet somebody who can work purely on her internal inspiration and do something, or read something, or learn something just on her own. Then, instead of feeling resentful towards the deadline, you actually feel grateful. Thank God that the deadline is there, otherwise I wouldn’t have learned at all.

Think of so many things you would have missed learning had deadlines not been there, right? Is that not so? In fact, probably 90-95% of our knowledge comes riding to us on the back of deadlines, does it not? So many of our achievements we are proud of wouldn’t have been possible in absence of deadlines.

Translate ‘deadline’ into discipline. What does discipline mean? It comes from the same route as ‘disciple’. What does disciple mean? A follower, a student, somebody who wants to learn. So, deadline is related to discipline, and discipline is related to love for learning. So, if you have a love for learning you will respect deadlines, and when you will respect deadlines, then it will become possible to enjoy the deadlines; then it will not be an either/or situation; then you will not ask, “How do I enjoy the work while adhering to the deadline?”; then adhering to the deadlines itself will become a thing of joy. Why so joyful? “Because I have a deadline to meet.”

Then you will not say that “Once the deadline has been met, then I will go out and party and have some joy. I am joyful in the process of meeting the deadline because I know what the deadline means to me. The deadline means love to me, so I am joyful. What am I doing? I have to finish this assignment by midnight, and I am so joyful. Without the deadline, this thing wouldn’t have happened at all. And respecting the deadline tells me that I am a sincere, authentic individual. It tells me that I have love for learning. It helps me have some self-respect. The more I stick to the deadlines, the greater is the self-respect I cultivate.”

This is how paradoxical it is. You can stick to deadlines only when you have some humility. And the more you stick to deadlines, the more you find your self-respect is deepening.

So, enjoy even as you race to meet the deadlines.

Q: I didn’t get the point. How is it related to our self-respect?

AP: What do you respect yourself for? What do you respect anybody for?

Q: For what the person is.

AP: What the person is. If the person is sincere, true, authentic, dedicated to her development, won’t you respect her?

Q: Yes.

AP: You are that person when you meet the deadlines. So, won’t you respect yourself?

Q: So, the deadline is about imposing work on yourself. There is this particular task A, and I could complete it very nicely within a day and feel good about it. But I might have other tasks to do at the same time. For example, I might have three tasks. So, if I don’t have any deadlines on my mind, I will work the whole day peacefully. But when I have the deadline there, I wake up with the pressure of having to do the tasks, of having the deadlines. Because of the pressure to do all the three tasks, I am not able to do even one task properly. So, these deadlines create pressure for me. I can’t sleep, and when I wake up, I wake up burdened.

AP: Why are the three tasks pending at the same time?

Q: If there is just one task, I can manage it and do it normally. But if there are multiple tasks pending with deadlines, it results in the procrastination of all of them.

AP: If you could do it normally—as you said, normally, all on your own—then don’t you think that you would have probably already finished it by now? Why would you wait for the last hour or the last day? Surely, nobody puts you on a deadline of one day. Whenever submission dates are there with respect to assignments, you get what? One week, fifteen days, sometimes two months? So why would you be staring at the last day of submission? Had there really been love, you would have completed it well ahead of time and submitted it already.

This means you need the deadline. This means that it is just an imaginative fancy that you would complete it even in absence of the deadline. You remove the deadline, and you will find that you will do nothing at all. Or maybe you will do one thing, claiming that one thing is your true love, whereas the fact is you need to know five other things as well. Maybe without knowing those five other things, you cannot even know that one thing you claim to be in love with.

So, I am saying here two things: One, when you are really mature and really independent, then you don’t need deadlines at all; two, if you are not yet that mature, then deadlines are something you should actually love because deadlines are aiding your journey towards learning.

A day will come when nobody will give you deadlines; a day will come when you will be all on your own, you know. And when you are all on your own, then what do you do? You give deadlines to yourself. And that is a good thing to do because human beings are never going to be perfect. There would always remain that lazy ego within with all its fake excuses looking for alibis to procrastinate—hide here, do this, something; some mischief, some nonsense with all its absurd arguments.

So, you better put paid to all that by giving yourself a hard deadline. This has to be done by this date—full stop.

Q: It has happened to me that a senior colleague of mine did something that really offended me. In the heat of the moment he said something that I didn’t like, and I conveyed it to him later. So, probably out of guilt, he started making up for it. He started interacting with me more, spending more time with me, so that I may come back to him. But I am not able to convince myself to forgive him for that, to go back to the same level. So, at this point, I don’t even want to disrespect that person. What should I do exactly?

AP: You must be having something good to do in your life, no? Or is that person, that colleague, that senior, is that everything to your life? So many people say such vile things to me every day. If I start remembering all that, then I am done! There is not even a question of forgiving. You forgive someone only when you atleast remember the hurt.

Q: But then, it is not really possible to go back to the same level anymore.

AP: But why do you want to have any level with, I don’t know which person. Why do you want to have this leveling thing with this person you are referring to? Go back to my first question. There must be something worthwhile you have to do in life—why don’t you focus on that? Which year are you in?

Q: Second year.

AP: So, Kharagpur campus. How many sports are you currently playing? It is not an allegation, I just want to know.

Q: Two sports.

AP: And there are facilities for many more. There must be so many cultural clubs, right? Dramatics, debating, there would be a film society, there would probably be a literature club, there would be a dance society probably. When will you make use of all these opportunities? If you just keep remembering all these trivial things that happen almost daily with everybody, when will you rise to make something of your life? You are already in the second year. You have just entered the second year, or is it about to be completed?

Q: About to be completed.

AP: Half the time already gone! Now something will happen in the third year as well, then something else will happen in the fourth year, and that will be all to your IIT story. How nice does it sound? What did you do in IIT? “I got offended four times! I got offended four times and spent four years trying to forget and forgive and whatnot”—that’s some Bollywood story!

How many hours have you spent in the library? This is the time to delve into the greatest literature from across the world. Till you are in your class twelve, all you read is your Irodov, Resnick, Halliday—those were the books in my time, I don’t know what goes now. So, all you read is these PCM (physics, chemistry, mathematics) books. Now is the time to deepen your personality, to know of all great things that are there in the world, and you are squandering this time. From here you will probably enter some workplace, and they will drive you towards productivity, and you will be working for ten hours a day, and again you will find that you don’t have enough time for self-development. After that, probably those usual things concerning marriage and kids and such things, will come, and again you will find yourself short of time.

Don’t allow this to just pass by. Hold every moment by the collar and extract the maximum value you can. And the best way to squander time is by engaging yourself emotionally in some little thing and continuously thinking about it. These are very precious years—very, very precious years. Learn as much as you can, develop yourself as much as you can. Broaden your personality. Like the branches of a tree, grow in all possible directions. All these things, the senior boy, junior girl—leave it to the film-makers.

Q: I am just trying to connect this to the other point you mentioned before. I am confused about this. You are saying we should have free time so that we can develop ourselves, but…

AP: No, but you should not have any free time.

Q: Doesn’t this contradict with the statement that we should have a gap by avoiding taking up unnecessary tasks?

AP: How does the gap translate into free time? How does that equal free time? Please, I have only said what I have said. Don’t extrapolate.

You shouldn’t have even a second of free time. All your time must be occupied in beautiful things. Even when you sit all by yourself, even that is not free time. Conversely, you could say, you should be free in the middle of all times. Whatever you are doing, internally you should be free. When internally you are free, irrespective of what your time is going into, that is really called free time.

Free time is not about somehow completing your classes, coming back to your room, and throwing away the bag and slumping on the couch and saying, “Now, this is my free time. Where is the remote? I want to watch TV.” This is not free time. This is nonsense time. This is bondage time. The word ‘free’ is a very sacred word; it cannot be used casually. What do you mean by free? Free of what? The freedom that we want is really from our internal bondages.

So, what is free time, then? Time that is spent in pursuit of freedom, only such time deserves to be called as free time. Otherwise, the free time that we normally gift ourselves is just poisonous. Nothing does you greater disservice than this so-called free time. Think of all the nonsense that people do in their free time. In fact, most nonsense gets done only in free time. Think of what people need free time for. Great activities? Really stuff that opens up the mind, elevates the consciousness? When people say, “Oh, this is my personal time,” what do you usually find them doing in that time? When somebody says, “You know, this is my free space or personal space or personal time,” all the nonsense brews in that personal space or time.

So, have the right definition of free time. Time spent in pursuit of freedom, only that is free time. And the free time of the ordinary kind you should have none of. So, I said you shouldn’t have any free time. When I said you shouldn’t have free time, I meant no free time of the kind that we usually have, right?

Fill your life with beauty. Fill your life with energy, occupation, determination. We all have work to do, we all have a place to reach. What do you mean by free time, then? In fact, the advice would be to not even sleep unnecessarily. There is necessary sleep that your body wants, and there is the needless sleep that your mind indulges in. Most people sleep at least for one or two hours needlessly. The body is probably satisfied only with six or seven hours, but the fellow is sleeping for eight hours or ten hours, and this he calls as his free time. This is time killed, this is life killed, this is potential destroyed, not free time.

When you do something with all your determination, with all your truth, with your total sincerity, and you spend time doing this, then you should say, “This was my free time.” Free time is when you work the truest and the hardest. That is your free time, not when you slouch and snore and waste time. That is not free time.

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