My car is dirty. Really, really dirty. If someone were to steal my car and replace it with a car-shaped pile of dirt, I probably wouldn’t notice until I tried to open the door. I’m tempted to drive my car into the nearest body of water and give it a nice long soak before washing it, as the owner of the car in this photo apparently did. I say “apparently” because she claimed she drove into a river because her GPS told her to — but seriously, if the car was clean, what made the water turn so brown?
I’ve been putting off washing my car for a long time, but I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually. To illustrate why, here’s a diagram that I created last night, when I was supposed to be doing laundry.
This diagram shows the relationship between time and aspirations when procrastinating, for three common procrastination scenarios. The blue line shows my current situation. As you can see, it’s a constant; no matter how long I put off washing my car, my definition of what it means for the car to be clean will never change.
The red curve shows a slightly more complicated relationship — the kind that might arise when, for example, you plan to do something for someone else. At first, the aspiration is constant — you have some idea of what you want to do, and that doesn’t change until you miss a deadline. At that point, your aspirations begin to rise, because you feel compelled to justify taking so much time. This continues until you come to the sad realization that your standards have become impossibly high, and you abandon the plan completely.
Similarly, the green curve starts with an aspiration that stays constant for a while and begins to rise when you miss a deadline. But in this case, you reach an epiphany — you realize that it’s more important to do something than it is to do something great, so you lower your standards and get your task done. It may not be done well, but it’s done.
Of course, none of this changes the fact that my car is really dirty. I hope it rains soon.