My Car is Really Dirty

car in river

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. car taking a bathI’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.

Procrastination Aspiration Curve
Aspiration vs. time for three common procrastination scenarios

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.

6 thoughts on “My Car is Really Dirty

  1. I love the article. But seriously, there is a car-wash right here at work on the 5th floor — no, it’s not ICANN employees earning an extra buck while the internet falls down around them; I meant the parking structure.

    1. Yeah, I will probably take my car there — eventually. First I have to spend five minutes clearing out the random junk that’s accumulated inside the car.

      And about the car wash being in the parking structure and not the building — I learned that lesson the hard way. It turns out that building management has very strict rules against driving cars in the lobby and trying to squeeze them into the elevators.

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