Displacement Activity

Activity undertaken when some more important task's deadline is looming.

When I was studying for my final degree examinations I played more bridge than ever before. That was pretty much a pure DisplacementActivity.

I'm wondering how much other authors and programmers suffer from this weakness -- SteveHolden

Probably pretty much everyone who's reading Wiki.

Touché. I guess I'll get back to work now. -- SH

Properties of For example,
Better and worse displacement activities

It's not necessarily a weakness. It can be part of a strategy to give the subconscious more control. It' a signal that rest is necessary. It can be part of decreasing the available time, increasing the pressure, thereby delivering a better result. Sometimes a sense of urgency can produce a better result than otherwise.

The above is the most common rationalization strategy used by ChronicProcrastinators. PeopleDontThinkFasterUnderPressure.

Though it's important to note that some displacement activities are a better form of (mental, physical, psychological) rest than others. TeleVision is a pretty common DisplacementActivity for many people, though I'd argue that it doesn't really let you rest. Probably far better to: Have coffee with a friend, go for a bike ride, or cook a meal with fresh produce you just bought from the market.

The suffering

Most people have some kind of displacement activity. For some, it's Wiki. For others, it's solitaire. For others, it's hot-or-not or NetHack.

Sometimes, when a deadline draws near, I think, If only I hadn't spent time the a DisplacementActivity I'd be finished long ago. And yet, I don't know if that's true.

We don't take the rest (because this would be seen as abandoning our high-pressure deadline) so we do the displacement activity instead. We get the worst of both worlds: no rest and no progress.

I really enjoyed thinking about my neglected VW bus as a mental break during overwhelming political or technical circumstances. A little hope, a lot of displacement, an opportunity for [different, at least] creativity and self expression, and rest. And reading a mailing list every so often gave the added outlet of alternate community. I think this is the reason religions push church attendance and a day of rest.

...and in complete retrospect, I've enjoyed PythonLanguage and ZopeApplicationServer for this exact reason working in the trenches of C++ applications. It's very rewarding to come across points in displacement activity that benefit the drudgery of the important tasks. Prototyping and testing design was the reward I found in Python. -- Dean

The only time I get any household chores done is when I have a work-related deadline looming. The fact that I would rather clean my toilet than do my work is a pretty clear indication of how much I enjoy my job. --KrisJohnson


To get household chores done, ask your employer to promise a deadline on something hard to a customer.

A solution


Engaging in DisplacementActivity may well be a weakness by some reasonable definition of weakness, but it's a fact that we do it and it's hard for us to not do it. Rather than forcing ourselves to exercise enormous willpower to do the work at the right time, PairProgramming makes it easy to start the task.

I would like to be able to use PairProgramming as an escape, but one of the problems leading to indulgence in DisplacementActivity in the first place is the solitude of the single consultant, author, programmer, what have you. I've bemoaned before the absence of VirtualPairProgramming tools, maybe someone has good news? Or maybe I just need to get out more? -- SteveHolden
A solution

This is a specific form of have accountability. A very useful idea for all parts of life, not just for work. I am a more responsible person now than in my youth because I have a wife and kids to answer to. Since I work at home though, playing with kids is a convenient DisplacementActivity.

I would say having accountability makes it harder to avoid starting the task. It's still not easy though.

-- DerekWoolverton
See http://www.sas.calpoly.edu/asc/ssl/procrastination.html for more information on the characteristics, causes and the overcoming of ChronicProcrastination.
I have long suspected that the reason managers and businesses are so excited about PairProgramming is because it will cut down on web surfing. One computer, two people, really keeps that slave-driving whip going. Not nearly as easy to pretend you are working. Catbert would be proud.

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