Revamping my Professional Communication course was near the top of my to-do list for the entire summer of 2013. I never quite managed to get to it, figuring I could work things out on the fly as needed and deciding whatever I was doing at the time was much more important and time sensitive. In all honesty, I have no idea what I did instead but I do know I never got around to the revamping. I wasn’t all that bothered by my indolence but I think at this exact time last year I would have been a little less nervous starting up the course in early September 2013. More on this later.
Last Friday I wrote a blog post. It stemmed from a private conversation I’d had with a friend about teachers asking for help on Facebook groups. I wasn’t thrilled with my post, and I was even less thrilled when chatting about it with my friend and realizing there was a lot to the topic and he was making some reasonable and interesting points I’d not mentioned. By this time I had written nearly 1500 words and I wasn’t keen on scrapping them and re-writing the whole piece. I felt attached to what I wrote, even if I didn’t love it and finally posted it. Although I was not so happy with the post, I was very happy with the responses in terms of comments here on the blog and on the Facebook group in question. I was very impressed with the thoughtful replies and the bigger picture and wider issues that emerged in the conversation. I even had a great face-to-face conversation with a friend about it yesterday. In the end, I was very happy I took the time to write the post and I was also happy I hit publish on something I wasn’t super proud of.
Back to last summer’s laziness and last fall’s course, then. Due to a lack of students the Professional Communications course was cancelled. I felt a sense of relief because I was not 100% prepared for the course (though again I think it would have worked out fine and I could have managed well enough). In addition to that sense of relief was a feeling of being pleased to not have “wasted” the labor preparing for the class. I was glad I hadn’t spent hours in the boiling summer toiling over a course that never actually happened. I felt lucky and a bit smug, even thinking I was wise to delay my work until the very last minute.
A few years back, when working on a training course, I had an experience where I delayed making a final decision or putting a lot of effort into some component of the course I was not completely sure would happen. I think my co-trainers were uneasy about this but I tried my darndest to convince them to adopt a wait and see attitude. They did, and in the end the thing that was supposed to happen didn’t happen on anything like the scale we’d been told it would. I felt justified in my Predictive Laziness™ and felt maybe my experience working in Korea was helpful here as things in the Land of the Morning Calm are never sure until they are happening. I even remember thinking being a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of guy is not part of my original nature and is just a result of working in Korea.
The more I thought about being so freakin’ happy about not performing a moment of work where the results were not used the more disconcerting I found it. Surely there would be some lessons to be gained from revamping a curriculum even if I didn’t’ use it in the three months immediately following this revamping. Of course I could have devoted more time to a decision that would have put my co-trainers at ease even if I wasn’t perfectly convinced things would happen as we were told. Again, there would be some lessons to gain from thinking those decisions through and talking them out. What is so wrong about writing 1500 words and then scrapping them? Nobody would be hurt and, again, maybe some valuable lessons would spring out from it. But, I couldn’t bear to waste the labor.
My pride at skillful avoidance of work that would not be needed immediately turned into something like embarrassment or worry. Instead of being a product of working in Korea was this some sort of personality defect? Did it make me unsuitable for the type of work I like to do and what I’d like to do? With some more thought, I decided these questions were more than a little dramatic.
I wonder if this strong desire to not do work that wouldn’t be used was a common feeling for other teachers (or any workers) or it was stronger in me than others. Maybe this is human nature and not some strange foible of my own. Do these feelings sound familiar to you? I keep thinking it is related to not wanting to admit a sunk cost or something related to loss aversion, except in this case it is about lost time and effort. Maybe I am more fearful of these than I need to be. I know I can waste an hour happily doing other things without any worries. I wrote this post instead of doing some things I need to do, potentially putting them off till the last possible minute. Who knows, perhaps my tasks will be miraculously erased or done by someone else.
As always, potential employers, I am just joking around and if you hire me I will devote myself to any and all tasks I am given and will do them in the first available opportunity.