During a precrastination coffee and chat with a friend this Monday morning, I recalled that I’d previously procrastinated way back in 2009 by writing about procrastination in piece titled ‘pro- and con- crastination.
And then repeated this ploy by re-publishing the thing in 2018.
Here, in case you never got around to reading it the first two times around, is a repeat repeat of it, at least in part, while I procrastinate about posting something new:
Are you sure you’re ready to peruse this post right now? Absolutely positive you haven’t something more pressing to do before you start reading the thing, like I tried convincing myself that I had before writing it? No seemingly petty but nonetheless imperative tasks to perform first, like having a coffee or two, consulting your horoscope for the day, answering a few emails, visiting a couple of your favourite websites and breaking for an early lunch like I did? No? You’re really, truly ready to roll?
There’s no rush, you know. So if you’re thinking how much fresher and more mentally alert you’d feel if you paused for a quick shower before you settle down to concentrate on what I have to say; or how much less guilty you’d feel about wasting your time over it if you cleaned your house first, go right ahead.
I honestly don’t mind waiting. I’ve procrastinated so long in producing this piece that a delay of another few minutes, hours or even days before you get around to tackling it won’t make the slightest difference. In any case, if and when you do get around to reading it right through, then you’ll be stuck with the task of dreaming-up some other way to delay tackling whatever tiresome task you’re keen to put off.
‘Procrastination’, as my dictionary reveals now that I’ve finally taken the trouble to consult it on the subject, derives from a combination of the Latin words ‘pro’ (forward) and ‘crastinus’ (tomorrow). No rush to finish this today, then.
So I’ve been taking time out for a little light Googling. One site I’ve stumbled on, procrastinationhelp.com, reveals a report by researchers Tim Pychyl and Jennifer Lavoie that 47% of the time spent by people online is for the specific purpose of work-avoidance.
I could have told them that, though their figure of 47% seems a bit on the low side from what I’ve observed over the years of my own behaviour and that of my colleagues in various offices in which I’ve been paid to put off doing some work.
As I see on quotegarden.com and other sites I must someday get around to bookmarking, lots of famous people have made decidedly disapproving remarks about postponing what needs to be done.
“Procrastination is the thief of time,” for example, which I recall was a favourite of my old school Latin master and which, given his unaccountable enthusiasm for dead languages, I assumed to be a translation of a line by Ovid or one of those other ancient Romans who dedicated their careers to making future generations of schoolboys miserable. But no, it was an English poet named Edward Young, apparently, who uttered the immortal line in 1742.
A few Romans reputedly did proclaim on the topic of procrastination, however. The poet Horace for one, who wrote, in Latin of course: “Seize the day! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think.” But this seems ambiguous to me, in that it could equally mean either seize the day and get something done, or seize the day, forget work for now and have fun doing some random surfing.
Decidedly unambiguous, however, was Roman statesman Cicero’s stern statement that “in the conduct of almost every affair, slowness and procrastination are hateful”. Other similarly negative remarks on the subject include “You may delay, but time will not” (Benjamin Franklin), and “Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin” (Victor Kiam).
Then there are those that go even further to warn of the depressing consequences of delay, like “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task” (William James) and the even more dispiriting “Every duty which is bidden to wait returns with seven fresh duties at its back” (Charles Kingsley).
The only ray of encouragement I can find for those of us who prefer to think – or resort to almost any other diversion – before ripping right in and getting our work done is Mark Twain’s admonition to “never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow”.
Though I strongly suspect that Twain failed to follow his own advice, as he wrote many longer and far more famous books than I ever will and still found time to dream-up cynical sayings.
And so on and so on. Naturally, I’ve had a few more crazy notions on the topic during periods of procrastination since penning that. For example, there’s the thought that religions are just ways for people to praycrastinate in the face of disasters like their deaths, if possible eternally.
And that my homeland of Australia is currently a procrastiNation under a conservative coalition government determined to endlessly delay action against any improvements whatever, from the construction of proper Covid quarantine facilities and rapid vaccine roll-out instead of the stroll-out, loll-out or outright LOL-out they’ve achieved so far, to anything but a pretence at recognising the reality of climate-change, let alone the need to do anything about postponing it.
That’s about all I have to say on the subject right now, you’ll be delighted to learn. Because I’m sure you must be eager to get on with your next means of procrastinating before getting on with what you’re supposed to be – and even paid – for doing right this minute.