In a world where we are constantly exhorted to act, to do something, to get results, the term procrastination is often bandied about – half in fun and half in admonishment – as a reminder of how good we are at putting things off. Implicitly procrastination suggests failure, unreliability and, in a place where action is commonly held to be ‘good’, procrastination brings with it the automatic condemnation of non-action, so definitely something ‘bad’.
But if you think about it, putting something off IS doing something; it requires making a choice (not to do something else) and a course of action (whatever we do to avoid doing whatever we are putting off). So procrastination IS a chosen course of action, and maybe instead of using it for self-flagellation the term should be rehabilitated and seen in a more positive light.
We all need to stop from time to time, to pause, withdraw from the hurly-burly and constant demand that we feel, to take stock. Filling our time by doing things is OK up to a point, but, as I have written before, time for reflection is just as important. Unfortunately we often don’t do enough of this and the result can be a general feeling that we lack direction or that our lives lack purpose or fulfilment. At a more day-to-day level if we don’t stop and think we can fill our lives with the meaningless, or an endless sequence of ‘things we have to do’.
So I am calling for a new deal for delay, or a proposition for postponing things. Ed Milliband recently spoke about Predators and Producers, those who do nothing and ‘take’ vs those who do something and ‘give’. To stay with the rhetoric of politics, I’m suggesting a third way, Procratination may be Nature’s way of saying ‘not yet’.
‘Not yet’ is a concise and powerful phrase. It is laced with the promise that something will happen, yet laudable for its caution. It says ‘action will follow’, but not until I’m ready.