Friday, April 15, 2011


April 15th, tax day...well, tax day for those who procrastinate anyway. We've had a senior writing a thesis on procrastination this semester, so we've all been thinking a fair bit about the topic, or at least we've been meaning to.

Procrastinating, to a first order approximation, means not doing something you are supposed to be doing. But, of course, we all have lots of different things we should be doing, some more important, others more pressing. If you set aside one thing you need to do for something else you need to do, you may not be procrastinating, you may be reasonably prioritizing your activities. Procrastination seems to have implicit within it, the notion of irresponsibility or irrationality.

Clearly, it presupposes that it makes sense to say that something needs to be done at a certain time, that is, there is some meaningful sense in which we can say "I should be doing this now." The procrastinator must agree that this is important and it should be done now, even if he or she has chosen not to do it now.

And it has to be a choice. If one is kept from doing something, one is not procrastinating. But the choice has to be one that -- despite having made it -- you think should be made otherwise.

Your projects and responsibilities give you a framework that constrains your choices, but does so willingly, that is, you accept the value of it. This framework will, at times, require certain tasks to be time-sensitive. Procrastination occurs when you try to subvert the structure that takes your freedom, even though, you yourself accept the value of that framework. Procrastination is a matter of perspective shift, of taking the minute and eliminating the larger context. You undermine the limitation, ignoring the fact that you agree with that which limits you. that is why it is simultaneously attractive and guilt-inducing.

That done, I better get to work.