Sunday, February 13, 2005

Pro....cras.......tin...... .....ay.............. ..shun

I remember once reading one of those "Demotivational" posters - parodies of those "Motivational" posters that somehow became a popular craze for offices everywhere around the world - about the subject of procrastination. The quirky punchline was: "Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now."

Despite having a good chuckle at the time, the more I ponder that phrase, the more I wonder if it makes a pointed observation. Procrastination usually accomplishes nothing - not even the successful avoidance of whatever task one is procrastinating over. One still winds up doing it in the end anyway. So what, exactly, is the "payoff" of procrastination? Obviously there must be one, otherwise it wouldn't be such a popular human pastime!

Procrastination seems to be like a struggle between a little character inside us that says "Relax... you've got plenty of time yet... do it later!" and another that says "Hang on.. this is important - shouldn't you be DOING something about this right now?"

I came across the following interesting link the other day - it's an extract from J.G. Bennett's book "The Sevenfold Work".
We must not forget that the denying part of ourselves is part of reality and can rightly be called the "holy denying" as Gurdjieff phrased it. Without the element of denial, no triad can be set up and there can be no work. All action comes under the law of three and each of the three forces affirm­ative, receptive and reconciling - is required.

We must also be careful to recognize that although it is in the nature of man to transmit the affirming force; he is not a source. It would not be far from the truth to say that all that a man actually is, is denial: this is the very character of actuality.
This idea of denial being the character of man's lower, material, actualised nature fits very well with procrastination I think. Procrastination = the triumph of Denial.

In a certain sense, procrastination can be thought of as the "path of least resistance" which is where the "payoff" comes into it. Fighting procrastination is like swimming against the current - most certainly possible, but requires a net input of effort and energy. Not doing this is the equivalent of floating downstream - effortless, soothing and relaxing.

It is not without consequences though. When you float downstream for a while, you can end up quite far away from where you need to be, and the effort required to "get back" is often a lot more than if you just did the damn job in the first place! Perhaps in thermodynamic terms, procrastination is an activity that leads to a net larger increase in the entropy of a system than if one "seizes the day", so to speak.

This is all well and good, but it doesn't ameliorate the effort required when a task is upon me. Indeed, you have witnessed an act of a man struggling with procrastination merely by viewing this blog entry!

In fact, the thought struck me while writing this to do a "Google: I'm Feeling Lucky" search on the word "Procrastination". This unearthed a most entertaining essay which allowed me to waste minutes of valuable time reading instead of finishing this blog entry.

And how evil is that Navbar at the top of blogs? You can spend all day flicking through all sorts of blogs and not get around to writing entries in your own!

In fact, if that's what you're doing right now then I'm not going to help facilitate your procrastination one bit further. Get to work you lazy bum!


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