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The Carletonian

A new approach to ~procrastination~

You may not realize that you struggle with procrastination. After all, most of us have learned to put off doing our homework, answering our emails and every other thing imaginable with only the faintest awareness that we are procrastinating—and many would consider this the epitome of skillful procrastination. While I would be the last to deny that unconscious procrastination is an essential skill, since there are circumstances where even the best of us will find it very difficult to procrastinate if we maintain full awareness of what we are doing, I am here to tell you that an overreliance on unconscious procrastination is the mark of an amateur procrastinator. If you can’t procrastinate without dulling your awareness of procrastinating, or even convincing yourself that you are not procrastinating at all, this is probably because you still find procrastination very difficult—not logistically or intellectually, but emotionally, since you fear that saving important tasks for later might disrupt your inner peace. Procrastinating unconsciously is certainly better than failing to procrastinate at all, but if you wish to become truly preeminent in procrastination, you must learn to procrastinate with mindfulness and intentionality.

The goal is to reach a point where you are making the conscious decision to procrastinate and remaining aware of your procrastination for as long as you are engaged in it—even if that awareness brings pain. Self-deception is not a problem in and of itself, of course, but in this particular case you should avoid it: hiding Procrastination from your conscious mind, like hiding a significant other from your parents, implies that you feel ashamed of what you are hiding. And aside from the fact that Procrastination (like your significant other) may well be offended by this, it simply isn’t right to show her so little respect.

 Procrastination is what philosophers would call a final good: we procrastinate for the sake of procrastination itself, not for some advantage we hope to obtain from it. This becomes abundantly clear when we consider how often people choose to procrastinate even when its consequences are likely to produce more harm than benefit. We may know that procrastination will provide us with an entertaining and dramatic story to tell all our friends and family members, like when we wait to start writing an essay until the day before it is due, so that we end up having to stay up all night to finish it, leaving our brain so exhausted that it regresses to the second stage of language acquisition and starts generating words like “thinked” and “beed” instead of “thought” and “was”—but even such a delightful outcome is unlikely to outweigh lost sleep, worsening grades and a state of general despair. So it is clear that we do not value procrastination merely as a means to the lovely memories it creates. 

Of course, I have not proven that procrastination is a final good in the strictest sense. Even if we do not usually value it as a means to achieve some result that will bring us happiness, we might simply value it as a means to immediate pleasure. That is, we might value procrastination only because we enjoy procrastinating. But if this is the case, why do we so often procrastinate even when it brings us no pleasure at all, sometimes even when it is utterly excruciating? Why do we scroll miserably through news stories and social media feeds in a state of simultaneous boredom and terror for the sole purpose of neglecting a painless five-minute task that would nonetheless feel so good to have taken care of? The only logical conclusion is that procrastination has immense intrinsic worth.

So the truly devoted offer sacrifices and libations, as it were, to Procrastination and her sisters Perfectionism, Laziness and Doubt—not as you would sacrifice to a god, sweetening your prayers with rich offerings and becoming justly indignant if the god does not respond, but to express unconditional love and respect for Procrastination, regardless of what she does or does not give them in return. They understand that the question is not how Procrastination can help them but how they can honor her.

A master procrastinator procrastinates fearlessly, shamelessly and recklessly. You can do this only when you love and honor Procrastination for her own sake.

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