Power of positive procrastination | Sunday Observer

Power of positive procrastination

21 November, 2021

‘Procrastination is the thief of time’ is a proverbial saying coming down from the 18th century. It means that if you continually put things off, ultimately you achieve nothing. The proverb is found in the following poem titled ‘Night Thoughts’ penned by the English poet and dramatist Edward Young (1683–1765).

“Procrastination is the thief of time:

Year after year it steals,

till we are fled,

And to the mercies of a

moment leave

The vast concerns of

an eternal scene.”

Human life is comparatively short and much has to be learned during this time. Although most of us try to finish the day’s work as fast as we can, there are some people who keep on postponing their work for tomorrow. Rex (not his real name) was an intelligent boy who passed the G.C.E. O/L examination with flying colours.

For some unknown reason he kept on postponing his desire to study for the G.C.E. A/L examination. Instead he wanted to find a job. He accepted a job as a minor employee in a big organisation. After some years, he managed to get a promotion as a clerk in the same organization. Then he resigned from his job with a view to continue his higher education.

However, even after completing a course of studies he did not want to sit the examination. He said he could sit the examination later as he was still young. Many years passed and he did not sit the examination at all. One day he realised that he had turned 40. Today, he leads an unhappy life without a job and higher educational qualifications.


You may have come across such people who have messed up their life by postponing what they had to do when they were young. When repentance comes it will be too late to prepare for examinations. Even if they pass higher examinations, they will not be able to find a suitable job because of their advanced age.

All these things happen when postponement becomes a habit in their lives. If you say that you can do a task tomorrow instead of doing it today, you are a victim of procrastination. For them tomorrow never comes and they are heading for disaster.

You need a little bit of courage to do certain important tasks today itself without postponing them for tomorrow. Courage is a necessary ingredient to live and to achieve your targets. Only those who are courageous will reap the benefits in the future.

You have to question yourself whether you are a procrastinator or not. If you find yourself postponing many important tasks that should be accomplished today, you are a procrastinator. If you keep on postponing important tasks for tomorrow, you cannot blame outside forces for your failure in life.

You have to accept full responsibility for your failure. As Dr Wayne W. Dyer says, “Procrastination is the closest route to the universal erroneous zone.” As in all erroneous zones, there is nothing unhealthy about the behaviour itself. It is only the accompanying emotional reaction and immobilisation that represent neurotic behaviour.

As long as you postpone what you have to do today for tomorrow, you can use the rationale for not doing anything now. In the end you will find yourself in the folly of fairyland residents. In a way, procrastination means giving into escapism, self-doubt and most significantly self-delusion. Donald Marquis called procrastination “The art of keeping up with yesterday.”

Degrees of procrastination

There are, however, degrees of procrastination. It is possible to put things off up to a point on valid grounds. For instance, if you fall ill before the examination, you will have to wait for another year. But you must try to complete your studies prior to the deadline. A non-doer is very often a critic. A critic can sit back and watch doers and then wax eloquently about how others are doing well in life. Society does not need such critics, it needs doers.

Our society is full of critics, but not doers. Sometimes, we pay to hear them. Newspapers are full of critics slamming the g Government. However, they do not tell us how things should be done. When someone writes a novel, critics condemn it. Therefore, always try to be a doer rather than a critic.

It is time for someone to step forward in defence of productive procrastination. This may be something you may never have heard of in the past. If you look at it realistically, we put off mostly unpleasant projects. When you are in love, you never postpone writing a love letter. Similarly, you will never postpone meeting your lover. However, you tend to postpone unpleasant tasks. The key to positive procrastination lies in harnessing the creative ability to duck responsibility.

Unpleasant tasks

A productive procrastinator puts off unpleasant tasks. There is nothing wrong in such a practice because they treat procrastination as a force for social goodness. It leads to greater accomplishments in other worthwhile areas. Then you will be motivated to finish unappealing tasks. If you follow this method meaningfully, you will note that positive procrastination broadens your horizon. Most journalists are in the habit of finishing pleasant tasks first and think of completing rather unpleasant tasks later.

In a way, having something to put off can result in some goodness. Procrastination helps us to get in touch with one another. For instance, parents postpone household work to be with their children. Lovers put off official or semi-official duties to talk to their loved ones. Without such activities, your life will lead to boredom. Productive procrastination will also lead to gaining better information prior to making a decision. It allows some problems to go away by themselves with the passage of time. Introspection can be painful but extremely useful. In fact it can take an even more painful alternative to lead us to it.

We cannot denigrate all forms of procrastination. Productive procrastination allows us to accomplish more than we could without it. Although procrastination has been condemned over the centuries, there is an art of delay. This does not advocate laziness because it may require more effort to restrain your eagerness than to act instantly. Some of your activities require judgment.

Charles Simmons wrote, “He who takes time to think and consider will act more wisely than someone who acts hastily and on impulse. It is always wise to keep a problem in suspense, without prejudice, until you arrive at a clear, satisfactory solution.

[email protected]