I’m writing this on a Thursday. This fact becomes more significant when you know that 1pm on a Thursday is my deadline for submitting a weekly article to Badoink. I may think about writing something for Badoink on a Wednesday. I may even contemplate the topic of the article on a Tuesday. But I could no more write the damn thing before Thursday than fly to the moon. Mainly because on Wednesday I’m writing for Wednesday’s deadlines, Tuesday for Tuesday’s and so on… you get the point. Now, I could spin this and present it as a well-run schedule but let’s call it what it is: procrastination.
If we wanted to play the game of dividing the world into two types of people, one neat categorising division would be: organized, well-prepared people and last-minute merchants. I look upon the former with a combination of envy and annoyance and as a member of the latter group, I regularly experience bouts of either exhilarating adrenaline-fuelled productivity (as a deadline approaches) or debilitating stress and anxiety (as I realise I’ve left it too late… again). Does any of this sound familiar?
Thing is, we’re told (often by bosses and managers as we slave for our crust) that procrastination is a bad thing. I prefer not to believe that. Not least because if it is a bad thing, that makes me (as a procrastinator) a bad person, which is something I’d rather not be. Or, if I’m going to be labelled a bad person I’d prefer it be for my evil plot to rule the world and not simply because of my inability to get my shit together (problem: Machiavellian global dictators tend to be organised – hmmm…)
So what’s the psychology? Well, the Jungian viewpoint labels our two types of people as ‘judging’ and ‘perceiving’. Those with a judging preference tend to like to make decisions, have things settled, be more organised and chances are they’ll get the job done early. Whereas folks with a perceiving preference (hi there!) like to keep their options open, hold off on making decisions that might limit possibilities, be more spontaneous and freewheeling, and even though they get the job done, they’re probably to be found working frantically right up to the wire to get it done on time.
Interestingly (in fact, I don’t so much feel “interested” as incredibly smug over this) a book published a couple of years ago by professor Frank Partnoy suggests that ALL decisions should be made at the last possible minute. Deciding quickly, working rapidly doesn’t always get the best results. Taking time to think, to dream, to ponder can lead to something a little more rounded and considered and – dare I say it – of a better quality.
Because this is the thing. Although there is such a thing as ‘bad’ procrastination where you spend the time on useless tasks and diversions (we’ve all lost an afternoon to Angry Birds, right?) often the time is spent on other equally important activities. Other deadlines. Other research. Other priorities. At its best, procrastination is a technique that allows you to surf your to-do list, tackling what attracts you most at any given moment, and therefore carrying out each task with some genuine enthusiasm. Sound good? Well, that’s what I tell myself when I spot yet another deadline hurtling over the horizon.
Now, I wonder if I’ll get this article in on time…