In praise of procrastination

If I were to summarise all the content of this essay, I would go to Sanskrit, and take inspiration from the famous “Karmanaye Vadhikaraste” verse of Sri Bhagvad Gita and then I would refer you all to following:

                                Karma-taalnaaye vadhikaraste, maa samay-seemaayasch kadachna;
                                maa samay-seemaay phla heturbhuh, maa te sangostv akarmani\

Emails upon emails keep piling on. From bill reminders to that of an old friend asking for an advice to that of alerts from my banks to those newsletters on latest in law, biotechnology and business to book recommendations from contacts on goodreads. I prefer them either deleted, replied or marked read, but thanks to the gene of procrastination in my genome that expresses certain undefined lazy proteins in my ‘phenome’ that I let the pile increase until it weighs heavy. Heavy on my conscience. Yes, conscience! How would you know? Have you procrastinated ever? If not, then try to practise this subtle art of laziness. It gives ample time at hand to do “nothing”, but cracks down heavily on conscience from time to time, just to let the artist move on to “newer” procrastinations. There is no fun in procrastinating matters you have procrastinated beyond a limit. Procrastination is, therefore, prolonged as habit by procrastination itself, through self-regulation mechanisms a la genetic regulations in a cell, usually by cracking whip on conscience. You need new procrastinations to keep this art alive throughout your life.

Why did I call this blatant act of defiance to the mighty Time as a subtle art?  I did so because in my endeavour to disregard timelines/deadlines, I have engaged in the defiance with characteristic creative skill of an artist. Why attend the tasks now when you can attend them later? I don’t procrastinate because I lack skills to attend to matters or complete the tasks. Au contraire, I procrastinate because I know, and know it very well that I can perfectly deliver in nick of time. Be it any task or work or mission. I do not understand why people complete tasks before time. There is no fun in doing so. It is so mundane. It is so routine. No experience gained, no sweat lost, and no heart trembling with excitement. Then, why do we work if we cannot maintain this equilibrium of loss and gain amidst trembling heart? At times, I have come to associate non-procrastination with mediocrity, especially when output is same as mine.

Procrastination doesn’t lie on fringes of modern work culture. People practise it all the time, from people in small start-up that procrastinate pitching to a VC in eternal hope to clinch one client before going to VC to people in a large multi-billion dollar multinational corporation that procrastinate till the date of product release. However, I must warn you. I must warn you that procrastination is not for faint-hearted, and it therefore, must be practised only by those who are genius, competent and know how to put things perfectly as required when the time is nigh. If you are none of these or are unable to click in the eleventh hour or you falter under an assumed [rather imagined] pressure of working in eleventh hour, procrastination is not for you. PLEASE, refrain from it. You bring bad name to us all ‘genius procrastinators’. I am being as serious as a snail here. It is because of mediocre people taking on the mantle of procrastination that managements and clients complain about it and seek “solutions”, and provide incentives to finish task on time. No incentive on earth will make me not procrastinate because I am not your regular procrastinator. To quote Yudhishthira from Mahabharata,” I procrastinate because I must”.

To the non-procrastinators, the less said the better. I would file my words particularly against those non-procrastinators who add nothing special or more than what we have to add, to a report or to a work or to a task assigned to them or a programme written by them – why do you exist? Why do you people work? Despite your undeterred fidelity towards Time, why are there more mistakes in your work than mine? Why?

Procrastination, in my view, is not pushing deadlines further. No. That would be professional harakiri and contrary to professionalism. Healthy and genius procrastination strives within deadlines and feeds on professionalism. You don’t push deadlines further, in any case, not more than day or two. You push the critical mass of your work/task towards the deadlines. In short, you sit pretty and do ‘nothing’ until the eleventh hour cometh. Now this “nothing” defines the quality of procrastinator and separates a regular from a genius. To sit idly is not the way of utilising your bliss period of procrastination. One must utilise it to enhance their learnings in the areas and subject matters that your profession has so brilliantly deprived you from indulging in. The non-procrastinators think that we, the procrastinators, ‘waste’ our time. No, Sir or Madam, we simply don’t ! To sit idly or sleep is a waste of time.  We, the intellectual procrastinators, have higher tastes and needs, and use this time to indulge with ourselves. To read books, newspapers, enjoying exotic sea food in a remote place, to watch that periodic drama, or to employ our labours in a football match nearby, or to watch a nice film or TV series is not waste of time, it is indulging in one own self, away from the mundanities of work and clients.

The good procrastinator is able to wield his/her brush naturally and perfectly on the canvass of otherwise mundane job, at the eleventh hour, and fill it with colours of brilliance. The brilliance that has been honed by indulging in high culture and high learning. I also procrastinate cleaning my room. In that period, I indulge in sipping green tea and reading books. The clothes upon clothes and books upon books and bedsheets upon bedsheets keep piling on, until I am surrounded by a fort-like structure made up of these ensembles. Then I get up, before it gets ‘too dirty’ or when I have a gut feeling that if the room isn’t cleaned and the doomsday is just around, I might die in a badly kept room. In order to prevent myself from dying in unkempt surroundings, I get up and clean my room and flat.

Procrastination must not be loathed, however procrastination by a lesser human must be sabotaged and criticised at any cost. Those who are incapable or are unskilled must not expose themselves to perils of procrastination, since it will be too risky a proposition for them. If you are not of a calm and tranquil disposition,procrastination is not for you. I would once again request you to refrain from indulging in this pursuit, because it will get too hot for you to handle. Your constitution is not meant to push limits, the critical mass of work and deadlines. Procrastination is for absolute geniuses, who are composed in their own being and use the time, thus stolen from the routine of work and life, for intellectual or delightful pursuits. I attribute my knowledge on literature, poetry, essays, politics, philosophy, sports, law and humans to procrastination. If not for procrastination, I would make a boring cog in a giant wheel of mundanity.  Long live the procrastination!


About Rahul

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1 Response to In praise of procrastination

  1. David Emeron says:

    Still… This is the first encounter with procrastination as “not-a-vice.” I find this explanation to be quite heart-warming. Some of us do mull work over for quite a long time. I have never looked at this as a form of procrastination, but clearly it is. Sometimes I will look at a project and try to develop a process for completing it prior to doing any work at all–not even making notes. The end result is usually my better work, although it does make the project take a good deal longer.

    In my world, I am surrounded by genius of all kinds and see quite a lot of this type of procrastination, as well as participating in it.

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