There was a fascinating book review recently in The New Yorker about The Thief of Time, a book of essays on procrastination. I read the article, but have put off buying the book. Surprise. The article points out some ways in which procrastination can benefit us, which made me feel a little better about my habits of putting off ’til tomorrow what I could easily do today, but mostly it left me with the uneasy feeling that all of us would be better off if we just got our behinds into gear.
Here’s something that stuck with me from the article: “According to Piers Steel, a business professor at the University of Calgary, the percentage of people who admitted to difficulties with procrastination quadrupled between 1978 and 2002.”
I blame the internet.
No, seriously. Computers are an inexorable part of most of our lives, and it’s oh-so-easy when we’re supposed to be doing something productive to slip on over to Facebook, or Twitter, or Wikipedia, and then we look up at the clock and an hour has gone by. I’m not even going to get into the numbing effects of games like Farmville and Bejeweled.
I’ll admit I’ve been tempted by it, but I keep thinking I should have enough willpower just to do it. Just to write, or finish my blog posts, or catch up on my e-mail. I think that’s where a lot of us run into problems – we’re sure that elusive key to Getting Things Done is lurking somewhere inside us if we just had the strength to stay away from distractions.
But sometimes distractions are real – family and friends and housekeeping and day jobs, and all the things that keep us from doing whatever it is we really meant to be doing.
So what causes you to procrastinate? Is it genuine life stuff, or are you a sucker for wandering the tubes of the internet until you find yourself reading the Wikipedia entry on cheese?