Diane Phillips: Admit It - There’S Never Been A Better Time To Put Off What You Have To Do Today


Diane Phillips


Over the holidays as our little public relations office was officially closed, I worked there nearly every day anyway because it is what I do.

I am not proud of that. Sorry, that is not entirely true. I am proud of the work, but not of the fact I’m always doing it. I have not fully mastered the art of procrastination, a subject with which I am growing increasingly fascinated.

There are lots of people who are really good at it, procrastination, that is.

They know how to use the ‘no’ word and say to customers or clients in their own business (where you would think they would be motivated to make a living) or those standing in front of them at a government office ‘later’ or ‘Sorry, I am going to lunch now’; or ‘Yes, I know you have been in line for 45 minutes but do you see the clock over there, the one that says five o’clock? Good. Then you understand why you have to come back tomorrow.’ Wow, they know how to procrastinate like experts, like they have a degree in it.

They are the ones who contribute to those messages from your favourite utility or airline, the messages that end with the words, “Sorry for any inconvenience” and are actually an outright insult to the intelligence of those they are offending. There is a good reason why those entities try to appease us with repeated apologies and, on a regular basis, have the nerve to think a heartless “sorry” soothes our ruffled soul. Do they expect we’ll just go quietly in the night saying, ‘What a shame we have no power and everything is going to spoil in the refrigerator: but, since they apologized it’s all good?” No, we are not going to settle for that.

The reason they are apologising all the time is because they procrastinated about getting important work done, raising funds - however you have to do it - to modernise, solarise an otherwise generate consistent quality power without interruption. It’s not just BPL - and we don’t mean to point fingers at them just because they’re an easy target. It’s throughout society, embedded in the culture.

Put off until tomorrow what you can do today and you’ll never run out of work.

Look, we all procrastinate to some extent. Procrastinating is easier than it’s ever been before, thanks to all the available data at our fingertips. We can put off balancing our chequebook, a job we dread, because we are busy reading the news online, which is far more interesting. The juiciness of the Royal Family, true or not, certainly beats the dryness of adding and subtracting what you deposited and what you spent and seeing if the bank got it right, which it probably did.

The consequence of procrastination - the longer you put it off, the bigger the task becomes until eventually maybe the need for it is totally negated, like if you had banked with Penny Savings, you would not have to worry about what’s in your account. But that is the exception to the rule. Most of the time procrastination just makes the task at hand even more onerous and dreaded.The untouched job germinates, it mushrooms like algae in a dark, moist environment.

If you think procrastination is something that’s recent history and our ancestors toiled from sun-up to sun-down, here’s the news flash. There is actually a history of procrastination that dates back to 3500 BC and is populated with dozens of fascinating examples.

According to one writer who researched the subject, Sarah Stodola, who published a paper in 2015 tracking procrastination through the ages, for as long as man has been alive he has taken the opportunity to do the task less demanding. Leonardo da Vinci, for instance, spent 16 years painting the Mona Lisa, not because it was a particularly difficult painting for him, says Ms. Stodola, but because he whiled away most of those 16 years doodling instead of painting. She points to the Roman Senate “stymied by fear” unable to make a single decision. And she references a Greek poet who wrote: ‘Do not put your work off till to-morrow and the day after; for a sluggish worker does not fill his barn, nor one who puts off his work: industry makes work go well, but a man who puts off work is always at hand-grips with ruin.’

How many times have we picked up something and moved it from here to there just because it filled the time and we did not have to face a tougher job? How often have we said to ourselves, ‘I’ll just watch a few more minutes of this show and then I’ll…?” You fill in the blank.

I’ve done all of the above, I confess. But the one thing I failed at is procrastinating when it comes to work and that is why I have been in the office nearly every day over the holidays while promising myself my New Year’s resolution would be to create a better balance and work less. It is only New Year’s Day, as I write this before the sun is fully up and already I have failed.

Procrastination when it comes to work is an art form I have yet to master though if you know a good teacher who has succeeded in life, please send the contact information as soon as possible. Don’t put it off. I cannot go on putting off learning to put off what can be done today until tomorrow.


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