Why I procrastinate

Why do I procrastinate? I’ve been wondering for some time.

I’ve long wanted to write a personal Hesitancy Manifesto, but I kept putting it off. I guess I wasn’t ever quite ready, or maybe I was ready but still asleep.

I rationalized that creating a formal declaration of delay implied that I didn’t take the principle seriously. Let’s face it, few people do. Procrastination is not held in high regard. Take Major General George B. McClellan. Take Hamlet.

People assume that procrastinators can’t pull the trigger because they fear failure. But it’s not that simple. Sure maybe you don’t ask someone out because you’re afraid of being rejected. But suppose that person accepts your offer–what good is that?  Acceptance means you can’t go out with other people equally or even more desirable. Why rule out all those exciting unknown prospects by picking just one?

No, it’s not that I’m afraid to fail. It’s that I won’t settle for a single consequence.

Considering all the alternatives, no matter how remote, procrastination is only logical because procrastination is all about preserving possibility. For an architect, say, it’s easy to imagine a house of many shapes, sizes, and styles before the foundation is dug. As long as she doesn’t think too specifically about working, or start working, or actually work, she can build anything. And as long as she has yet to act, the possibilities are endless and every imaginable outcome presents unlimited promise.

To choose a course and act on it is to set all other courses aside. Until I lay down my first word, all sentences are available to me. So I procrastinate to preserve my maximum potential. As long as I hold off word smithing, I can prolong the pleasure of anticipating what I will write. And when that day comes when I do succumb to the urge to string letters together…

Why, then, the work’s mine oyster, Which I with word will open. 

In the meantime, all that latent award-winning writing? I know I have it in me.

Is laziness a uniquely human trait?

Today I watched a sharp-shinned hawk fly low over a field toward a lightpole on the far side.

Instead of flying to the pole’s peak, the hawk stops beating its wings 20 yards away. Spread wide and tilted back, the wings act like a kite to convert the hawk’s forward momentum into lift. With no further expenditure of energy, the hawk rises quickly from its flying height of 10 feet to 40 feet. It settles on the top of the pole as gently as dust, proof of the precision of its calculation.

How did this mere bird learn the principles of aero-dynamics behind that maneuver? Experience, of course, but experience guided by considerable intelligence.

Here’s another example: A dog retrieves a stick longer than itself by biting it in the middle. The heavier end drags awkwardly on the ground, however, making it hard to carry. Without hesitation, the dog shifts its jaws inch by inch toward the heavier end of the stick until it reaches a balance point. Problem solved.

Can we speak of these animals as having a knowledge of physics? Or is the ability to do the least amount of work mindlessly innate?

At any rate, we’re fooling ourselves if we think that humans are uniquely lazy. Or even very good at it.

On the contrary, we clearly don’t have enough sense to prefer the most efficient course of action. For example, considering our invention of bureaucracy, we might be the only species that makes more work for itself than is necessary.