We promised in an earlier blog post that we were going to stop writing about procrastinating and spend our time doing some of the things we have been putting off.
But we can’t resist procrastinating just long enough to share what we learned from an article in The New Yorker. Written by James Surowiecki for the October 11, 2010, issue, it’s called “Later—What does procrastination tell us about ourselves?”
(No, we haven’t been procrastinating about reading the article. Someone just gave us a copy of it.)
According to Surowiecki, “the study of procrastination has become a significant field in academia, with philosophers, psychologists and economists all weighing in.”
It’s probably a basic human impulse, he explains. “But anxiety about it as a serious problem seems to have emerged in the early modern era.”
Samuel Johnson, for example, confessed that he procrastinated and described it as “one of the general weaknesses” that “prevail to a greater or lesser degree in every mind.”
Surowiecki discusses our “competing selves.” One self is more interested in short-term interests, such as having fun and putting off work, while the other self wants to work toward long-term goals.
The philosopher Don Ross says that both the short-term self and the long-term self are present at once, competing and bargaining with one another. One wants to watch TV, and the other wants to work.
A good solution is bargaining with yourself. If you work now, you can watch more TV later.