In Defense of Procrastination

In this troubling time, I often feel bad by procrastinating on my tasks at hand.

Calm down.

I just read these pieces from Nassim Taleb's book, Antifragile.

Naturally, we procrastinate when the problem is not critical (or important). No wonder I was an uber-deadliner in college. (College projects and exams are just playthings).

When the task is critical or important, we naturally do it right impulsively. This might explain why we perform best under pressure and under strict deadline. And this might also explain why when we work on something with a mission or a higher purpose, we tend to do it with more urgency and stamina.

Psychologists and economists who study “irrationality” do not realize that humans may have an instinct to procrastinate only when no life is in danger. I do not procrastinate when I see a lion entering my bedroom or fire in my neighbor’s library. I do not procrastinate after a severe injury. I do so with unnatural duties and procedures.

Procrastination is a natural selection over what tasks should occupy our time.

Since procrastination is a message from our natural willpower via low motivation, the cure is changing the environment, or one’s profession, by selecting one in which one does not have to fight one’s impulses. Few can grasp the logical consequence that, instead, one should lead a life in which procrastination is good, as a naturalistic-risk-based form of decision making.

This will definitely spark a debate between passion vs discipline though. I feel that discipline is important, but for me, discipline will come naturally when I actually care about the task at hand.

Actually I select the writing of the passages of this book by means of procrastination. If I defer writing a section, it must be eliminated. This is simple ethics: Why should I try to fool people by writing about a subject for which I feel no natural drive?

The solution might be just to change the environment so that it gives us more worthy tasks.

Using my ecological reasoning, someone who procrastinates is not irrational; it is his environment that is irrational. And the psychologist or economist calling him irrational is the one who is beyond irrational.
In fact we humans are very bad at filtering information, particularly short-term information, and procrastination can be a way for us to filter better, to resist the consequences of jumping on information, as we discuss next.