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Procrastinate Now

Esther Rabi

Do you tend to delay whatever you can — sometimes indefinitely? At times, that trait can work to your favor. But if you’re trying to kick the habit, don’t despair. Even the most stubborn procrastinator can develop tools to help him accomplish tasks on time.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Procrastination: a long word that means the same thing as “sloth” but takes its time to say it. And yet, it’s not quite the same as sloth. Slothful people don’t alphabetize their spices before sitting down to work, as I do. Procrastinators aren’t necessarily relaxing in the hammock; they’re intentionally putting off a chore. In Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, (PublicAffairs),FrankPartnoy shares a story of prolonged procrastination. When Joe Stiglitz — who was spending a year in India with his friend — was ready to return to America, he realized all his belongings couldn’t fit into his suitcase. He boxed the overflow and asked his friendGeorgeAkerlof to mail it to him. Yet Akerlof woke up the next day and didn’t do it. He didn’t do it the next day, either, or the day after that. “My real problem was I didn’t know how to send it without wasting my whole day. This was India,” he said. “The bureaucracy was a nightmare.” Why did he procrastinate? Everyone knows the adages: Procrastination “makes easy jobs hard and hard jobs harder,” is “the thief of time,” is a sign of weak character. Even more confounding, decades later, Akerlof and Stiglitz (together with a third friend) shared the Nobel Prize for Economics, a science that’s based on the assumption that people act rationally. What could be more irrational than procrastination?

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