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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Humour: The pleasures of procrastination

There’s no time like now to avoid completing that harrowing task!

brunch Updated: Oct 13, 2019 00:00 IST
Rehana Munir
Rehana Munir
Hindustan Times
When struck by a particularly strong pang of self-loathing for your procrastinating ways, think about Hamlet
When struck by a particularly strong pang of self-loathing for your procrastinating ways, think about Hamlet (Photo imaging: Parth Garg)
         

Once upon a time, before Netflix, Candy Crush and Amazon shopping were even a blimp in the imagination of an enterprising capitalist, the annual award for ‘The Thief of Time’ went unequivocally to Procrastination. Some of us, though, still “lose” more hours of our life to endless delaying tactics than to any of the aforementioned beasts. We drag our feet, wallow in denial, prevaricate and, of course, nap, all in an effort to avoid an unavoidable task. I could, for instance, take till the end of this page just to get to the point. But you get the point.

The tower of shame

It’s more complex than people make it out to be, this whole deal with delay. Let me give you a personal example. There is a pile – no, tower – of clothes, wedged between my cupboard and a wall, marred by discoloration. They are the result of washing machine disasters, of errant red socks mixing with a bunch of chaste whites. (And one beloved pair of shorts that was struck by a ballpoint pen disaster. The instrument actually exploded in my bag during a journey, leaving angry, indelible stains on every material in sight.

We drag our feet, wallow in denial, prevaricate and, of course, nap, all in an effort to avoid an unavoidable task


These clothes would make for the perfect Holi wardrobe, but for the fact I’m averse to the colourful part of the festival. And so, this collection of shame has been piling up for months, even years, in the hope that it will someday be taken to the dyers. Here, dear reader, charges in the monster of procrastination, baring its hungry fangs. I will do anything – even clean my cupboard – before making the sordid trip to the dyers. Also, can somebody please confirm dyers actually exist and that the services they advertise work? Many thanks.

To do or not to do?

Some tasks are more popular with procrastinators than others. In no particular order, here is a sampling: filing taxes, following up on insurance, updating software, replacing the yogurt in the fridge, withdrawing cash from the ATM, visiting the salon, and replying to a message inviting you to a silent yoga retreat with vegan food and happy souls to live simply in the heart of nature @ Rs 6,500 a night. Now, can a human be blamed for avoiding any of these harrowing tasks? Okay, I’ll give you the yogurt thing. But the rest are, simply, unspeakably harrowing.

My literature professor in college would often express her annoyance at the flak Hamlet gets for his legendary indecision. “But look what he has to decide about,” she would say in her magisterial manner. “About avenging his father’s death, for whom his uncle and his mother are responsible. Of course he’d be undecided!” Why not let Shakespeare into our slightly less dramatic argument, too. “Of course one procrastinates. Just look at how unpleasant the tasks one is avoiding actually are!”

Eat that frog later!

There is, inevitably, a self-help book to address the issue. Eat That Frog! it urges readers, falling into instant trouble with herpetologists. The crux of the book’s argument is that if you begin your day getting the most challenging task out of the way, it aids overall efficiency. It rouses you to get your act together, conducting your affairs with ‘decision, discipline and determination.’

I’m sure the author has changed lives with his parables about efficiency, but I, for one, do not wish to begin any day with eating a frog. Mornings are for warm beverages, replying to messages that have nothing to do with silent retreats, and gaping at the fridge, lamenting the lack of exciting breakfast options. Alternately, they’re for blaring music, a run in the park and a resulting feeling of achievement. There will be time to pay bills, chase payments and hate your bank. But why get to all of that a minute sooner than absolutely necessary? When you’re struck by a particularly strong pang of self-loathing for your procrastinating ways, think about Hamlet. I’m not sure the analogy works, but who wouldn’t want to be compared to a Shakespearean hero? Leave the remorse for later.

From HT Brunch, October 13, 2019

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First Published: Oct 12, 2019 22:14 IST

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