COLIN DRURY: Why there’s joy in procrastination

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TODAY I’m going to write about procrastination – after I’ve made a cup of tea.

I do that a lot, mash up before starting work. Always have done.

The British Empire was built on a brew, and there’s no way I’m starting 550 words without one. I told a features editor this once. He told me to stop paraphrasing Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and get on with it. On reflection, he had a point.

But – here’s my opposing point – isn’t it just so hard to, you know, get on with it?

I am a procrastinator.

I delay. I avoid. I put off. I cannot help it.

New research – revealed this week by the DePaul University in Chicago – may say such behaviour will ultimately make me less wealthy, less healthy and less happy. And that same research may be chilling enough to give a kick up the indecisive derrières to some of the world’s estimated 20 per cent chronic procrastinators.

But with this column, here I sit, each week, staring at a still-blank screen.

I brew up. Check emails. Flick through The Star. Stare out the window. Read The Daily Mail website. Send a text. Is it time for another cuppa yet? Must be. Can be. I look at my screen. Look at my watch. Start a conversation with anyone walking past.

Sometimes I convince myself I’m allowing thoughts to digest or waiting for inspiration. But mainly, I’m just watching The Mighty Ducks on You Tube or something.

And worse, it’s not just on The Man’s dollar either. I have wasted half my life wasting half my time.

If, as the poet Edward Young declared, such behaviour is the thief of hours, I am the kind of person who leaves his door unlocked and the valuables on show. A repeat victim, suffering some form of Stockholm Syndrome and always calling out ‘come back, young man, and rob me again’.

At its most benign, this has meant a friend and I have spent several nights in pubs we don’t like because we can’t decide where else to go.

At its worst, serious life bureaucracy is avoided. A colleague once called me sententious because I’ve never taken out insurance which wasn’t legally obliged. I don’t even know what sententious means but rather suspect he’s not being complimentary. I keep telling myself I’ll look it up one day. I know I won’t.

Because here’s a thing: when I think about it – and I have done in those idled hours – I’m happy to be a procrastinator.

For what sort of madness is doing something now which can be avoided until later? Is it not to ignore that most fundamental of truths: that there will always be tomorrow but today will never again exist?

See, one thing I’ve become convinced of is that taking action is rarely the best form of, well, action.

Far better to let things slide, see what happens, take some time. Doing is easy; doing nothing is not; and undoing what’s done is the hardest of all.

To wait is not unwise, for time – even five minutes on The Daily Mail online – brings knowledge. To show self-doubt is not weakness, it is humility. And if that later brings pressure, it brings purity too – for nothing can focus a mind like a deadline drawing its guns.

In short: there is joy in procrastination.

In even shorter: I’m mashing up again.