From “Later” by James Surowiecki, The New Yorker (October 11, 2010). Click here to read the full article online.
But before we rush to overcome procrastination we should consider whether it is sometimes an impulse we should heed. The philosopher Mark Kingwell puts it in existential terms: “Procrastination most often arises from a sense that there is too much to do, and hence no single aspect of the to-do worth doing. … Underneath this rather antic form of action-as-inaction is the much more unsettling question whether anything is worth doing at all.”
In that sense, it might be useful to think about two kinds of procrastination: the kind that is genuinely akratic [doing something against one’s own better judgment] and the kind that’s telling you that what you’re supposed to be doing has, deep down, no real point. The procrastinator’s challenge, and perhaps the philosopher’s, too, is to figure out which is which.