Procrastination is inherently illogical to objective observers. Why make things so much harder on yourself, when avoiding last-minute stress seems easy? But we all do it. The New Yorker offers a great tour of different explanations for why we put things off.
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James Surowiecki, in reviewing a new collection of original essays by philosophers, economists and other thinkers on the subject of procrastination, The Thief of Time, covers a lot of ground in detailing all the reasons we procrastinate, along with how we justify holding off to ourselves. Among those reasons is a complex but likely relatable idea: there is more than one person’s thought processes inside us. There’s a version of you that knows how much doing some groundwork research now will help your larger goal, and there’s a version of you that really wants to just go grab some Starbucks:
But some of the philosophers in “The Thief of Time” have a more radical explanation for the gap between what we want to do and what we end up doing: the person who makes plans and the person who fails to carry them out are not really the same person: they’re different parts of what the game theorist Thomas Schelling called “the divided self.” Schelling proposes that we think of ourselves not as unified selves but as different beings, jostling, contending, and bargaining for control. … Similarly, Otto von Bismarck said, “Faust complained about having two souls in his breast, but I harbor a whole crowd of them and they quarrel. It is like being in a republic.” In that sense, the first step to dealing with procrastination isn’t admitting that you have a problem. It’s admitting that your “you”s have a problem.
The whole essay is truly worth the time spent reading — unless, of course, you’ve got something to do that you just know is going to bite you later.
What we can learn from procrastination [The New Yorker]