There was an interesting article by Anna Della Subin in the Sunday Sept 28th New York Times entitled “How to Stop Time”, that was defending procrastination. It is here. I not only agree, but feel that procrastination is a good form of setting priorities, because many of us, partially due to computers and the internet, are tempted to take on more tasks than we can do well. Procrastination is a good way to ensure that the lower priority tasks will be delayed, and eventually passed over. Also, in these days of focus on efficiency and productivity (as usually measured by quantity of output rather than quality) it is often desirable to slow down. The mysterious component of thinking sometimes called incubation requires time—the first idea is not necessarily the best one. Achieving high product quality also requires time. And of course, so do families and social lives.
As an engineer, I am a believer in being a late adopter of new products in order to allow time for bugs and production glitches to be fixed, and service people to get used to them. Also to allow time to see them in use. I definitely don’t wait in line to be the first with a new Apple product. In fact, I am still procrastinating on owning a smart phone at all, because I don’t want to either surf the internet or be at the beck and call of large numbers of people when not in my office, and most people seem to be seduced into letting their smart phones usurp increasing amounts of their time. I fear I would be one of them.
There was another article in the same paper entitled “Kicking the Facebook Habit”, by Richard Morgan, with the subtitle “It’s had its moments. But I think I’ve broken the spell”. It is here. It is about escaping the increasing time demands of social networking. A good way to disengage from burgeoning social networking is to procrastinate on entries and responses. It may seem rude, especially if you are proud of your visibility, but if your friends are good friends, they will understand. Maybe they will follow your lead.
I seem to have followed a path in life that results in more e-mail messages than I can handle, many of them from people I’ve never met seeking advice about engineering as a career, colleges, admissions criteria, how to become more innovative, etc. I procrastinate on answering them, and by the time I get around to answering, I focus on those I remember as being written by people who might actually benefit from what I have to say. I never get around to answering the many from overseas who seek financial support for graduate studies and clever ways to get admitted to highly rated U.S. engineering schools, and that is okay because the same message has gone to dozens, if not hundreds of other professors.