Procrastination and impatience

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by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

I am hard-pressed to know which is worse, procrastination or impatience. They are the polar ends of two antithetical excesses. Neither is particularly desirable and I suspect both would readily find their way into the catechism of the most common sins of society.

Some people excuse their practiced and habitual procrastination by reasoning that it is only when the pressure is on that they can really perform. While I accept that that may be so, I confess that from my point of view – as someone who admires the timely prosecution of an undertaking – having to deal with delay under any pretense is not my preference. I unashamedly equate procrastination with laziness or at the very least shilly-shally behaviour. I imagine that for some of the more cynical and calculating members of the herd, the device of procrastination operates as a skillful tool when seeking to press others to the wall concerning some point of negotiation or consummation of a business transaction. It may even be sufficiently distorted to suggest that procrastination is, like its gentler cousin "patience", a virtue of sorts but that is a deceit. It is well to recall that the best mask for a treacherous heart is an honest face!

Impatience, by comparison, doesn’t fare much better under the microscope. It can easily ensnare one in abrupt and regrettable circumstances all for the sake of getting on with it. I think we can all recollect those moments of impatience which precipitated unhoped for results. Balancing that possibility, one could argue that a dose of impatience affords one the opportunity to capitalize on events before the window is lost. Frankly though I hardly believe that impatience can ever be excused under that particular disguise. Due diligence should not be confused with getting on your horse and riding off in all directions.

While it is all very well idly to contemplate the negative and positive features of both procrastination and impatience, the ineluctable truth is that for those of us who suffer from either affliction, we invariably submit instinctively to our accustomed habits when the occasion allows. The best we can hope to accomplish is the dilution of our inherent preferences to foster some degree of reasonableness in whatever pattern we choose to follow. However, given that our instincts are akin to a salmon to spawn, it is pretty much assured that we’ll conduct ourselves as we always have, bumbling our way through life’s daily conundrums. What is more likely than anything is that we’ll end by rationalizing our failed tactics, perhaps more charitably towards ourselves as we age and perfect the drama.

I’ve heard it said that procrastinators are generally clever, artistic people, people who of necessity require time to digest and formulate a tact before engaging themselves fully. By contrast the impatient person is known to be obsessive and even a bit neurotic. Either way, there are challenges. The procrastinator may never get off the ground; the impatient person may never get to the end. If ever it should transpire that people of these two juxtaposed personalities should come within one another’s orbit for mutual purposes, the result is certain to be disastrous.