“Punctuality is the thief of time.” — Oscar Wilde
Believe it or not, procrastination doesn’t have to be an exclusively negative concept; to delay or postpone something may oftentimes be more sensible than not. We know just as much, but in this modern era of efficiency and productivity, we tend to lose track of the contemplative simplicity behind our action.
We often try to avoid any unnecessary delays, trying to be as efficient as possible. From a quantitative standpoint, it makes sense. From a qualitative standpoint, we often come back around to the realization that good things take time. But from a comprehensive viewpoint, whereby our habitual relationship with time is considered, procrastination may be a more of a tool than anything
It’s a definite cliché but I admonish taking the beaten path (literally, not so much figuratively). And so, as I found myself snow-shoeing through an unfamiliar valley this winter, I became especially restless following along the (again, literally) beaten-down path of fellow shoers.
After an hour or so trudging along atop packed snow, I decided to stray off course and set my sites towards a nearby hill, forested, crowned with a frozen lake atop its scenic lookout. A good problem: no public access to this lake.
I’ve recklessly meandered my way up that hill in the summer months, so I knew full and well that there had been, not one, but two streams that I’d have to cross on my way through the depth of the valley. Unfortunately, the fast-paced stream itself doesn’t freeze over in the winter — apart from several ice dams — so I had been left with a dice roll as to how best to cross; to select whichever frozen ice-bridge I thought most suitable as I stood on the edge of the ravine looking down upon my cold spectrum of options.
I’ve written plenty about how important our relationship with time is — about how it can motivate or stimulate us towards our goals, about how we can lean on the lessons of yesterday to solve the questions of tomorrow. But this is a bit different.. For I think that we can use time as a means to do the opposite of what we’re normally doing: progressing, relentlessly, towards our goals.
How would we do that? And, probably more importantly, why would we even consider doing that?
Because, vaguely speaking, there’s no reason to not take our time (or to take as much time) when it doesn’t behoove us to do so. Time, in a sense, can be a currency. Why rush to spend it?
Let me unpack what I mean. Our current generation is very results-oriented — it thrives on immediacy and doesn’t always focus on the slow smoldering that’s needed for a proper foundation towards any successful venture. I’m exaggerating a bit because this isn’t anything revolutionary, but stick with me.
You see, I’ve fallen through ice before. Fast-moving, bone-chilling, middle-of-winter kind of water. Not while snowshoeing — no, for I can’t even imagine the difficulty that would entail trying to kick my legs back up onto the ice with my feet buckled in to two obstructive platforms. In any event, it’s not pleasant and can surely be lethal if the right concoction of unfortunate circumstances presents itself.
Where I stood now, looking upon the ice-covered possibilities that may or may not support my weight across the stream, it would be about an hour snowshoe back to the trail and, from there, another hour back to the car. Soaking wet, that wouldn’t be an enjoyable experience — if I had been able to drag myself out of the stream in the first place. This vision didn’t necessarily dissuade me, as I began down towards the sturdiest looking crossing that I could find.
The thing about time and, specifically, our relationship with it, is that it requires an absurd amount of faith. At least for the forward-looking aspect of it. We don’t often hear faith and time in the same sentence, but they’re intimately intertwined.
It’s nonetheless crucial that we maintain a solid faith towards our accomplishment of any future task — a faith in our future selves to follow through. This, in all actuality, functions as somewhat of a pressure-valve for the present — we always have tomorrow, and with that notion, we steal a little more comfort today.
And so we begin to see how procrastination can be effectual — it can prompt us to not rush ahead without full intention or full confidence. To wait on something is to buy time and, as much as some of us may be adverse to the idea of delay, we should maybe consider it more of a tool than a by-product or outcome. Taking time to make a decision is never a bad thing.
Of course, every situation is different. Are we taking our time because we’re habitually slow at making decisions or because it’s a rather important decision to be made? Are we rushing something because we simply desire the outcome or because we’re being pressured by forces outside of our control?
It may help to better understand what happens when we prolong something; to understand why and who we’re deferring to. Oftentimes, we may find that we’re deferring to our future selves, who usually have more insight and clarity than our present selves.
It’s a bit of a fluffy concept, but as I’ve previously written: if we delinearize our relationship with time itself, count on retrospect and prospect to carry us forward as optimally as possible, we begin to see the circularity of our potential. We can leverage our positions in time to our benefit, count on future perspectives for clarity or past retrospection for meaning.
We often feel pressured by time, but why? Usually, we’re driven by our desire. Oftentimes, we can’t do anything about deadlines. But every time, we treat time as a commodity that, once spent, isn’t replaceable — and it truly isn’t — but this goes to show how valuable it really us. So when we can afford some time, why not take as much as we can take?
As I came upon the crossing I selected, I stood, mesmerized by the rolling currents of water disappearing and reappearing from under the narrow strip of snow ahead of me. I took a step forward, and another step. I bounced my weight up and down and, instinctively, despite the absence of any tangible sensation, something gave way.
I turned back. Over the ridge, across the field, onto the trail and into my car.
I figured to defer to my future self who, equipped with a few more seasons of understanding this particular landscape under his belt, will know much better as to how he ought to cross this bridge — whenever he comes to it again.
Read On: What Is Reality?