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Snigelism: The Illusory Choice of Postponement

When I launched Snigelism, my intention was to publish small pieces of wisdom I have stumbled upon during my striving to change myself to the better. It seems incredible to me now that I wrote that introductory post more than two years ago, and it is probably a sign that people really overestimate my capacity for self-discipline. I intend to change that.

One of the most important ways to achieve your goals is to gain control over the available amount of time. If you are like me (and I think most people are), you spend way too much time procrastinating and wasting time you would really like to invest in some project or other. Time management should not be thought of as some sort of outside force imposing itself on your life, but is merely a way of doing what you really want to instead of what yields the least resistance at the moment (this is a link to an article I wrote on the purpose of time management).

That being said, I would like to claim that postponement is one of the worst antagonists of living a happy life (no, I do not think that this is an overstatement, but I shall have to write a separate article on that subject). Even if everyone is not ready to go that far, let us at least agree on that postponing tasks is not good. Then let me share with you a realisation which works pretty well for me and, hopefully, others. The idea is that people in general are very confused when they postpone tasks. Say that I have a task which has to be completed Friday (today it is Sunday). Most people think that the choice they make is whether to complete the task today or postpone it to tomorrow.

This is an illusion. The choice is between doing it now or doing it as late as possible, preferably late Thursday night. Why? Because the circumstances leading up to the decision to postpone today will be more or less exactly the same tomorrow as they are today, which will invariably lead to the same conclusion being made, i.e. postponing yet another day. Before you know it, you know it, it will be Thursday evening and you still have not even begun. The reason you will do it on Thursday, rather than on one of the other days, is that then the circumstances have changed.

Like Alan Watts once said: “there is no future, the past never happened” (this is not verbatim and I cannot remember when he said it), i.e. there is only the present and everything else is machinations of the mind. If you want to change something, you can never postpone it to an imaginary future; all action takes place in the present.

Naturally, there are exceptions to this, since the assumption that circumstances do not vary is a very sweeping one. Try to be conscious about why you postpone something. Do you genuinely believe that the circumstances will be different tomorrow, or do you just postpone because you cannot be bothered to complete the task right now? Because if the circumstances are the same, there is no reason whatsoever that you should make a different decision. Realise that postponing a task is sometimes necessary, but be aware of why you are doing it.

I know this is fairly abstract, but the concept has helped me greatly in understanding why I postpone tasks (mostly assignments) until the last possible moment. I know that understanding is not enough to solve a problem, but let us take one step at a time, yes? Combatting ignorance about the ways in which my own mind works is the first step, necessary to take any others that might follow.

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  1. Frida’s avatar

    Tack! Det där var vad jag behövde läsa för tillfället! :)
    Har varit så seg och skjutit på allt för mycket den senaste tiden. Men nu börjar jag skolan igen och då ska det bli nya tag! Fick förresten Mvg på samhällskunskapen i höstas. *nöjd* Kram!


  2. Olle Linge’s avatar

    Så trevligt! Både att du tycker att det verkar vettigt att du fick bra betyg. Det andra förvånar mig väl inte speciellt mycket; det kändes rätt givet att det skulle gå bra förutsatt att du orkade hänga i och det verkar du ju ha gjort. Bra jobbat. Kram själv. :)