The Blog

Should We Defend Our Procrasti-nation?

Monday marked the launch of the 'Great British Procrasti-nation' report: the first ever in-depth look at the nation's procrastination habits. I admit ,I admired the playful pun for a while; it didn't last long.

Procrastination report just goes to show how we view people as machines.

Monday marked the launch of the 'Great British Procrasti-nation' report: the first ever in-depth look at the nation's procrastination habits. I admit ,I admired the playful pun for a while; it didn't last long.

Based on a YouGov survey of over 2,000 adults, RateSetter, the UK's leading peer-to-peer lender, reveals that Britons spend over three hours procrastinating per day: amounting to 55 days of lost time each year.

The most common avoidance tactic is time spent in front of the box, with the average Brit spending an hour per day glued to the screen instead of undertaking the task at hand. This is closely followed by online procrastination for 33 minutes and life blogging on social media, absorbing a further 25 minutes per day.

Yet, procrastination isn't just the thief of time; it steals money too. Unproductive hours cost British businesses £76 billion each year in lost hours.

But why publish such a report?

"The idea behind this research was our observation that many people across Britain are unhappy about their finances, yet avoid doing the simple things that could make them better off" says Rhydian Lewis, Founder and CEO of RateSetter.

For these reasons, RateSetter has launched its #MakeTodayPay campaign: aimed at encouraging people to kick their procrastination habits and start taking small actions to make a difference to their lives. The report itself is very nicely structured with lots of engaging, graphical aesthetics. Sounds motivating, right?

Cleverly, the report defines procrastination as the "voluntary delay of some important task we intend to do", meaning that we maintain some degree of liberty in deciding what those tasks are. So, if I planned to watch television with my wife, this would be totally acceptable (who is to say that is not important?)

Really the report is whispering, with the prod of the capitalist finger, 'stop being so lazy and do something more useful. Look how much you're costing the nation.'

The issue I have with this passive aggressive message to the people of the UK, is, not only that it defines procrastination as anything that is 'unproductive', but it puts forward that our humanity is purely defined as agents of productivity.

Our social machine already runs from the exploited profits from the variable capital of labour; however, we are not enough like automatons Now every waking moment must be filled by something 'valuable', (whatever that definition is made to be.)

Voicing that if we don't stop 'wasting time' we deserve to be badly off is distasteful in this climate of finger pointing at the downtrodden. Mr Lewis, what makes people unhappy with their finances is the rate of pay against the rising cost of living and the state of our society's fundamental structure. Making a cup of tea every half an hour, flicking over to Facebook while we wait for some printing to go through, or taking time to do our makeup isn't something to lambaste from the rooftops as theft, or propose as a reason people face financial problems.

At the heart of this report is the troubling opinion that, as a society, we are uncomfortable with human mediocrity.

There exists the mentality that in order to succeed in life we must work for it until, decked out in gadgets and fat with gluttony, we are able to offer a sizable tip to the ferryman for our last boat cruise across the river Styx.

I don't care that 76 billion is wasted as a result of so called 'lost time'. Who is to measure the true value of our time? Sitting down and watching television could be productive: offering us time together as couples or families, give us things to talk about, and add to our social development. Even spending time on Facebook has led to wider social networks and an increased understanding of the world we live in. We can support charity drives that raise millions for valuable causes, join important global debates and even stimulate us to become more involved in the world around us. Hell, even sitting down in silence is good for us.

As autonomous beings, we are far more than agents of production. Being human, I am able to attribute value. I value moments smoking my pipe in inanimate self-reflection; I value sitting wrapped up in warm conversation with friends; I also, more than anything, value blowing off plans if I don't feel like it. If a loss of 76 billion is the cost, so be it.

The vices of the capitalistic approach of the western world mean we already work most of our existence so that we may pay a lifetime of grind to be rewarded with the prize of diminutive leisure. Procrastination may be to the detriment of the economy, but it's a textbook example of humanities' beautiful imperfection. So let's allow the machines to labour; let us live.