I first heard to the term ‘procrastination’ when I was in middle school. I was pleasantly surprised to hear of it because I never knew it existed. That there is a word to describe something that I quite often do when I was younger. All along, I am not sure if ‘procrastinating’ something is a good thing or a bad thing.

Procrastinate is to delay doing something at a much later time. It is in human’s nature to procrastinate. We all tend to want to delay doing something indefinitely. In fact, if we do not need to do it at all, all the better. But, is procrastinating a bad thing? Actually, procrastination does often has a negative connotation to it. If we are being logical, everytime we delay doing something, we risk abandoning the task altogether. Think of the many things you gave up trying because you procrastinate? E.g. dieting, exercising, reading that book, learning that new recipe, learn to cook, etc etc. I myself have gave up writing that diary I wanted to, the hobby of drawing, cycling, exercising, writing a daily budget list, etc, all thanks to procrastination.

Yet, procrastination is also just a way for us to prioritize things-to-do in our daily life. We have limited time everyday and if we take away our sleeping time & working time, effectively, we probably have less than a few hours daily. Most of our weekends, we spend resting and running errands (buying groceries, paying bills, washing clothes, etc). So whenever we promise ourselves or someone else that we will do something, we have to prioritize. In fact, we have to prioritize first before we commit to saying “I will do it”.

Prioritizing is something very hard to do, but everyone MUST do it well for a happy & well-balanced life. Prioritizing also differs from individuals to individuals and it is influenced by culture as well. For example, a husband may focus more on his career but his wife would put her priority on her children. So, if a child took part in a competition and he expects both his parents to be there, and only the mother went, perhaps the father prioritize his career over the kid. Is this such a bad thing? Maybe not, in considering that he supports the whole family by having a good career. Also, Asian culture tends to focus more on family and gives high priority to more senior members of the family, yet Western values self-interest and achievement. To this, I have the perfect example of Asian culture versus Western value. I have a cousin, studying high-school in a far away state from his home town. At least 3 hours journey away. He stays to study from Monday to Friday but he is free on his weekends. His parents (my relatives) therefore expect him to return home every weekend since there is no school anyway. He did so initially but soon find that it is quite tiring for him to do that on a weekly basis. On Saturday morning, he would take 3 to 4 hours (depending on traffic) to get back to his hometown. And on Sunday evening, he will have to brave the traffic and spend another 3 to 4 hours to get back to his campus. On average, he loses close to 8 hours to go back home. Is this ok? Yes, it is probably ok if he has nothing to do or if he is already working like myself. But he is still a student and he is attempting to pass his exams for his university entrance. So, he has something to achieve and he has to work hard for it. Travelling and spending his time on bus every weekend is surely going against his target of studying hard to achieve good grades. His parents were typical Asian family and do not understand how competitive and difficult it is to get good grades for university entrance. They were adamant that he comes back on weekends and argue that he could study at home. If he didn’t, that is because he is lazy. Not true. Travelling for such long hours already tires my poor cousin out and upon reaching home, he will probably has to take a few hours to recuperate and rest. And not to mention spending some time with family to chat and hang-out. All of these affected his studies and wasted his precious time. In the end, he failed his first university entrance exam. When he asked me for my advice, I literally told him to go against his parents wish and stay back during the weekend. In fact, I told him to block out all unnecessary time-wasting activity and put his focus on studying. When he is bored of studying, he should take time to rest and maybe do some exercise. In fact, even playing video games for a short while to relax. As long as he is not travelling 8 hours on the weekend, he will be gaining precious time to study. Asian culture versus self-achievement. Sometimes, there need to be a balance. Sometimes, Asian value has to wait. Even if that is our parents. Of course, his parents hate me for it but hey, when he re-took his exam a year later, he passed.

Back to procrastination. If you promise someone to do something, you must do it. However, you can choose to procrastinate up to a certain extend. This depends on priority. If its your boss, I think you have better do it as soon as possible. If it’s a distant friend, you can probably let him/her wait a bit. One thing I want to highlight though. If it’s for your own interest & it is important, I feel that you must never procrastinate because doing so will only harm yourself in future. For example, things such as finishing your homework, studying, writing that essay, reading that book, learning a new chapter, signing up for that course, etc. Improving oneself should always top any priority that you have, no matter what culture or belief you possess.