In Praise of Procrastination


English english student exam term Exams Fresher marine biology prelims procrastination Rowing tidying room writing

As an English student, I feel qualified to make the insightful remark that William Shakespeare generally knew what he was talking about – even if there are times when nobody else (okay, I’m referring to myself) has a bloody clue.

But one point on which I firmly believe him to be wrong is the laughable idea that we should “defer no time, [for] delays have dangerous ends.”

It was when I realised mid-exam that I’d forgotten the name of a character from a play which contained only three, and began to ask myself what the hell I’d done with this Easter term, that I truly appreciated the fact that I’ve mastered the art of productive procrastination. If you have too then you should know that we apparently have our own saint: St. Augustine of Hippo, who became the figurehead for procrastinators everywhere after asking God to “grant me chastity and continence – but not yet.” (I make the same prayer myself before going to Wednesday Cindies, coincidentally).

Augustine of Hippo. Also a pretty accurate representation of my attempts to absorb a term’s worth of reading on the morning of my prelim.

Procrastination needn’t just be a convenient euphemism for doing fuck all; there’s an important distinction to be made between time wasting and time reallocation, and while the former will usually find you scrolling through the Facebook profile of your primary school teacher’s ex-husband at 4am, the latter can be significantly more beneficial than whatever it is you should have been doing in the first place – as long as what you should have been doing is revising for exams.

But without further ado (ironically), here’s a list of all the things I managed to achieve over the past few weeks, now prelims are over. It’s amazing how much you can still get done with your head buried in the sand.

Took up rowing 

Before starting to row, my most active form of procrastination was swiping through profiles on Tinder. While both activities have the potential to leave you wet, aching and depressingly aware of your own physical inadequacy, rowing at least has the added benefit of being good for developing arm muscles – which will be useful when it comes to lifting all the rocks under which I hide from my responsibilities.

Preparing to procrastinate

Dabbled in marine biology 

Considering I read the first chapter of Moby Dick in Michaelmas, I’m not convinced that binge- watching documentaries on whales and sharks quite counts as true procrastination, but it was certainly productive. If nothing else, I’m pretty sure I’ve redone an entire GCSE biology unit worth of material. I’m an English student so let’s be honest, I’m considerably more likely to find myself in shark-infested waters than in a job.

A mouth as empty as my CV

Penned an epic 

No, I’m not talking about this article (thanks, though). Throughout history, many writers – aspiring or otherwise – have attempted to summon the Muse by putting themselves in situations where the alternative to actually getting some fucking words down is so unappealing that it forces them, in theory, to write. For Victor Hugo, this involved asking his valet to hide his clothes so that he was confined by a sense of decency to his writing-room. While this seems a fairly solid idea, my propensity to leave my door unlocked – as well as the fact that I lack any sense of decency – has so far stopped me from testing it out.

Instead, I opted for a slightly warmer ultimatum: write my weekly essay, as a prelim student should be doing right about now , or rewrite the entirety of the lyrics to Estelle’s American Boy as Johnian Boy. Well, someone had to do it.

“Can we get away this weekend?/Take me to the Regal./I’ll grope you in the crowd and blame it on one of the other people.”

Tidied my room 

They say that a tidy room leads to a tidy mind. They’re wrong, of course; a tidy room is nothing beyond confirmation that, no, all your work from first term isn’t just amongst the sloping pile of papers on your desk and that, yes, you probably did throw it all in the recycling bin without a second thought. It is however a perfect way of taking up an hour or two (read: three days) of valuable procrastination time – with the added bonus that you no longer need to invest in a box of plastic overshoes to offer your guests.

Before and after: my room looks ten years younger

I hope St Augustine of Hippo smiles upon you this term. After all, it’s never too late to put something off.