Categorized | Economics, Europe, UK News

In Defence of Our Procrasti-nation

Image by @Doug88888

Image by @Doug88888

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 TV, 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 apparently cost British businesses £76 billion each year in lost hours.

But why publish such a report? Rhydian Lewis, Founder and CEO of RateSetter says:

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.”

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?

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?)

In reality, the report is whispering with the prod of the free market 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 is defining procrastination as anything that is ‘unproductive’, but it is also reducing our intrinsic worth as humans to little more than atoms of productivity.

Our social machine already runs from the exploited profits from the variable capital of labour. Apparently we are not behaving enough like automatons. Every waking moment should now be filled by something ‘valuable’, (whatever that definition is to be.)

Suggesting that if we don’t stop ‘wasting time’ we deserve to be badly off is distasteful, particularly in this climate of finger pointing at the already downtrodden. Memo to 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, or flicking over to Facebook while we wait for some printing to go through, or taking time to do our makeup isn’t something to broadcast from the rooftops as theft, or advance as a reason that people face financial problems.

At the heart of this report is the troubling opinion that as a society we are uncomfortable with human mediocrity. We are spoon-fed the belief 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 .

Personally, I don’t care that 76 billion is wasted as a result of so called ‘lost time’. Sitting down and watching television could be productive, it depends how you look at it and what you value. It gives us time together as couples or families, give us things to talk about with friends which adds to our social development.

Even spending time on Facebook has led to wider social networks and an increased understanding of the world and the people we live with. We can support charity drives that raise millions for valuable causes, join important global debates and become activists from the comfort of our own homes.

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 animated self-reflection; I value being engrossed 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 neo-liberal approach of the western world mean we already work most of our existence to be rewarded with the prize of  ever diminishing leisure.

Procrastination may be to the detriment of the economy, but it’s a textbook example of humanity’s beautiful imperfection.

So let’s allow the machines to labour. Let us live.

Image courtesy of @Doug88888

Ben Greenhalgh

About Ben Greenhalgh

Writing from a young age, I instantly fell in love with the art of communicating through the use of the written word. Although my journey began within the film industry, my passions and areas of interest adapted to take on a fascination with politics; philosophy; history and, more recently, poetry. Over the past two years, I have written for peer review academic journals and a number of publications: The Humanist Society, The New Internationalist, Red Pepper magazine, The Huffington Post and a number of topical blogs.

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