We often think that procrastination is an unnecessary obstacle to our daily lives. But if it weren't for procrastination, the world would be a completely different place.This guide is available to download as a free PDF. Download How Procrastination Changed the World now . Feel free to copy and share this with your friends and family.
When the journalist Don Marqués wrote that. “procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday,” he made a mistake Focusing on the idea that procrastination prevents us from moving further than we were yesterday, he failed to see the colossal impact, both positive and negative, that procrastination can have in the future..
In fact, the origin of the term comes from the end of the Latin XVI century., procrastinate which directly translates to “postponed until tomorrow. ” If we look at it this way, it is not actions and decisions that are put off until tomorrow, but also the lasting and world-changing results that come from procrastination.
We have a lot to thank you both for. and Blame these procrastinators for. From untold suffering, to the greatest works of fiction. From impressive technological feats, to the transformation of industries. Despite the inevitable splashes of procrastination and indecision, the story of how procrastination changed the world is definitely worth reading.
In 1755, Samuel Johnson went so far as to publish his enormous masterpiece; A dictionary of the English language . This was work that Johnson promised could be completed in three years. The final manuscript was submitted four years late, with the proper definition of “procrastination” simply reading Delay; delinquency.
Johnson was well known for being a chronic procrastinator. One of his best friends recounted that nearly all of Johnson's writing, including his much-loved essay on The procrastination was made up at the last minute. If it wasn't for Johnson delinquency , His work may well not have been so great, and his name erased from the annals of history.
However, how Johnson defined procrastination leaves room for improvement. Procrastination researcher Timothy Pychyl added that "all delay is delay, but not all delay is procrastination." The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) more fully defined the term as delay, "often with a sense of deferral but indecision, when early action would have been preferable."
It is this more nuanced definition of the OED that I will primarily use from here on out.
The first clickable billboard ad was sold in 1993 to the law firm Heller Ehrman White &McAuliffe. Following this sale, online advertising became the giant of an industry. In 2002, Google, launched just a few years earlier, introduced the first Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising model. It is this model that completely changed the online landscape..
Online publishers could now better finance their work. But at the same time, the Web was awash with banner ads, pop-ups, and pop-unders. Load times were slowing down. Websites looked messy. The ads were infuriating. Users were getting tired.
In the same year that Google introduced PPC to the world, Henrik Aasted Sørensen was trying to avoid the review for an upcoming university exam.
The Danish computer science student, excited by the prospect of creating extensions for the new Phoenix browser (later to become Firefox), used coding as his procrastination tool.
The result? Adblock.
From the day Adblock was launched, it was a huge success. By originally hiding (and now blocking) page ads, made browsing the Internet once more simple and orderly.
In 2015, nearly 200 million people used Adblock or similar software, costing publishers $22 billion over the year. Its growth continues, forcing an unwanted conversation among publishers about how to remain profitable.
Speaking to Business Insider, Sørensen says of the publishing industry:
However, largely as a result of Sørensen's delay, users are beginning to demand a website with fewer ads. But without decent ad revenue, online publishers will close their doors and switch to more clickbait articles, or move on to new, largely untested business models 4 Alternative Models To Advertising That Are Working Now 4 Alternative Models To the advertising that's working now Advertising shouldn't be the only way content producers can make money. Fortunately, it is not, many big-name organizations are funded without ads, online and offline. You, the readers, had a few things to… Read More .
This truly is a turning point for the online publishing industry, based largely on the success of a small piece of code written by Sørensen the procrastinator.
There is an irony behind the billions of dollars that Google is losing to Adblockers. After all, a considerable part of Google's ubiquity could also be due to procrastination.
When Google went public in 2002, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin said in their IPO letter:
AdSense is a Google advertising service. In 2014, revenue from this (and related services) exceeded $14 billion.
Other services mentioned, including Gmail and Google Maps, contributed a good deal to Google's remaining $52 billion in revenue (2014).
In effect, Google engineers were given free rein to experiment. They were allowed, and actively encouraged, to drop other workloads in the name of creativity and innovation. Lots of To-Do Items The 3-Strike System:How to Prioritize Your To-Do List The 3-Strike System:How to Prioritize Your To-Do List Not getting your to-do list? The problem may not be your productivity, it may be your priorities. Let's learn how to prioritize to-do list and how to get things done. Read More
Although this is a slight stretch of the OED's original definition of procrastination, it is still very close.
The resulting services that Google launched thanks to this initiative helped make the company what it is today. These services generated revenue that shaped many aspects of our lives; from how we navigate (Google Maps) to how we interact with the world (Android, and soon Google Glass).
But it's in Google X Labs, Google's secret workshop, that the company's huge cash reserves are being put to their most exciting uses. Driverless cars. Ingestion sensors. Space elevators. Wind turbines in the sky..
Without that 20% of time to focus on things. other than day-to-day tasks, Google would probably still be "just" a search engine. The success of delaying the work of its engineers for 20% of the week has contributed to Google's status as one of the top World Changers of the 21st century.
These technological developments are just the tip of a large iceberg of developments that procrastination can claim some credit for.
Unsurprisingly, the world of literature, scattered with its dumb writers, is another example worth looking at. In Measure for measure , Shakespeare poetically addressed the propensity to slow people down:
If Victor Hugo didn't have his servant strip him naked and lock him in his study until an agreed time, Les Miserables He may never have seen the light of day. The buzz of I dreamed a dream it would never have passed a person's lips.
And then we turn our attention to the chronic procrastinator, Samuel Johnson, or as many called him, Dr. Johnson. The Doc has been, and continues to be, a major influence on English literature. He is the first literary critic that many lit. students will become familiar with. It belongs to him That they learn to fearlessly deconstruct a work. It's Johnson who first showed the literary world that he doesn't have to be pompous to be good..
But the list goes on. Canada's most famous writer, Margaret Atwood, spends her mornings full of anxiety, before forcing herself to write around 3pm. Herman Melville had his wife chain him to his desk as motivation to finish one of the greatest works of fiction. He read the best free books in the world with the Harvard classics. Read the world's best books for free with Harvard Classics. Collection of volumes of the best books in the world. Compiled by Dr. Charles W. Eliot in the early 20th century, they are now completely free to download. Read more ever written:Moby Dick. Marcus Aurelius, more a philosopher than a writer, said in his always popular Meditations (now spurs a renaissance in stoicism):
And then there's Douglas Adams, who joked about deadlines. “I like the sound they make when they go by.” It's from Adams Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979) which readers of MakeUseOf will probably be most familiar with. We've already written about how the franchise is influencing the way stories are being told in different mediums. The Hitchhiker's Guide to Changing Stories Through Media. The Hitchhiker's Guide to Changing Stories Through Media. sometimes it requires substantial changes. No one understood this better than legendary science fiction author Douglas Adams. Read more . The original radio series spawned other radio series, numerous novels, computer games, and various theatrical productions.
Guardian columnist Marcus O'Dair points out how Hitchhiker's Guide helped "pave the way for everything from Red Dwarf to Men in Black." Stephen Fry explained that Adams's masterpiece differed from all other works of science fiction in that regard. “It was absolutely on a human scale.” However, O'Dair goes on to show that:
However irritating to the editors of it, it's fair to say that Hitchhiker's Guide It wouldn't have been what it is, or has become, were it not for Adams's penchant for procrastination.
We tend to think of religious leaders as men (and women) of decisive action. But this is far from the truth. After all, procrastination has persisted in Buddhism since its genesis. Ananda, the Buddha's direct disciple, was supposed to ask the Buddha about which vows were minor and which were major ordinations. After all, the Buddha was going to explain how minor vows could be abolished. But Ananda continued to delay. The Buddha died. So now, 2,500 years later, all the votes are still taken by Buddhists, just to be sure.
Much more recently, the Dalai Lama explained that when he was a young student, "only faced with a difficult challenge or an urgent deadline, [he] will study and work without laziness."
Naturally, through Buddhist practice, he managed to overcome his idleness, preaching that:
The Dalai Lama is now an inspiration around the world, especially in the West, where he is taking hold of a new intrigue with secular spirituality. It's not too hard to imagine the spread of practices like meditation and the popularity of meditation apps (especially HeadSpace) related to this fascination with the Dalai Lama and his own struggles with procrastination.
How Buddhist practices can help with procrastination is no secret. On a basic level, meditation can be used to train the mind to focus. To guide the mind in the zone . Seize attention more acutely. The Bell of Mindfulness is a Chrome extension that can help with this. By periodically reminding you to breathe and refocus, you can catch yourself before you're sucked into a procrastination chain. If you want something more invasive, try StayFocusd.
But deeper Buddhist practices, like incorporating the eight-step path into his life, can help him even more. A prime example is the ability to be completely Immerse yourself in whatever you choose to do, letting go of any other desires or distractions that arise. If you don't want to follow Buddhism itself, Urge Surfing is a technique that could also be useful.
Johann Rall was a British commander during the American Revolutionary War. It was in December 1776 that Rall squarely confronted George Washington at the small but crucial Battle of Trenton.
The night before that battle, Rall was enjoying a night of chess and cards. Midway through the game, he was handed a note from a local loyalist, alerting him to the approaching gathering of Washington's forces. Too absorbed in his game, Rall put the unread note in his pocket. It was only the next day, when Rall was leading his troops in retreat from the battle, that he was killed by a musket ball. The note was found unopened in his jacket pocket..
Had Rall opened that letter, allowing for better battle preparations, the outcome could easily have been different. As it was, Washington took a large number of prisoners, while suffering negligible losses. Washington's resounding victory improved the flag morale of the Continental Army, leading to many re-enlistments, ultimately contributing greatly to the overall outcome of the war.
Procrastination also rises in the American Civil War, with George B. McClellan trying harder to prepare for war than he muster the courage to go into battle.
It is military leaders like these who we now, thanks to their procrastination, blame for lost battles and military gains. Perhaps it would have been wise for men like these to read military leaders like Marcus Aurelius, who also felt the need to procrastinate. But Aurelius largely overcame this, allowing the Romans once again to dictate the political landscape of his time. What Aurelio said about procrastination would have been relevant in many of these examples:
Lastly, we turn to that great Italian polymath, Leonardo da Vinci. His fame is great throughout the world, but his complete works are few. Your in Complete works, on the other hand:they are everywhere. Some completed the architectural plans, sculptures and paintings of Da Vinci's life.
The Renaissance man was famous among his peers for being unreliable. His clients were often left empty-handed, needing to approach other artists to get a completed project. As just one example, da Vinci took 25 years complete Madonna on the Rocks . Yet despite the dilation of it, Da Vinci's impression on a host of industries outside of art remains incredible..
Because it was Da Vinci's relentless curiosity to solve problems and learn new skills 7 Easy Ways to Quickly Automate Your Learning with IFTTT 7 Easy Ways to Quickly Automate Your Learning with IFTTT You don't need to go out looking for learning. You can set up a system to ensure that the right resources find their way automatically. Here's the secret to saving time. He read more and topics, which made it so hard for her to focus solely on completing his commissions. If it weren't for his procrastination of these royal commissions, we wouldn't be able to marvel at his 15th century ideas for things like:
Most of Da Vinci's ideas were impossible to realize until hundreds of years after his conception, but his inspiration for future generations of engineers and artists is beyond question. His work on human anatomy also prompted others to study the human body more enthusiastically, leading to untold medical discoveries.
The idea that procrastination is something to be overcome is now very much the norm. Scientific studies surrounding procrastination tend to focus on why We procrastinate, and how can we stop. At MakeUseOf, we've written many times about how to beat procrastination. Beat procrastination and prioritize your to-do list with Laterbox. Beat procrastination and prioritize your to-do list with Laterbox. you need to prioritize your to-do lists. Try the simple 1-3-5 method of productivity with a new web app called Laterbox. Learn More, Prevent Internet Procrastination 6 Tips Avoid Internet Procrastination 6 Tips Avoid Internet Procrastination I'm a procrastinator master. Maybe you are too. There are millions of people suffering from the shutdown and it is a real loss of productivity and efficiency. The weird thing is, a lot of... Read More take action without waiting for the right moment Stop procrastinating is the only New Year's resolution you need. This is why. Read More Proceed through the procrastination. The applications of the Pomodoro Technique and the software. Procrastination is a disease that affects students and workers in all corners of the world and infects amateurs and professionals. As a writer, I suffer from procrastination on a daily basis. Some people… Read more .
But just as recently I set out to prove that productivity in and of itself is neither good nor bad. The powerful truth about productivity from 11 months on the road The powerful truth about productivity from 11 months on the road Has the quest for productivity been overdone? When we are missing something fundamental, we must question our own notions of productivity. Here are four personal productivity lessons learned from 11 months on the road. Read More .
As we can see, the potential results of procrastination, while generally unintended (see AdBlock), can be profound and world-changing. Of course, we can use techniques like structured procrastination or productive procrastination to make sure that our delays are even longer. productive (see da Vinci). But this is not necessary for procrastination to have some form of meaningful consequence. That said, it's probably not something we should actively encourage.
However we look at it, procrastination has had a huge direct and indirect impact on the world. Some of those results have been positive, some negative, and for others (like the ongoing conversation about online publishing) Publishers need to stop crying about Adblock Publishers need to stop crying about Adblock Ad blocking seems to be an option natural for any consumer for one simple reason:it's an easy way to get rid of a nuisance (Read More), it's too early to tell.
So before I go back to your procrastination, here's a quote:
After reading this, do you think the world would have been a better or worse place if it weren't for procrastination? Is procrastination still something we should be looking to erase?