About greg blee

A poster to my own gregblee.ca blog, the Clayoquot Writers blog, and others.

The Law of Compounding Delay

Here, for your edification, is an observation from a lifetime of procrastination. In a phrase, it’s an unintended consequence of not getting onto things promptly. (Guilty!)

This unfortunate dynamic has played itself out many times in my life, and continues to do so. On uncounted occasions, when i put something off — five hours or five minutes doesn’t seem to make much difference — once i finally start, i find myself further delayed by some unforeseen circumstance. It could be anything: I miss the bus by two minutes. A person i need to talk to just left for lunch. There’s some form i need, but the office just closed for the weekend, so my five-minute delay (“What difference could that possibly make?”) costs me two days’ wait.

In my experience it happens a lot — often enough that it deserves a law of its own: the Law of Compounding Delay, codifying the perverse way time treats the procrastinator. Simply stated:

Any delay in the starting of a task or project leads to a greater delay in the finishing of it.

Or, if mathematical theorems are more to your taste:

Any project begun with a delay of X
will finish with a delay of Y, where Y > X.

Delay, in other words, compounds like the interest in a bank account once did (back when there was interest), but not in a helpful way.

This idea hit me a while ago, and i thought it must be a trivial commonplace. But the google search i just did for “law of compounding delay” (in quotes) unexpectedly gives zero results — so what you are reading now may be that rara avis, a simple idea with no online presence.

Google being Google, of course, they give 6.3 million results for the search without the quotes. I didn’t check them all, but the first three pages are all about compound interest, economics, tax penalties, and various arcane legal topics.

There is a hint of tangentially related material: for instance, in economics as the “cost of delay” — but nothing at all about time management or the evils of procrastination.

So maybe the idea has been cast under another name … or maybe you’re reading it here first!


In my experience it almost never happens that a delay proves advantageous. There’s always a cost — at the very least, further delay, and if you’re unlucky, a monetary cost as well. My record is a $330 property tax penalty, because i got to the Ukee district office about two minutes after it had closed.

Have you noticed this phenomenon yourself? Did you do your PhD thesis on it, and call it something else? Let us know in the comments.

Sorry! Or, yes to no housing

The why of another vote ‘against’ housing

(6 min read)

Dear Tent-and-Van-Dwelling Tofino Workers,

This is an apology.

In a momentous decision last Tuesday, council voted 4–2 to halt a 10.8-ha (26.7-acre) development application from Woodsmere Holdings that included 116 apartments (phase 1), a 48-unit motel (phase 2), and 282 other units including rental apartments, single-family lots, duplexes and four-plexes—all to be built out, things going well, over the next ten years.

Woodsmere Site Plan

Woodsmere site plan (concept)

That build won’t happen. Continue reading

Innovation: a response

Why our little town seems stuck

8 min read

Apres Surf sign 2017-05-04

Tofino council (of which i am a member) received a heartfelt email a while ago, one i thought deserved a thoughtful response. It turned into more of an essay than i expected. First, here’s the email (abridged):

Dear Council,

I am writing to you today in hopes of receiving some answers to a few questions that have been keeping me awake at night. I am … unsettled by some of the changes happening within our beautiful, albeit endangered town. Continue reading

A plaza of possibility

The why of a vote “against” housing

On July 11, council heard an application from The Shore to begin a rezoning process to add “nightly rentals” as an approved use in CD-TS zone. We decided not to proceed, but were split on the vote, with four believing that turning residential housing (albeit high-end) into nightly rentals was not appropriate, two thinking the application had enough promise to at least move to the next stage.

I and one other councillor voted in favour of allowing the application to proceed. (There was no guarantee it would succeed, just that it would move forward in the multi-stage process.) I’ve been asked about why i voted as i did, in this time of housing shortage. Here’s my reasoning. Continue reading