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.

Permissive tax exemption

Property tax revenue is the main source of income for the district: It’s what we use to pave roads, replace pipes, build infrastructure, run programs, and pay staff to do all of the above.

People tend to dislike paying taxes, but they usually enjoy the benefits of having paid taxes. Council tries to keep taxes as low as possible, consistent with staying on top of things like infrastructure maintenance and keeping the district running. Previous councils arguably haven’t kept up with demand, which translated into this council’s 8% tax increases in 2015 and 2016 (dropping to 2% for the rest of the five-year budget).

So here’s a tax issue i’ve been wrestling with: permissive tax exemptions. That’s when council decides to exempt certain properties from the property tax that every landowner pays to the district each year, because those properties are perceived to offer a benefit to the community at large. Continue reading



From Wikipedia:

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.

This use of the word bohemian first appeared in the English language in the nineteenth century[1] to describe the non-traditional lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artists, writers, journalists, musicians, and actors in major European cities. Bohemians were associated with unorthodox or anti-establishment political or social viewpoints, which often were expressed through free love, frugality, and—in some cases—voluntary poverty. A wealthy and privileged, even aristocratic, bohemian circle is sometimes referred to as the haute bohème[2] (“high bohemians”).[3]

The term Bohemianism emerged in France in the early nineteenth century when artists and creators began to concentrate in the lower-rent, lower class, gypsy neighborhoods. Bohémien was a common term for the Romani people of France, who had reached Western Europe via Bohemia.[4]

[Full article]

Volunteer vs volunteer board

I sit on the boards of a couple of local non-profits, and one of them had a planning meeting recently. At the meeting, the complaint was made that “the board members aren’t stepping up to help run things.”

I’ve heard the same sentiment a dozen times, and i bet everybody in town who sits on a non-profit board has heard it too. And it occurred to me that there’s a fundamental flaw with the way our whole area thinks about, and enacts, the board model. Continue reading