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The Useful Art of Procrastination

By Frank Partnoy
15-minute read
Audio available
Wait: The Useful Art of Procrastination by Frank Partnoy

Wait (2012) is the ultimate guide to balancing action with inaction and learning how to recognize the perfect moment when you need to make a move. These blinks explain how taking your time can have a profound influence on everything in your life, from playing tennis and buying stocks to even finding the love of your life.

  • People who feel stressed and want to slow down
  • Overworked executives and company managers
  • Singles still looking for a special someone

Financial expert Frank Partnoy is a regular contributor to newspapers such as the Financial Times and The New York Times. He is the author of nonfiction books such as Infectious Greed, The Match King and F.I.A.S.C.O. Previously, Partnoy worked as a lawyer and an investment banker.

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Wait

The Useful Art of Procrastination

By Frank Partnoy
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Wait: The Useful Art of Procrastination by Frank Partnoy
Synopsis

Wait (2012) is the ultimate guide to balancing action with inaction and learning how to recognize the perfect moment when you need to make a move. These blinks explain how taking your time can have a profound influence on everything in your life, from playing tennis and buying stocks to even finding the love of your life.

Key idea 1 of 9

In fast-paced sports such as tennis, timing is everything.

During a gripping tennis match, have you ever stopped to contemplate the ridiculousness of watching two people hit a ball, back and forth? This simple act, nonetheless, is mesmerizing; and it has everything to do with the rhythm and timing of this popular game.

Being a skilled tennis player isn’t just about good eyes and quick reactions. People tend to think that a tennis player’s talent is a product of his ability to rapidly ascertain the speed and trajectory of a ball. But the amount of time it takes for any person to visually register an action is more or less universal – around 200 milliseconds.

Another misconception is that tennis talent is tied to reaction speed – that is, the faster you can react, the better you should play. This is only partially correct. The best tennis players in the world have the ability to wait that essential extra split-second before returning a volley.

Once a player sees that his opponent is serving the ball, he has approximately 300 milliseconds to make a move. Most people move as quickly as they can, only to miss the ball altogether!

Skilled players are different. They can and will wait up to 200 milliseconds, taking in as much visual information as possible, before hitting the ball.

Many popular sports are in fact designed with this timing challenge in mind. If the space between a player and the net was greater, for example, a player would have more time to react. Conversely, if the distance was smaller, a player could only react in a knee-jerk fashion.

Tennis is a great example of the human capacity for preconscious preparatory skills. A player has just enough time to pause, letting his unconscious mind formulate the best response but not enough time to consciously plan a move.

This sort of reaction isn’t exclusive to tennis champions, either. Split-second timing plays an essential role in business and finance, too.

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