The procrastinator's portfolio: An investment guide.
Read more from Slate's special issue on procrastination.
Apple. For users of PCs, time-wasting may be confined to playing solitaire. But iMacs and MacBooks, which generally arrive embedded with cool video features, offer lazy, creative slackers the ability to waste time by making movies and engaging in iChats—without having to buy and install new software. And in iTunes, Apple has developed the online equivalent of that increasingly rare time-wasting destination, the used-record store. Why work when you can explore and sample the 145 versions of "Danny Boy," including a truly unfortunate rendering by Tom Jones!
Google. Google is one of our age's great productivity tools. It's also one of our age's great counterproductivity tools. It's simply too easy—and too tempting—to use the search algorithms to shirk the task at hand and look up your sister-in-law's 10K results, the number of times your book has been mentioned in the past two weeks, what your high-school prom date is doing. Every time you waste time thusly, Google profits. In recent years, Google has aggressively moved to corner the procrastination market by acquiring Doubleclick, which serves up ads when surfers log onto sites, and by buying the ne plus ultra of procrastination: YouTube. Endlessly entertaining and best used at work, where broadband connections allow for trouble-free downloads, YouTube has replaced television as the most reliable source of nonedifying, time-consuming, daytime viewing activity.
Akamai. Here's one of the central contradictions of the procrastination economy: As Web-surfers waste time by poking around the furthest reaches of the Internet, they don't like to waste time. When Web sites are slow to load, when video seems to buffer endlessly without playing, these are the times that try souls. And businesses know this. So they turn to Akamai, the company whose "services enable enterprises, government agencies, and Web-centric businesses to deliver content and applications faster, overcome infrastructure obstacles, accelerate online initiatives, and minimize cost." Translation: It helps procrastinators load their Sudoku games faster.
Daniel Gross is the Moneybox columnist for Slate and the business columnist for Newsweek. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter. His latest book, Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation, has just been published in paperback.
Photograph of smoking workers by Dave Einsel/Getty Images.