Why David Cameron’s war on dithering must be stopped

The prime minister has declared that ‘dither’ is holding the country back. Nonsense – it’s an essential coping strategy and we need more of it, not less

Look out: David Cameron is rolling up his sleeves. He’s tired of red tape, grade inflation and the all-must-have-prizes mentality plaguing modern Britain. He wants fewer excuses for failure, and more failure. “I come back to parliament more determined than ever,” he wrote in a newspaper article this weekend, “to cut through the dither that holds this country back.”

Get rid of dither? If it weren’t for dithering my day would consist of three snatched meals and a sudoku. Dithering is more than just a way of filling the hours; it’s an essential coping strategy. Without the ability to dither, one would never know which problems need addressing and which ones will eventually go away all by themselves. And sometimes it takes weeks of indecision before you realise your plan wasn’t that good in the first place. God save us from the sort of people who like to get things done for the sake of it. If you’re not pacing the floor and wringing your hands, it means you’ve failed to grasp both the scale of the challenges facing you, and the paucity of available solutions. Frankly, we need more dither, not less. If you want to contribute, here’s how:

? The verb dither comes from a middle English word didder, meaning to quake or tremble and, by extension, to vacillate. The trick with dithering is to be jumpy, agitated and yet still irresolute. On the decision front, your aim is to make no forward progress at all. Hang on in there – lunch is coming.

? If you’re having trouble not being bold and decisive, it’s probably because you’re only focusing on one thing at a time. Try worrying about two unrelated problems at once: your credit-card bill, say, and climate change. The fact that solving one still leaves you with the other should keep you from doing anything rash.

? People often describe ditherers as being “paralysed by indecision”, but you shouldn’t think of yourself as paralysed. You can actually get a lot of stuff done while dithering. What about all the YouTube videos you watched, or the emails you read and decided not to answer? What about the man you made from paperclips?

? Don’t confuse dithering with its laidback cousin, procrastination. If you’re not perspiring while you’re dithering, you’re not doing it right.

? Don’t take it personally when politicians threaten to “cut through the dither”. It doesn’t mean they’re going to make you stop dithering. It just means they want to build a huge prison next to your house.

Tim Dowling

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