For you procrastinators
Posted by simon c on 2008 May 17日 Saturday
Yeah, you know who you are.
If you haven’t found it already, Slate did a special procrastination issue this past week. Good stuff. I found it while, what else, procrastinating. This isn’t even ironic.
I especially liked the Procrastinators Anonymous piece:
Procrastinators Anonymous had an announcement about its weekly phone-in meeting that came with this disclaimer: “This meeting was originally scheduled for every Wednesday, 9 a.m. ET. But people have not been showing up at this time.” I called in anyway and listened to the sound of Kenny G-style sax and my own breathing for 15 minutes before giving up.
According to the small but annoyingly prolific band of scientists who study procrastination—serious research began in the 1980s—a lot of us aren’t making our meetings. They say the chronic inability to get things done, what they call “trait procrastination,” affects about 20 percent of the public, a number far greater than those who suffer from depression (about 10 percent) or phobias (about 9 percent).
Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University (and the expert who says there’s no DNA for delay), divides us into two general behavior types: arousal procrastinators and avoidance procrastinators. Arousal procrastinators seek the excitement and pumping stress hormones of having to finish everything under duress. (I’m this type.) Avoidance procrastinators make their work the measure of their self-worth and so end up putting it off out of fear. (I’m this type, too.) I talked to Ferrari and discovered that after 20 years of studying us, his sympathy is wearing thin. “I don’t understand this, why they’re consistently like this. I don’t like cutting the grass, but I do it.”
Stop resisting and embrace your procrastination. Don’t agonize in front of a blank computer screen. Don’t sit around for hours—intending to start your work any moment now—only to find that in the end you’ve accomplished zilch, save for ruining your own day.
You could instead, for instance, work on a small, tangential aspect of the assignment. Some weird take on things—one that doesn’t make you miserable. This may be of little direct application, but there’s a chance it could also pay off, kick-starting a new line of thought or adding nuance to your final result.
Or, better, take a walk outside. Read a book for pleasure. Roll a spliff and share it with a friend.
You’re going to procrastinate anyway, so you may as well enjoy the time you’re stealing from your tasks. While that grind in your econ class is toiling, you’re becoming a more relaxed, quirkier, less-programmed person. You nurture the creative sprouts that take root only in long hours of idleness. You’re open to soulful experiences that lie only beyond the bounded worlds of work and study.
Of course, this is all dependent on there being a deadline waiting at the end of your walkabout. For true procrastinators, nothing gets done without a deadline. As we say in journalism: The deadline is your friend. And when that deadline looms too near to procrastinate any longer, you need to take care of business. Crank it out, baby.
Yeah, I’ve come to terms with mine, well sort of :P