Confessions of a Procrastinator in an Age of Immediacy

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The Procrastinator's Calendar 2009 Desk Calendar
The Procrastinator's Calendar 2009 Desk Calendar
Procrastinator's S.O.S. Planner 2009 Softcover Engagement Calendar
Procrastinator's S.O.S. Planner 2009 Softcover Engagement Calendar
Do It Later 2009 Planner For The Creative Procrastinatorr
Do It Later 2009 Planner For The Creative Procrastinator
Those things essential
To my ultimate self-improvement.
But monumental
The ornamental
Or that which requires no movement.

This is the truth.

I own a book titled, Procrastination, Why You Do It and How to Avoid It. I have never opened the book, nor do I anticipate reading it in the near or distant future, unless for some reason I find myself with more free time than a death-row inmate or a postal worker. Even if that happens, I know I'll have little trouble convincing myself that there are more important things to be done, like twisting paperclips into stick-figure models of the '69 Mets.

It's not that I'm lazy. There is a significant difference between the lazy person and the procrastinator: Getting lazy people to do anything that requires more exertion than putting on slippers usually involves the application of appreciable volts of electricity to their soft tissues. For the most part, they would prefer to lie on the couch, gorging themselves on Pop Tarts au gratin and fudge-truffle ice cream, until either the Jerry Springer Show is canceled or getting to the bathroom becomes impossible without the aid of industrial hydraulics. I almost never do this.

No, I am a procrastinator: I am one of those people who will do virtually anything, no matter how insipid or inane, in order to avoid doing the thing I am supposed to be doing, unless of course the thing I'm doing to avoid doing the thing I should be doing becomes the thing I should be doing, in which case I immediately stop doing what I am doing and begin doing something else. Either way, nothing gets done.

This is the mark of true procrastinators, they are forever engaged in some extraneous task being done in lieu of a more essential task. For instance, instead of sitting here writing this column, I'd much rather be in the kitchen conducting experiments into whether the cardboard tube at the center of a roll of toilet paper, when stood on end, is strong enough to support the dog.

In my professional career as a journalist, an elementary bit of algebra has always helped me survive: Complete X-assignment by Y-deadline or your ass will equal Z-fired. However, less immediate tasks than gainful employment were usually located on my "to do" list just after, "escape planet in emergency rescue pod moments before sun dies." As a result, I consider it an accomplishment of Olympic proportions if I can execute any menial chore in less time than it takes to qualify for Medicare.

Why don't we do what we don't do? Some experts will tell you that procrastinators fear success and are deliberately sabotaging their chances of actually achieving anything substantial in their lives. Other experts will tell you that procrastinators fear failure, and are trying to avoid doing that which could potentially cause them shame. Most experts will tell you, "Hey, Bone Brain! I get paid for my opinion so cut me a check or buzz off." Regardless of the divergent opinions on the matter, the fact is that no one has ever found a cure for this condition.

Except for my wife, who has a ninth-degree black belt in the motivational arts. When an unpleasant but vital chore needs doing she will ask me to see to it once, maybe twice. If I have not responded at that point, she will flash at me what she calls her "Grandma Tillie face." I never met Grandma Tillie, but apparently she brandished an expression of fury so horrific the merest glimpse could make Genghis Khan sob like a jilted prom queen. When I observe this look on the otherwise beatific face of my beloved, I instantly recognize the immediate benefit to be found in doing the required task: i.e., not having appreciable volts of electricity applied to my soft tissues.

Things were different when I was single and lacked a spouse so skilled at strategic incentive stimuli. For instance, I spent hours subcategorizing every CD in my collection by artist, title, and song, yet never grasped the fact that a towel should probably be washed long before it becomes brittle enough to crack in half.

I could tell you the name of the person who played the bugler in F-Troop, but failed to notice that the debris in the dryer's lint trap had achieved a greater density than Mike Tyson's skull. And, while I wasted countless afternoons shooting baskets, the pea casserole that had been germinating at the back of my refrigerator since the bicentennial frothed into an angry, savage, shrub-like creature that annexed the dishwasher and the oven, until I hacked it to death with a piece of towel.

If you suspect that you, too, are a chronic procrastinator this simple test will help you evaluate the extent of your affliction.

You may be a procrastinator if:
  • Making room for this year's Christmas tree involves disposing of last year's Christmas tree.
  • The last time you made the bed was the day you bought the bed.
  • You lose track of time to such a degree that you routinely find yourself asking people on the street, "Pardon me, do you have the season?"
  • Your exceedingly thin pets have acquired an ability to derive nourishment from tile grout.
  • The only living plant life in your home is the greasy black crud that's breeding on the showerhead.
  • Your son's wife calls to thank you for sending him a bar mitzvah card.
  • You have to install a series of complex levers and pulleys to keep the closet door shut against the weight of $14,000 in unwrapped pennies.
  • You can hide your car in your lawn.
  • Atop of the pile of newspapers that serves as your coffee table is a headline that reads, "FBI Launches Manhunt for Patty Hearst."
  • Your mechanic says that what's left of the motor oil in your car has the consistency of frozen Bosco.
Scoring: Don't bother. If you've reached the end of this article, it's clear you are a true procrastinator, as you should have long ago stopped reading in favor of a more crucial task, like rescuing the dog from the killer dust bunny your family calls, "The Great White Death." But don't worry, I'm sure you'll get around to it.

2011 Steven Ricci

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