“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.” –Don Marquis
“The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started.” –Dawson Trotman
“Ugh… I’ll do it later. ‘The Wonder Years’ is on…” –Nathan Badley
I can be a very hard worker. There have been times in my life that I have become so intently focused on completing a task that I will not rest until it is completed. I will drive each and every person near me crazy trying to ensure that I have one simple, minute thing taken care of, that it is done just so.
Unfortunately, I can count those times of my life on one hand.
More often than not, I approach a task with great care and precision, analyzing every square inch of the deed that must be done. I plan it out thoroughly, map out every possibility. Then, I create a list of every single thing in the world I would rather do and work my hardest on completing that list.
For my entire life, this has been my way of doing things. When I was a kid, I would spend days cleaning my room. When I say that, what I actually mean is I would spend days in my room “cleaning.” I had clearly loosened the definition of cleaning to mean building towers out of Lego’s and complaining about how much cleaning I had to do.
As I got older, I adopted this philosophy when it came to homework. Single math assignments became quick math breaks while the commercials were on the TV. As I went to college, studying came after a pre-study Taco Bell run, tagging along with a friend on his pre-study Taco Bell run, eating the Taco Bell, flipping through the TV channels while you ate Taco Bell, then being too tired to even think about getting any studying done. It was exhausting.
Even now, I have this attitude. Before writing this, I had to do a number of things including, but not limited to, eat some chips and salsa, pay a bill, walk to the kitchen, walk back from the kitchen, make sure I didn’t forget to do something while I was in the kitchen, check my email, check my Facebook, play with my dog, recheck Facebook, and then settle in for… the latest episode of “Happy Endings.” After all of that, and only after, can I finally sit down and write.
Of course, the writing would go a lot quicker if I would just buckle down and get it done. Every couple of minutes, though, I have to check the word count (currently 437) and make sure that no one has tried to text message me. I also have to spend a few seconds every now and then staring at my curtain and wondering how, exactly, it always manages to catch itself on the edge of my couch.
There have been many times in my life where I have identified this as one of my very few character flaws. I’ve even gone as far as Googling tips for “How to Avoid Procrastination” and reading up on the topic before becoming distracted with something else online (“15 Ways to Turn a Hat into a Deadly Weapon”) and turning my attention elsewhere.
In the Google articles that I did manage to glance at, people suggested breaking my large, giant, mammoth-sized tasks into smaller, bite-sized tasks. That seemed like a good idea until I finished one of the small tasks and felt content with the amount of work that I had done, quitting on the spot. Procrastinating and getting 100% of a chore done is a lot better than only getting 8% done.
Some people suggested making sure you are working in a clutter-free zone. This just turned into another distraction, causing me to shirk my responsibilities so that I could make sure that all of the pictures on the wall were perfectly level and book shelf organized.
Countless other ideas were sent my way, only to be shot dead by my homing missile of procrastination. It seems no one in the world can get me on task.
Finally, though, I have come up with the only way to stop my procrastination: stop trying.
See, by completely eliminating the part of my day where I try to get things done, I have eliminated the items that I keep putting off. Don’t want to laundry? No problem. I just won’t do it. I’ll continue to wear the same pair of jeans until they are so dirty, they have adopted a completely different and much darker shade. What if I don’t feel like doing anything while I’m at work? I won’t put it off until the last minute; I’ll just put it off forever.
Sure, there could be negative consequences to this plan. For instance, my wife will get very upset if, instead of putting off taking out the trash, I told her I had no intention of doing it because I would rather play Pac-Man online. I would probably get fired for not doing my work and, since I hate standing in lines, would most likely neglect cashing my unemployment check, eventually causing myself to starve to death.
Still, though, I feel that this is a fool proof plan that is guaranteed to stop my procrastination dead in its tracks. It’s the only plan that will stop my procrastination.
After 24+ years of putting things off until the last minute, I don’t think it can change overnight. I will continue to avoid doing the things I don’t want to do from tax season, through yard work season, into raking season and Christmas gift-buying season. It’s just the way I am.
Maybe as I age, I’ll have more of those moments where I do become focused on getting things done. I’ll accomplish a great deal because of my focus. People will talk about me, saying “That Nathan, he just works and works all day. It’s like he gets started on something and can’t stop until it’s finished.”
If you need me to do something for you tomorrow, though, you’re probably out of luck. I don’t see that change happening any time soon.
- Problems With Procrastination? Maybe Not (psychopoeia.com)
- Procrastination As The Secret to Achievement: Honoring This Year’s Ig-Nobel Winner John Perry (bigthink.com)