Cover Story: Better Late Than Never

Tips on procrastination from a master

Aug 24, 2000 at 2:06 pm

For me, procrastination isn't just a concept. It's a way of life. My mom will surely attest to that. See, I started young. Actually, procrastination is the only thing I bothered to start early on.

I hadn't even taken my first breath of polluted air when I was already well on my way to becoming a master procrastinator. I stayed curled up as snug as a bug in a rug for 10 months — to the day. Mom was due to give birth on June 25, and come July 25 I was showing no signs of going anywhere.

Why leave? I had it made.

I was getting my nutrients. Mom's womb was clearly very comfy. I could just prop my feet up on my mom's bladder and sleep to my heart's content.

That just wasn't good enough for some people. (Thanks a lot, Mom!) So the folks at Good Samaritan had to forcibly remove me. I believe Mom still holds a modicum of resentment toward me for the whole ordeal. But my much-delayed beginning sent me on my path.

Even as I sit here, attempting to deliver tips on how to procrastinate, I find myself resorting to my old tricks. Instead of thinking, "Hey, this article was due five days ago. I'd better get cracking on it," I think "Hey, I haven't talked to Mom in a while. Why don't I give her a call?"

After telling Mom that I was writing about procrastination, she had but one thing to say: "Oh, something you're an expert at."

Now that I'm in my 30s, I'm more responsible. OK, so I still procrastinate. (The hours of "research" I've logged for this story is unfathomable.) The difference now is I'm ready to take credit for my actions. And that's one of the biggest lessons to learn if you're truly sincere in wanting to be a master procrastinator. Don't deny who you really are.

I was in denial for too long. I wasn't ready to accept the gift that God had granted me. I downplayed my procrastination as if it were an unconscious act, or I'd tell myself that I had more than enough time to get stuff done. It was the reason I allowed myself to watch primetime TV, read a magazine or two, surf the Web and play video games before starting a seven-page term paper. And somehow I'd get it done, while giving myself an ulcer in the process.

Now that I've learned to embrace my procrastination, my stress level has gone down some and my ulcer has dissipated. To give you an example in the present, I know that I'll finish this article. It'll get done. Having that confidence in myself has justified my two Mountain Dews, five trips to the bathroom, six e-mails I sent, eight non-work related conversations, 10 games of Rock & Roll Jeopardy online and 16 cigarettes in the two hours since I began writing this piece. And I'm contemplating cleaning off my desk before I continue.

The scary thing is I've known about this story for a good month or so. I told my editors I was doing research, really tapping into the root of procrastination. I think they bought it. (And for the record, a successful master procrastinator must also be quite adept at brown-nosing. Hey, being likable really helps smooth over the fact that you don't have your work done. Of course, my viewpoint on that will change if I get fired in the next couple of weeks.)

I can't begin to count the methods I've used to put off doing this article. With years of experience, and having already shown myself to be right-brained, I've managed to come up with numerous creative ways to wait until the very last minute. (No, I won't cop as to which ploys I've actually enlisted.)

· Re-arrange all the furniture in your room.

· Call one of Dionne Warwick's psychic friends.

· Rewatch your videotapes of Beverly Hills, 90210.

· Search for your friends' names on the Internet.

· Do the TV Guide crossword puzzle.

· Make a themed mix tape, perhaps of songs that deal with cereal.

· Make out your Christmas list, regardless of what month it is.

· Play Trivial Pursuit against yourself.

· Log all your videos/CDs/underwear into a computer database.

· Relieve your sexual urges.

There really is no right or wrong way of procrastinating. For some reason even the most mundane tasks become exhilarating when faced with the mandatory workload, especially that which comes with collegiate hell.

And for me, life at the University of Cincinnati was where my procrastination skills truly shined. It became a unique version of on-the-job training. Just how could I put off writing a five-page analysis on Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables? Or, better yet, how do I write a paper on a book I put off reading?

And the thing is I usually did well in school even if I was finishing my paper five minutes before class. Well, provided I did finish my work.

Professors thought my ideas were intelligent and well thought out. As if! I often came up with an idea five hours before class started, and then I proceeded to bullshit my way through the assignment. (The ability to bullshit is yet another beneficial tool to the art of procrastination.)

If professors wanted to give me more credit than I really deserved, so be it. I can't help it if it was easy to snow them. I simply took advantage of it when I could — for all 10 years I was in college. (Did I not mention that I was a master procrastinator?)

Mom always treated my procrastination as if it were a dirty word or a bad habit. In her eyes, it was like I was bisexual or I bit my nails or I owned a Debbie Gibson album. But I'm proud of who I am. ©