Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Proud Procrastination Principles

Entropic forces tend to move us procrastinators into the same shiftless circles, so I know a lot of other procrastinators. Most of us, much to the chagrin of the Achiever, get by, and some of us are even fairly successful. Then we are not really procrastinators you say? You have no idea. Let me give you some examples of procrastination that will make your head spin:

  • I have brought clothes to the cleaners and never picked them up at least 7 times.
  • I never picked up a beautiful Karastan rug from the rug cleaners, despite the fact that it was right next to the pet store where I bought my dog food.
  • After passing my comprehensive and proposal exams, conducting my research, and writing my dissertation over 1000s of hours of nap times, grandparent drop-offs, and vacation days, I never defended my PhD.
  • I have lost several teeth because I failed to go back and get a permanent cap after my temporary caps wore off.
  • Almost once a year, I get tickets for failure to renew my car registration and inspection.
  • I have run out of gas more times that I can remember.
  • My dearest fellow procrastinator has spent 100s of hours learning how to build and design amplifiers, but his home system has been sitting in disrepair for 7 years, despite the fact that he owns 1000s of CDs and playing them has been relegated to a boom box.
  • The same procrastinator has thrown away several sets of dishes rather than wash them.
  • My undergraduate best friend and procrastinator pulled a 4.0 for 3 1/2 years straight and then quit.
Let me know if you want me to keep going, because I can. So how does the procrastinator get anything done? Why haven't we all died of starvation while lying in a pool of our own filth? Nobody ever tries to answer these questions. Instead, their are numerous books, websites, self-help programs, all providing us with the answer to the question "why do we procrastinate?". Do we really need to pay somebody to tell us the answer when we know damn well that the answer is that we just don't want to do it. So perhaps its better to ask, why do we do anything? The answer is a combination of pure survival instinct, desire, and fear. For example, survival motivates us to keep a job so we can feed ourselves, desire for the things we want, like a house and a car, motivates us to have a good job, and fear of imprisonment for failure to pay our bills and taxes, motivates us to, eventually.

So the key to pride in procrastination, is careful selection of the things you won't do. You shouldn't put on your anti-resolution list, for example, "Enroll your child in school". This is illegal, so fear should be a motivator for school registration. Likewise, you shouldn't put "Go to work" on your list, because if you quit your job you can't buy food or pay your mortgage. The things I have placed on my anti-resolution list so far, will not threaten my survival, leave me unfulfilled, or make me fear for the consequences if I don't do them. So why would I want to do them in the first place? Because I should finish what I started? If that's the only reason that is why they are going on the anti-resolution list; to finish them, achieve success, and be proud. So my fellow procrastinators, fear not, there is plenty to not do, just chose wisely.


Spring is a great time of year for everyone, but it is in this season that procrastinators have their biggest edge. 'Round about springtime, non-procrastinators start to measure themselves up against their New Years Resolutions, and begin their downward spiral that extends into fall, when they start composing their lists again in anticipation for another "new year". For procrastinators, however, thoughts of putting together a list of potential self-improvements have either been long gone, or haven't even been formed. Rather than mark their failings and deficiencies on an annual basis, procrastinators continuously self-deprecate; regrets build up over a lifetime, so there is no need for springtime panic. While our failures do make us strong, not failing can make us even stronger. That's why this year (or decade, or eon) I have decided to create a list of anti-resolutions; by not accomplishing them I will thereby succeed. The list will likely increase over time. But for now I will start with:

  1. Defend my dissertation.
  2. Organize my files.
  3. Landscape my yard.
  4. Run the New York City marathon.
  5. Get in touch with long-lost friends.
Every failure a success. Procrastinators, just don't do it.