Sunday, February 1, 2009

Deadline? When?

The thought-spur, if not the action-impetus, was an article in the New York Times Personal Business section yesterday. I was reading it lying in bed debating how long I could tarry before casting off my down comforter, and heading toward my closet to dress for the 2.7-mile trek to synagogue services.

The piece: "Read this Today, or, If you Prefer, Tomorrow," was about procrastination.

It started off well enough, suggesting that not only is procrastination universal, but it can be beneficial. An Ottawa professor thought a little staring out a window or taking a walk could be "just what we need."

But then the truth came out: Procrastinators embrace "irrational, self-defeating delay." The professor, Timothy Pychyl, must be over my shoulder: "How often have we said, "We'll check email, it'll only take a minute,' and three hours later we're still on it?"

DePaul University Prof. Joseph R. Ferrari classified us procrastinators into three categories: arousal, avoidance and decisional: "The arousal types are thrill seekers who say they need the adrenaline rush that comes from waiting until the last minute." Check. But I always got those term papers in, even though I was typing as the sun rose and stapling them while running into class.

"Avoidance procrastinators put off hard or boring tasks to avoid being seen as failures." Check. I am writing this post instead of my book. Double-check.

"And decisional procrastinators are chronically indecisive in every part of their lives." Not usually. That's my daughter, though--ignore something and the decisions get narrowed for you.

What to do? Deadlines certainly are a help for me. I'm afraid to displease as well as to fail. The article suggests also to break tasks into manageable parts; to formulate them concretely rather than abstractly; to eliminate distractions ("like moving an email icon to make it less visible..." fat chance I can't find it!). There are those of us who use all the tricks and then spend time thinking up more.

But if these don't work, watch out. Procrastination could portend something lugubrious and deep: "It could be a symptom that you're leading an inauthentic life."

Really, I know those avitars in my virtual world aren't real. And oops, the editors waiting for my pages must be at lunch right now. Hmm, let me just check my Facebook...


  1. I just wanted to say that I LOVED this post. :)

  2. I love the combination of words and.... random crazy photo! xoxo!