At the tender of age of five, I was sitting in the doctor’s waiting room as my mother completed the elaborate registration form that would result in me getting a lollipop. I glanced over her shoulder to make sure she was doing it right and immediately noticed a glaring error – next to “Gender” she had written the letter “F.” Now, I was still at the age where “good grade” equated to scratch-and-sniff smiley-faced monkey sticker, but I knew that “F” was bad. I was so devastated I lost my appetite for that lollipop.
So years later when Mom checked on the status of my room-cleaning and found me sitting in the middle of the floor color-coding my scrunchies and called me a “procrastinator,” I said “thank you” with the same naiveté that was apparently my birthright. I liked being a pro. I was making progress. Apparently if “gender” couldn’t be my thing than “crastination” could be.
From then on, the simplest of chores became a gargantuan exercise in procrastination. Shoveling the snow required I first create an ice-skating rink for my Barbies, and unloading the dishwasher equated to baking brownies whilst scrubbing everything in the kitchen to a shine so distracting Mom might never notice the untouched dishes. I wasn’t just a procrastinator, I was an ubercrastinator – expending thrice the energy on new tasks to avoid the one I was supposed to be doing. Although I began to understand that procrastination wasn’t the positive quality I imagined it was, I like to think Mom appreciated that I never ‘crastinated half-assed.
So in the spirit of the pro I have become, I am postponing today’s workout to bring you a list of tips, tricks and rules-of-thumb to free the ubercrastinator within:
1) Don’t be picky on what you choose to procrastinate. Anything that’s easier to not do than to do is worthy of procrastination.
2) Correlate the length of your deadline to the length of your procrastination. You already know that Christmas this year will be on the same day it was last year. No need to use this knowledge to get ahead.
3) If accomplishing the task you’re procrastinating will pay dividends in money,
happiness or candy, rethink your priorities.
4) Have a mental list of things you could be doing instead of the thing you don’t want to be doing. Deciding which cereals make good ice cream toppings and rearranging furniture are two of my favorites.
5) The scope of your procrastination should outweigh the simplicity of your to-do list item at least threefold. Visiting two hardware stores to buy new tools to disassemble your dashboard so you can “fix” your check engine light to avoid taking your car to the dealer is an acceptable use of this rule.
6) Develop your own mental “what if” coefficient to determine how long you can procrastinate a task before consequences become too dire. I like to set my scale from “don’t-wanna-hear-another-lecture-about-flossing” to “teeth-already-fell-out.”
7) When you’re feeling confident, try out precrastination. This is a cocktail of elaborate preparation mixed with procrastination. Precrastination is when, on January 2, you purchase, address, stamp and organize by month, the sixteen birthday cards you need for your family that year and then never send them; or when you pay your car registration two months in advance but adhere the renewal sticker six months late. It bears so striking a semblance to overachieving you may fool a few regular run-of-the-mill ‘crastinators.
8) Trust your future self. You will eventually be older, wiser and better equipped to manage the task at hand. Let that guy get his passport renewed.
9) Stay strong. You’re going to be tempted to do the thing that needs to be done. You’re going to imagine the magnificent post-accomplishment glow in which you will bask once you do the thing that needs to be done. You’re going to wonder what other things you could have accomplished in your life if you were to always do the thing that needs to be done. Having this lovely daydream is one of the things you can do instead of the thing that needs to be done.
10) If all else fails, resort to recrastination. This is when you’ve procrastinated on a task so long you’ve accepted defeat and mentally checked it off your to-do list, only to later decide to go back to putting it off.
It’s fascinating what we’ll put ourselves through to avoid doing a thing because not doing the thing – or doing any other thing – is more appealing than doing the thing that has to be done. And now I’m going to postpone my workout a little more because How I Met Your Mother is about to be deleted from my DVR. No “F” for me in procrastination, Mom!
How skilled have you become in procrastination?