"Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today." Thomas Jefferson
I’ve been meaning to write a column about procrastination – I just never got around to it. Besides, I’m not sure even Thomas Jefferson could abide by his own words 100 percent of the time. Most of us have succumbed to the sin of avoiding that which needs to be done at least once or twice.
I’m even betting many of us can relate to a slight modification to Jefferson’s words, quipped by Mark Twain: "Never put off till tomorrow what can be done the day after tomorrow."
Pro-cras-ti-na-tion. The noun requires a full five syllables to get its point across. I’ve read entire sentences that were shorter. I suppose some sort of poetic symbolism exists in the fact that the word itself seems lazy and never-ending – similar to ignoring a task for days and days, or floating down the Mississippi with Huck Finn.
Procrastination is the act of doing one thing – such as napping or checking Facebook – in order to avoid something else you know you should be doing instead. Conquering the beast involves not only finishing what you start, but starting in the first place. And starting is often the hardest part.
That’s because procrastination sneaks up on you. You don’t wake up one morning and decide to ignore certain tasks. You just do (or don’t do, if we are seeking accuracy). I call this unplanned procrastination. If left unchecked it can last upwards of nine months – or more.
My front door needs painting. The wood is chipping and peeling. I bought a can of green semi-gloss over a year ago. Every weekend, when I think about painting, the weather isn’t right, or I can’t find the paintbrush, or the kids have a game or I’ve got other important things to do – like organizing the pencil drawer. By the time I’ve exhausted my arsenal of avoidance techniques, the sun is setting and I decide I might as well wait until tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month.
Some people avoid procrastination like the plague or a bad cliché. I call these folks anticrastinators. They see no value in a do-it-later, normal guy mentality. They are filled with fortitude and an intentional work ethic. They never hit the snooze alarm and often use the phrase, "The early bird catches the worm." Their front doors never chip or peel.
I am not one of these people. I avoid many things. But, because I am a glass-half-full kind of gal, I embrace my procrastinationalistic tendencies and seek to use them to my advantage. I guess you could say I am a pro-procrastinator. Through years of careful implementation, I understand proper use of the technique can propel one into action. When you spend a substantial amount of energy avoiding one task, you may actually get a lot of other stuff done in the meantime.
All procrastination rationalization aside, I know my front door isn’t going to paint itself. My son is graduating from high school this year and we’ll host an open house whereby friends and family will have occasion to walk through the entryway that is currently chipping and peeling. In situations such as this, when a deadline looms, the motivation for procrastination decreases exponentially in relation to the date of impending doom. In other words: There’s no time like the present.
Now, where did I put the paintbrush?
(Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication" You can read more columns at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.)