Getting down to business ... eventually
13, 2000, Gazette)
Do any of
you know what a round tuit is? A round tuit is a disk-like object
with a message inscribed on its face which assures the owner
that tasks which he or she has set aside, waiting until the day
they get around to it, can now be completed. With
the presentation of this object, the recipient has finally gotten
a round tuit and therefore can no longer justify putting
things off, or procrastinating.
encounter with a round tuit came a few years ago when I was given
one by a friend. This was an eye-opening experience; until that
moment I had never really thought of myself as a procrastinator.
yard occasionally looked like some of the darker recesses of
the rain forest and I may have had half my personal belongings
scattered around my bedroom floor, but did delinquent mowing
habits and neglectful housekeeping practices make me a procrastinator?
not. So, I looked more closely at just what earning that title
a procrastinator meant that unpleasant or obligatory tasks were
often put off in favour of more gratifying ones then yes, I supposed
I might be one.
If it meant
that assigned papers or projects were occasionally completed
(okay, and started) near their deadlines then, again, I had to
confess that there was a distinct possibility that I was a procrastinator.
In recent years, I have come to accept that its not just
a possibility; I now have no doubt whatsoever that I am a procrastinator.
I just hadnt gotten around to acknowledging it.
am I in the minority? Havent most students at some time
or other burned the midnight oil in a last ditch effort to get
an assignment finished or squeeze in another hour or two of study
before the big final?
Lets face it: at one time or another we all bow to that
little hedonist buried deep within ourselves, choosing to enjoy
a nice summers day or a night out with friends in favour
of performing work or school related tasks.
could be made, though, that such behaviour is acceptable in moderation,
but to make it a way of life is extreme and, in some cases, an
indication of laziness or blatant irresponsibility.
And I can see the truth in that. Pursuing any one thing to the
exclusion or detriment of all others is never healthy. Indeed,
when this one thing is alcohol or some form of narcotic
we call it an addiction.
Perhaps thats what procrastinators have: an addiction to
self-gratification - satisfying ones own desires to the
exclusion of all other obligations.
however, that this theory may be a little harsh. While it could
be true in some cases, I believe that the average procrastinator
- someone like myself - has no such self-serving motives.
Occasionally, a person simply cannot master the art of time management.
Every semester starts off the same, with promises of exceptional
organization, diligent and progressive work on assignments and
the occasional sacrifice of a weekend for the purpose of study.
By mid-semester, attempts at strict scheduling are abandoned
and the post-midterm break rush begins. The library is like a
coop full of headless chickens, with students running from floor
to floor in search of information for five different papers.
I had experienced
this phenomenon myself on several occasions and began to believe
that I had sold my soul to the god of ineffective time management.
It seemed as good an explanation as any for my procrastination.
But the more
I thought about it, the more I realized that it didnt fit
the profile of an individual who, for years, had balanced an
active athletic, academic and social schedule. You cant
live a life like that without some kind of ability to manage
I had a conversation with a professor of mine who suggested that
I am a deadline driven individual.
gave me pause for thought. Never before had I considered myself
a person who got a thrill from enduring the pressure of completing
assignments the night before theyre due.
I cannot think of anything less gratifying than spending a whole
night squinting at a computer monitor and, in the morning, looking
and feeling as if somebody has beaten me with a rubber hose.
and time again, I and many others find ourselves in just that
Why do we
that it is a case of classical conditioning. Much like Pavlovs
dog, we become trained to behave a particular way given a certain
stimulus. In the case of the procrastinator, the behaviour is
superior performance of the mind and the stimulus is pressure.
say for certain when the seeds of this conditioning are sowed,
but, given that Im already sounding like someone with a
degree in psych, I may as well offer another suggestion.
my own experiences, I figure that after so many years of competing
in sports - where performance under pressure is essential - my
mind and body have become accustomed to putting a push on when
And, in the
same way that you raise your level of play when necessary, writing
becomes more eloquent and concise when youre pressed to
convey your ideas in a limited amount of time. Its as if
the pressure keeps you focussed.
In all fairness,
I do have to admit that work resulting from a last-minute effort
can sometimes be crap. If this holds true for you, then waiting
for performance pressure isnt your reason for putting things
off; better look toward time management or simple laziness to
explain your procrastination.
the reasons behind procrastination vary widely from person to
person and, as always, I do not presume to speak for anyone but
myself. For the rest of you putter-offers out there, you might
find it useful to consider where your own procrastination stems
from. In fact, I feel confident that each of you will do just
that. Eventually. When you get around tuit.