Procrastination: A Timeline

By Andrew Herold

If the rest of you out there are anything like me, procrastination figures prominently in your day to day activities. And you know what? I like to think you are like me, at least a little. I'd hate to think that I'm the only one just brimming with potential which I am happy to let fester and rot rather than use--I mean, that's just depressing, right?

I adore my procrastinating side, but at the same time I just sort of wish that whiny little bitch came with an on/off switch. Procrastination has its place, sure, but all too often I'll put off doing something that I really want to do (which requires hard work) in order to do something unimportant, unsatisfying and overly easy. I don't expect you to take my word for it though, so let me give you an example: I've got an idea for what in all likelihood would be a series of books (perhaps even a series of good books) and certainly something fun and interesting to write. I got this idea at least four days ago, but as yet haven't started writing a word of it. Now I know that if I let the idea sit too long it will start falling apart and become ludicrous, but instead of sitting down to scribble my madness, I've been...well, let me break down a fairly normal day for you. And I say fairly normal because this doesn't take into account those days which I sit on the couch all day and watch LOST (or Twin Peaks, or Roseanne or whatever form my current obsession takes).

7:15 AM: I wake up. This may not seem like a huge accomplishment to you, but for me it's a goddamn miracle. The day is new and full of promise, which I will certainly squander to the best of my ability, and that kind of knowledge weighs heavily on one's shoulders. Surely today is the day I'll start exercising, or today is the day that I'll edit my stories or write a new one...but it's all I can do to roll out of bed and have the coffee on by 7:30.

8:00 AM: By now, I'm downstairs on the couch and more often than not something is on TV. Occasionally I'll be reading something, but of late that has not been on the agenda. Currently I'm re-watching LOST, so imagine that playing on the TV while I sip on my coffee and dread standing up to get a refill or *shudder* make breakfast. On the table next to me is a legal pad with notes for the book I want to write. I stare at it occasionally with longing and terror.

9:00 AM: I've probably eaten breakfast, although that is altogether too generous a term for what I have eaten. Maybe it was a few granola bars, maybe a bag of gummy candy. The most we can hope for is a peanut butter bagel or a bowl of cereal. Now, fully fueled by an unbalanced breakfast, I'll definitely start writing--why wouldn't I? I'm stuffed full of energy! Guzzling coffee like a mad bastard! There's no possible reason I wouldn't!

10:00 AM: I wake up...again. Apparently my excitement at starting to write overloaded my circuits and I went into an excitement hibernation. It's ok, though, it's only an hour. I didn't lose that much time. Now I'll totally get up and start getting something accomplished! It might not be the great American novel, but it'll be writing, dammit, something that's mine! Something I can be proud of! I'll just grab my pad and pen and...

11:00 AM: I wake up again. By now, the excitement has worn off, and I'm simply disgusted at myself for letting so much of the day pass me by. LOST is still playing, though, so I decide to watch that for a little bit while trying to wrap my head around what I'll make for lunch. It's only an hour away, after all. I start to think of how nice it would be to be totally lost on a jungle island, never having to deal with reality and become depressed that all I have to look forward to is a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup (and that unwritten book series, but now it's hard to get excited about that). This depression lasts through lunchtime, so I continue to watch TV.

12:00 PM: My boyfriend calls on his lunch break, so we talk for a bit. Even though his break is only about 30 minutes, and we're on the phone the whole time, we only actually talk for about ten minutes or so. The rest of the time is spent listening to one another breathe. Prior to his call, I wasn't hungry in the least, but once we're on the phone together I'm ravenous. I also feel bad because as he tells me about his day I realize that I have done exactly nothing with mine, yet still feel stressed and exhausted. Once I'm off the phone, I should shut off the TV, eat lunch, and write like I've never written before (and by that I mean quickly, efficiently and intelligently, not like I've never written and end up sticking the pen in my nose or something). This, sadly, does not happen. In the process of making lunch, I notice just how messy my house is and so decide to go on a cleaning crusade. But first, I should really figure out what to make for dinner and start making it because why would I want to clean up two messes?

3:00 PM: I'm hot, sweaty and exhausted and not because I was doing anything fun. The house is now immaculately clean, though, and that's something. There's meat for dinner thawing in the sink and I feel at least marginally productive, even though as I was cleaning I kept stealing furtive glances at my notes for the new story, thinking: there's still time to write, I could still get started, this would all work out. But first I'd have to shave and shower. I already smell and I don't want my boyfriend to get home and still see that I haven't even showered. And when I don't shave my neck looks fatter than normal.

4:00 PM: I'm back on the couch and back in my pajamas. I know it's not the best way to ensure I'll get anything accomplished, but hey, I just spent all afternoon cleaning and cooking and deserve to wear something comfy. Besides, if I start writing now, I'll have a full hour before my boyfriend gets home to get something accomplished, before I have to start dinner and things get too noisy to write. I'll just sit down on the couch here and grab my notebook and...

5:00 PM: The boyfriend is home. The dogs are barking and whining and going ballistic. There is no peace to be had this night. I put my notebook back on the table (I've added nothing to it but a few doodles and maybe a few lines of dialogue that I heard in whatever show I'm watching) and make dinner. Dinner is consumed in relative silence (comfortable silence, not tense "oh God does he not like my cooking?!" paranoid silence) in front of the TV followed by me loading the dishwasher and cleaning up the rest of the dinner paraphernalia.

6:30 PM: There is still time to write if I go into the bedroom or the office where things are quieter and put on my headphones, but I stay rooted to the couch. After all, there is only one more episode left on this disk and I'd like to finish it before bed.

10:30 PM: As one more, turns into one more, turns into one more, I realize that it's getting later and later and there's no way I'm going to get anything written tonight. But you know what? That's okay. When I wake up in the morning I'm going to get right up, make some coffee and start writing. That writing is going to take off and I'm going to be consumed by it, lost in a world of wonderful characters, excellent story and mind-numbingly awesome imagery. It'll all come together tomorrow...I know it will... know, re-reading what I've written here I think the title should be changed to "Laziness: An Epidemic of Patheticness." But hey, let's look at the positives here. I broke the chain of procrastination by getting this article written, didn't I? Right?

Shit, am I asleep again?