Monday, July 16, 2007

A tough habit to break...

I have long made it publicly known that I am a procrastinator of EPIC proportions. I've always managed to get by in spite of my nasty little habit. (When you're smart, most of the time procrastination is something you can afford in school.) In middle school, I put together projects, and won prizes in science fairs for stuff that I spent maybe an hour on, when in reality I'd been given two weeks. It wasn't so much because of the effort put forth in that hour, but because I understood even then that it was all about presentation. If you can make it look good, people will buy whatever crap you're selling. It's always been about style, and not about substance. Sure substance is all well and good when you're willing to put forth an honest effort, but when you're not in love with the idea of a project, and you could really care less about putting an honest effort into it, you're really a whole lot less likely to get a jump on things and spend as much time as possible making sure it not only has substance, but also that it looks good.

I took this nasty little habit up to its highest levels in college. And trust me when I tell you that there is no place where procrastination is more readily rewarded and completely embraced than in the American institutions of higher learning known as universities. I mean sure, you could actually go to classes, listen to lectures, take really great notes, and read all the assigned text, but that's no fun! I was much more satisfied with sleeping in, going out boozing, not buying the textbooks, borrowing notes from classmates, and checking out the outlines of the texts, and writing papers based on what could be readily gleaned from those resources. I quote John Nash in the movie A Beautiful Mind when I say I lived by the theory that "Classes will dull your mind, destroy the potential for authentic creativity." In that spirit, I often found that I excelled in some of the classes I attended the least because the information I extracted from my set of resources was not polluted by the opinions of those who presented them in lecture, thus my papers were often regarded as "a fresh look into the subject" or "a starkly different perspective on the material." ... Like I said before, when you're smart, you can get away with that stuff because you know how to reassemble it to make it look fresh and different, when in fact it's just a bunch of crap amassed at the last possible moment.

I'd say that my worst (or best, depending on how you want to look at it) exploitations of my procrastination and the skills cultivated as a result came in my junior year. By this time I was the queen of the all-nighters. I will save one of those stories for another day, but suffice it to say that I "studied" for a final while out closing down the campus watering hole to celebrate a friend's birthday. That story is one of my favorites. A story of equal or perhaps even greater magnitude though, was when I had 3/4 of a semester to complete a research project for a class which was 100% related to, and required for my major. And to be honest, the project really should have taken that long. But if you're willing cut a few MAJOR corners to fake the numbers in a project that doesn't matter to anyone but your professor, and if it is 100% guaranteed that there is no way that said professor can check your numbers, and you know how to plug those numbers into the computer program that you've been taught to use to analyze the data to get statistics and charts, well, let's just say that 3/4 of a semester can be condensed into about an hour's worth of work. And then you can spend five or six hours writing up a 25 page work of fiction examining, explaining, and processing an analysis of your fictitious results. And when you get an A on that project and feel no remorse, it might indicate to some that you're something of a sociopath, but to others of you out there, it would indicate that you've got your priorities in line, and that a 25 page research project and write-up ranks rather low on the list when compared with things like celebrating Tuesday at the bar, or catching a Cubs game from the bleachers, or perhaps lounging on the beach a block from campus.

Why even now I am actively procrastinating. I'm writing this post rather than working on my weekly paperwork. I'm putting off what I've put off all week. Spending another few moments with you fine people and not being the good little worker bee that they pay me to be. I should point out that when it comes to my weekly paperwork, I document as thoroughly as possible. I keep notes, I keep tabs on my clients, and I make it to every appointment as scheduled. I just put off typing it all up on the formal sheets until the latest hour of the last possible day. I've had conversations with people I haven't spoken to in years, I've watched movies I've owned for a long time, I've showered, I've vacuumed, I've done everything I can to further delay the onset of my paperwork... And for lack of a better ending, I can only tell you that I'm getting down to the wire now, so it's about time for me to get started.

Have a lovely, delightful, spectacularly swell day!

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