A couple of weeks ago, I heard a podcast about the benefits of procrastinating. I wanted to write about it earlier, but, you know, other things came up. Anyway, now I think I’m a genius.
Really, the show was about slowing down. One can slow down without putting off things that are unpleasant or overwhelming, but I focused on the procrastinating part, which is actually something that happens pretty quickly. When you postpone doing one thing in favor of another, it’s prioritizing, which is bound to be one of the seven habits of highly effective people. (I’ve been meaning to read that book, but I haven’t gotten around to it. Since I have decided what it says already, I may be back-burnering actually reading it for awhile longer.) I prioritize in just a split second every day, based almost solely on an acute awareness and constant analysis of psychological and physiological data, accessed and assessed continuously.
Here’s an example:
(Me, consciously, to myself) Do I want to get out of bed now? I can get an early start on my grading and have a whole weekend to do whatever I want! I could pump up my flat tire and go for a bike ride, or finally clean that room in which I store all the mail I haven’t yet opened!
(Me, subconsciously, to myself)- Nah. Stay in bed. You should lay here awhile. Turn on the radio. Lay here and listen to a podcast. Learn something, why don’tcha!
So, you see, procrastinating keeps me in touch with myself. It allows me to live in the moment, and figure out what is truly important to me at any particular time.
This may lead some of you to wonder. You are scratching your head, feeling a bit smug and self-righteous because you get out of bed right away, just as soon as you wake up or the alarm goes off, smiling before your eyes even open, leaping towards the pleasures of a vigorous shower, pausing only to trill to your loved one or dog, “Out of bed, sleepy head!”, or “Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey!” You are wondering why, exactly, it is more important for me to lay in bed – even if it is a school day, and I have already been written up for being late and it’s only the third week after the summer break – why my genius brain has made laying around my top priority.
Well, I will tell you.
First of all, sometimes I really do learn something. I ease into wakefullness because I am mentally stimulated. I become engaged -slowly- with the world around me. True, sometimes it takes a little longer than I would like, but the process can’t be rushed. All of us geniuses agree with that. Often, when one is doing things other than what one is supposed to be doing, one learns serendipitously, and like I always say, “The more you know, the more you know!”* You never know when what you know might come in handy, so it’s best to know a lot.
*Whenever I say this, I always say it in a knowing-but-perky manner, as if the simplicity of it masks a much deeper, slightly elusive meaning. It’s like War and Peace reduced to a Bazooka Joe bubble gum comic.
Second, as I may have told you in a previous post, I don’t think big thoughts all that much. Lots of times, all my brain space is taken up trying to remember what the neighbor’s name was on Good Times, or about this cat I saw one time with a fish in his mouth (did he eat that fish, raw and flopping?), or about how you never see anyone smoking a pipe anymore, unless they are a ridiculous hipster with a stupid mustache, or if said pipe is packed with weed. I think about my hair, or parasites, or Florida (the state, of which I am not a fan, or Esther Rolle’s character on Good Times, who I don’t have strong feelings about, but who I definitely like more than Florida, the state.) I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about 70’s TV shows. So, when I am lying there, half listening to the podcast I had previously decided I really must hear rather than doing something productive in a timely manner, I think. I think about the day ahead, or about the dream I just had. I make a mental list of what not to forget at the grocery store, and figure out a way to use a painting I saw at The Met to explain the idea of leitmotif to seventh graders. I remember to bring a marble made out of moonstone to a friend who needs hope. (I call it a “possiball”; after you squeeze it in your hand, it reflects the light onto your palm – it looks like possibility glowing, hope shining, opportunity gleaming. Coming up with “possiball’ took lots of hard thinking.) I ponder aging and perspective, or what in the world Nietzsche is talking about in Thoughts Out of Season, or what I can do to be a better person. Sometimes I think poetry. I make plans, and hatch ideas, and figure things out. As Aaron Sorkin says, “You call it procrastinating? I call it thinking!” Deep thinking, getting lost in thought is good, and we should all do it from time to time, even if we have to take the time to do it.
The third thing that makes a genius is this: sometimes I work better under pressure. This point is less compelling, as sometimes I just crack under the pressure. I get overwhelmed and paralyzed. I panic and moan and cry and cry, and then I have to waste a little more time by hating myself and buying new clothes that hide my fatty-fat-fatness. But not always. I think that if I have something that is causing me stress, I can run, but I can’t hide from it. Though I try to put it out of sight, I can’t put it out of mind, and there it stays, churning around in my conscious and subconscious, until it gels from a liquefied goo into a delicious buttery morsel. (Like how I carried that metaphor? Gee-nee-yus!!!) I think so much that at the last minute, when I begin the stressful project that I have put off, I am ready. I know where I’m going, and I am confident about getting there. Of course, sometimes I only do a half-assed job because i ran out of time and my final project sucks, but at least I know I could have done it if I had started earlier. That’s reassuring.
The final thing is that by recasting one of my most frustrating personality traits as a positive attribute, I am acknowledging that my name is AVR, and I am a procrastinator. I have always been, and I will always be a procrastinator. Instead of the self-loathing spiral that has often led me to purchase muu-muu type frocks so hideous that I won’t even wear them when I am alone, I can just relax. The things that must get done, will get done, and I will do them as well as I can. Sometimes my last minute is better than someone else’s two weeks ahead. I am a genius, but I don’t need to be a tortured genius. No more anxiety about being anxious! I have to accept who I am, and appreciate the good that comes from being me.
So there you have it. I SHOULD stay in bed that extra 15 minutes. I SHOULD ride my bike instead of clean my house, or do my homework. I SHOULD put off showering all weekend; it saves water and lets my foxy pheromones float freely. I SHOULD spend an hour and a half writing this blog post instead of grading my papers – you needed to know all of this about me. Anyway, there’s always tomorrow. Right now I have to walk the dog for the third time. It’s too pretty of a day to grade papers!
In case you are interested: http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/490624293/slowing-down
P.S. After writing all of that, I found another guy named Tim Urban who wrote a blogpost on this same topic, but way better and with pictures.It’s really good. That dude is probably my soulmate, and now I love him and must read everything he has ever written.
http://www.incimages.com/uploaded_files/inlineimage/images_32959.pdf – Epic flowchart! Whoever made this sure had a lot of time on her/his hands!