Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, December 10, 2021

Rogers column: It’s the time of the season for those who procrastinate

The season of Advent is upon us by the liturgical calendar, a time for anticipation, prayerful reflection and spiritual preparation as Christmas approaches.

Or, in my personal calendar, a time for procrastination.

Further procrastination, I should say. “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow” has long been my motto year-round, to my wife’s frequent distress. And once December rolls around, “tomorrow” transitions into “next year.”

In especially favorable circumstances, like 2019, it can even be “next decade.” Or, wonder of rare wonders, “next century.” I think I’m still putting off some things from 1999.

This year has its own little bonus, though, in that it offers the opportunity to construct a 2022 to-do list, which has a nice little ring to it. Kind of softens the negative vibe of procrastination, which, I contend, gets a bad rap anyway.

We all want to procrastinate when it comes to dying. Why should other disagreeable tasks be any different?

Nor do the synonyms help much: Stall. Dither. Vacillate. Dilly-dally. Fritter. Dawdle. Drag your feet. We need a new word or phrase entirely, something that captures the positive aspects of delay.

Constructive rescheduling? Pre-emptive postponement?

True, over the course of a lifetime procrastination can lead to some anxious moments. Like that time in the 10th grade when my friend Jim and I had neglected to attend to a science project requirement until the evening before the project was due. Some minor level of panic ensued.

Still, we managed to pull it off with a display about the Mobius strip, a three-dimensional surface with only one side. The scientific method involved in its production was not rigorous: We took a strip of paper, gave it a half-twist, then glued the ends together. Voila!

In terms of merit, this was the equivalent of the science project evergreen, an erupting volcano, with its baking soda and vinegar-induced lava. Or even less, in that our Mobius strip did nothing but hang there and exhibit its Mobiusness. Still, it served the function of avoiding an F on the assignment. Though not by much.

It’s also true that not every situation lends itself to extensive delay. A dashboard gas tank display indicating the imminent arrival of E, for instance, argues for a speedy detour to a pump.

Conversely, a few wool-infused clothing items that want dry-cleaning might easily wait through several winters, in my experience. By which point, if hungry moths have intervened, dry-cleaning might not be necessary at all.

The trick for the accomplished procrastinator is to appreciate the difference in the situations, and act – or not act – accordingly.

For instance, I’ve recently been appreciating the fact that several things I’ve been putting off somewhat indefinitely are now prime candidates for the 2022 to-do List, they being of some concern, but not (as of now) immediate.

Two involve visits to medical providers I’ve delayed partly for COVID reasons, partly just because ... that’s what I do. One is a trip to the dentist, the other to the eye doctor. Fortunately, no emergency situations have forced my hand earlier.

A couple of others are financial: An insurance policy that bears looking into for a cost-benefit analysis, and the preparation of a will to provide for parceling out any remaining assets that might be on hand when I’m no longer around to take advantage of them myself.

You can perhaps appreciate my lack of enthusiasm for any of these pursuits.

My wife, meanwhile, as if to drive home our differences on this topic, recently took “The Procrastination Cure,” a LinkedIn audio course. “Learn how to eliminate distractions and how to achieve more by doing less,” the course description states.

Among the points included to provide inspiration was this quotation from Mark Twain: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.”

All due respect to Mark Twain, I’d say that if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s time to change jobs. Without delay.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com