“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” Thomas Jefferson
I’ve been meaning to write a column about procrastination – I just never got around to it. Besides, I’m not sure even Thomas Jefferson could abide by his own words 100 percent of the time. Most of us have succumbed to the sin of avoiding that which needs to be done at least once or twice.
I’m even betting many of us can relate to a slight modification to Jefferson’s words, quipped by Mark Twain: “Never put off till tomorrow what can be done the day after tomorrow.”
Pro-cras-ti-na-tion. The noun requires a full five syllables to get its point across. I’ve read entire sentences that were shorter. I suppose some sort of poetic symbolism exists in the fact that the word itself seems lazy and never-ending – similar to ignoring a task for days and days, or floating down the Mississippi with Huck Finn.
Procrastination is the act of doing one thing – such as napping or checking Facebook – in order to avoid something else you know you should be doing instead. Conquering the beast involves not only finishing what you start, but starting in the first place. And starting is often the hardest part.
That’s because procrastination sneaks up on you. You don’t wake up one morning and decide to ignore certain tasks. You just do (or don’t do, if we are seeking accuracy). I call this unplanned procrastination. If left unchecked it can last upwards of nine months – or more.
My front door needs painting. The wood is chipping and peeling. I bought a can of green semi-gloss over a year ago. Every weekend, when I think about painting, the weather isn’t right, or I can’t find the paintbrush, or the kids have a game or I’ve got other important things to do – like organizing the pencil drawer. By the time I’ve exhausted my arsenal of avoidance techniques, the sun is setting and I decide I might as well wait until tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month.