The Art of Procrastination

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I have no doubt that almost all our readers have, at some time or another, seen those motivational “Successories” posters that grace the walls of so many cubicle farms.


You know, the ones with slogans like “Achievement: Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow” or “Vision: A leader’s job is to look into the future and to see the organization not as it is … but as it can become.” And I’d wager more than a few of them had an onset of nausea when they read these trite and equivocal signs.


But I’ll bet far fewer have seen the Demotivators parody posters, which are a lot funnier and — in many cases — much more honest about the dynamics of the corporate world. One of my favorites of this series is the one for the “virtue” of procrastination, which states, “Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.” Ain’t that the truth!


Of course, most people would have you believe procrastination is a bad thing, as if putting off doing something until well after it’s been assigned means the results will be sloppy, incomplete and unsatisfactory. That might be true of novices, but professional procrastinators know better.


For instance, as a journalist, some of my best work has come out of the crucible that forms in the dwindling minutes before it’s supposed to be turned in.


The sense of urgency (nothing concentrates the mind like a deadline) brings a manic and emotional energy to what I’m doing. Consequently, the outcome is usually much more remarkable than usual. If I’d simply started certain articles right away, weeks before they were due, I doubt they would have been as good — less stressful for me, perhaps, but not as interesting and engaging to you, dear reader.


With certification preparation, procrastination can be similarly useful, if it’s applied in the right way. You too can take advantage of the adrenaline burst that comes from the rapidly approaching conclusion of something you’ve barely started to work on.


But let’s be clear about what true procrastination is and isn’t. It’s not a lack of motivation — it’s a lack of motivation right now. Sometimes, you really have more important things to take care of, and in other instances, your mind just might not be there yet.


In any event, master procrastinators usually will be genuinely interested in whatever they’re putting off. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have even considered it in the first place. They just can’t get to it this minute. Then, they forget about it for a while, until someone or something reminds them it has to be done. But they do get it done.


For certification candidates, the key for good procrastination is to be aware what kind of effort will be involved upfront, then be able to recall that months down the line, when you’ve done very little studying, and you’ve got an exam in a couple of days.


By laying that groundwork early on, you’ll be able to really focus your work in the little time you have.


Also, it’s important you really care about what you’re putting off. If you don’t, then it’ll be oh-so easy to shrug your shoulders, say, “Screw it,” and blow it off entirely when the moment of truth arrives.


I mean, if you aren’t interested in the subject you’ll have to spend the next day or two engrossed in, then why bother?


With any luck, readers of this article can discern I’m being kind of facetious with many of these “tips.” In all seriousness, though, most of you will find yourselves in some position in which you have to scramble to finish something you put off, whether it’s studying for tomorrow’s test, finishing a home-improvement project before winter or wrapping up a work assignment just before deadline.


In these situations, you should avoid feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. Instead, really focus your energies on completing the task. You just might be surprised at how well it turns out.

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