Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Productive Procrastination

Seeing the words together--productive and procrastination--seems like a lie. Is it productive to procrastinate? You're not getting any work done by putting it off.

And now the proverbial "or are you?"

As I began this post, I wasn't practicing what I'm about to preach. I started this days ahead of time, getting cracking just a couple days after I wrote my last post. But then I stopped a sentence in.

"Why?" you ask befuddled.

"Because," I begin wildly, "I can!" But then I realize that that is not the answer you want, nor the answer that you need. But truthfully, deep down, you know the answer: I just didn't feel like continuing. I could give a multitude of excuses like how I began to doubt how much I wanted to talk about procrastination or how I had to combat a zombie that wandered into the writing center without a paper to pick brains about, only an insatiable hunger to pick my brains out. While I would rejoice at the opportunity to survive the zombie apocalypse, I must shamefully admit that that is not the case. The reason why I did not finish the post right then and there was because I lost interest and felt just a little bit lazy.

You're looking at me scornfully, and I can understand why, but let me defend myself. As you can see, I did not simply neglect this piece. I'm typing away at it this very moment. I didn't forget about it. I just wanted some time away from it, away from a keyboard and a blinking cursor, away from the pressure of writing a spectacular post that will make you forget everything you knew about procrastination.

I did it just to prove a point.

Procrastination can be a valuable tool. I see that quizzical cocking of the head to the side--my pug does that when I say, "treat." But Pavlovian behavior aside, I'll repeat myself: procrastination can be a valuable tool. We all do it but I don't think we realize the power we wield by doing so, er, or not doing so.

Time away from a paper doesn't necessarily mean we should block it out of our consciousness altogether. In fact, I argue that it's downright impossible to forget about a paper we're working on unless of course we have several other papers weighing down on our shoulders like Atlas holding a big paper mache globe but instead of countries there's words or huge expanses of white space and...

But I digress. We think about our assignments even when we're away from them, and that's a beautiful thing. We think of all the different ways of wording a sentence or other avenues of research we can take in our particular piece. We think of these things while walking from class to class, taking a shower, or playing a gentlemanly game of croquet. We're away from the piece so some of the pressures are relieved. By mentally reworking the paper, we're not obligated to set any of this in stone, or ink for that matter. Then when we return to the piece we can come back with fresh ideas and a fresh pair of eyes like we're coming back to an old friend who could or could not use an overhaul makeover. Then we can give it highlights or snip the hair here and there--make it more readable and coherent.

Word of warning: when one procrastinates, do so in moderation. Do not wait until the last minute to return to the piece or you won't have enough time to perform said makeover and the pressure will be on to make it all pretty. Then you'll screw up the makeover haircut and nobody will want to look at it.

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