I’ve spent many hours theorizing about procrastination. Some people always appear to have their priorities in order and their work in on time. However, a good many others are reading this column only because they’re trying to put off starting a twenty-page paper that’s due tomorrow. You know who you are. The salt-art you leave on the tabletops in Kline gives you away.
Are some people genetically more inclined to procrastinate? If procrastination were an inherited trait, it seems as though it should have been weeded out long ago as counterproductive and undesirable. I can’t help but assume that the cavemen who went ahead and diligently discovered fire had a higher rate of survival than those who said, “Eh, I’ve got all weekend.” When plagues descended on villages, the inhabitants who didn’t leave town right away because they just couldn’t get around to packing up all their stuff probably didn’t do too well in the long run.
So why is this habit still around? It could be said that some good does come out of procrastination. If students went straight to their studies without allowing themselves several hours (or days, or months, depending on the circumstances) of puttering around beforehand, picture the CD’s that would remain un-alphabetized, their liner notes un-perused. Tumbleweeds would roll through Historic Diners, which would eventually go bankrupt. Plants would go un-watered. Thank-you notes would never, ever be written. Thousands of cartons of Smack Ramen would sit uneaten. How many friendships have been saved because one or the other of you had a twenty-page final to work on but decided they simply had to pick up the phone and catch up?
Procrastination is the only thing I can think of that you are doing just by talking about it. And it’s so much fun to talk about! Discussing your procrastination habits is like gossiping about yourself. I loaf around after a meal bragging about how much reading I have or how many encyclopedic papers I have to write as though that makes me some kind of bad-ass. And maybe it does, because people often try to wrestle the crown title of “Most Amount of Work to Do Tonight” away from one another. The battles are often bloody. Sometimes I think people lie about the amount of work they have. I don’t think they should do that. It wrecks the curve for the rest of us. Then the people who really have less than twelve hours in which to write a research paper that counts as the only grade for an entire course don’t get the sympathy they have rightly earned, and that’s just not fair. Don’t believe the senior who tells you he’s still being pressured to turn in a freshman seminar paper. He just wants attention.
My biology class recently discussed the idea that a trait is considered evolutionarily successful only if it increases an organism’s chances of reproduction. Maybe that’s the sneaky way in which the procrastination assures its continuance in the human race. What is reproduction, after all, but a great way to procrastinate? Procrastinators, instead of doing something they really should be doing, are going off and populating the world with people who will eventually blow off their term papers until the last minute, too.