I once heard those who plan ahead choose long periods of nagging pain, while those who procrastinate prefer short bursts of intense agony.
My marriage serves as an example.
I shake my head in disbelief when Joel roars around two minutes before he has to leave: searching for his keys, finding his glasses, unearthing his cell phone, assembling his papers, and thinking I know where they are but won’t tell.
He, on the other hand, questions my need to keep the gas tank topped off, make extensive lists for everything I do, and start packing my suitcase a week before we leave for a trip. “Why,” he asks, “do you worry and work sooner than you have to?”
Conversations with friends and acquaintances about writing also illustrate the divide between the tortoise and the hare.
I know I’m talking to a procrastinator when I’m asked, “What’s it like to meet the newspaper deadline for your column and your self-imposed deadline for your blog every week, month after month, with no break? That kind of pressure would drive me crazy.”
I agree: if I were awake at midnight the day before a deadline, sitting at my computer with the word count hovering below the required minimum, and unable to think of nouns—never mind metaphors—I’d be bonkers.
But I’m the student who studied slowly and methodically for tests several days in advance rather than pulling all-nighters and the teacher who decided before going to bed what I’d wear to work the next day. I renew my prescriptions as soon as possible and note important dates on my calendar well in advance: schedule a hair appointment, spray the aphids, submit a column by 9:00.
So, in accordance with my compulsions, I write at least a month in advance and usually have two columns and four blogs ready for publication. While others are thinking about Halloween costumes, I’m polishing a piece about cooking Thanksgiving dinner or choosing Christmas presents.
I like knowing I could go to bed with inflamed tonsils, sail on a cruise ship to Antarctica, or slip into several weeks of mindless sloth without my column and blog fading into oblivion.
My habit of planning in advance and tackling my tasks in stages doesn’t allow me to feel smug, however. Over the years, I’ve learned that doing quality work in a punctual manner matters more than whether it’s accomplished in a day of focused activity or weeks of gradual work.
Still, I wonder why the man I love can’t see the wisdom in planning several meals and shopping for them in advance, rather than deciding what to have for dinner and shopping after work with five-hundred fellow procrastinators—my idea of intense agony.