I have a condition. This condition is widespread, universal, and everyday, and yet I doubt you'll find it in any psychological diagnostic manual. Nearly everyone has been afflicted by it. Some will deny ever experiencing it, while others will embrace it. I am one of the latter group. I say to you now, loud and clear and with a certain sleep-deprived pride, I am a procrastinator, or, as I like to call myself, a pro.
Why do I define myself as a pro? I'll tell you that later (ha-ha). First, allow me to debate one of the choicer words that has been applied to me and my fellow pros: lazy. I actually couldn't care less what people say about me, but here is how I’d argue if I did. The American High School Dictionary, which I just pulled from underneath a pile of unfinished homework, defines “lazy” as "Resistant to work or exertion; disposed to idleness." I am not lazy, because if I were I'd be doing nothing. Instead, I'm helping my mom clean the house, playing with my cat, and searching the internet for the answer to how, exactly, bus drivers can get on the bus in the morning and close the door behind them in the evening when the door handle is inside the bus. In short, I'm doing everything... except those 100 chemistry problems that are due tomorrow. I do things, just not the things I "should" be doing.
Others may still define pros as indolent dilly-dallyers, but here is what I see.
Procrastination is an art form. Like a tigress stalking her prey, we pros lie in wait for the perfect moment to begin work: not too soon as to finish in a reasonable amount of time, but hopefully not too late to finish just before the deadline (sometimes…). The gears in our heads whir in rhythm as we calculate the amount of effort that should be applied to a certain task. We contemplate such questions as “Yes, I could decorate the sides of my poster board with glitter glue and star stickers, but is it really worth the time when I'll get just as many points as the kid who had the barebones information?” We eliminate unnecessary effort. Our creative muscles are as supple as Gabby Douglas’s physical muscles; they have to be, to allow us to spring into action and complete in hours a task that was meant to take days. Life as a pro is life on the edge.
I have no basis to compare what life would be like if I weren't a pro, because I have been one all my life. I haven't asked my mom, but I wouldn't be surprised if I was born later than I was supposed to be. Ever since I first saw the word “procrastinator” at a young age, I knew it was me, and I knew one other thing also: I am not alone. I come from an honorable lineage. The late author Douglas Adams, author of such invaluable novels as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul, said "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by." The Famous Procrastinators page on procrastinus.com shares this story about Frank Lloyd Wright, the esteemed architect. Wright once received a call from one of his clients, informing Wright that he (the client) would be coming by at lunch that same day to see the plans of a house he had commissioned from Wright. This was months after Wright had agreed to do the commission, and Wright hadn’t drawn a thing. He “calmly finished breakfast and, while a group of extremely nervous apprentices looked on, drew the plans in [a few hours].” The house, Fallingwater, went on to be included on Smithsonian’s Life List of 28 Places to Visit Before You Die, as well as receiving several other honors. Former president Bill Clinton has been described by those who knew and worked with him as a procrastinator (Al Gore called him “punctually challenged”). Look in a library, and I doubt you'll find a single book by an author who didn't at one point procrastinate on writing it.
It is regrettable that not many people appreciate the beauty of procrastination. It is frowned upon, even looked on as a sin. According to Ecclesiastes 11:4, “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.” This Biblical quote begs the question: are all meteorologists sinners? I would say not. Someone needs to watch the wind and the clouds, or else we’d have no warning of severe weather. They may not always be right, but weather reporters are no more likely to be damned than anyone else. To pull the topic back to procrastination, the world needs people who sit back to observe and regard. We need poets to write poems about the wind and painters to paint the clouds, we need people who spend less time doing and more time contemplating. This is not called being lazy. It is called thinking.
When it does come to working, pros have more advantages than you might expect. According to an article on the Ashton College website, procrastinators make better decisions, have increased levels of productivity, do fewer unnecessary tasks, and exhibit increased insight. This is because while others might think they’re just slacking off, these pros are in fact “gathering and processing information, and weighing possible outcomes of their choice”.
My hopes for the future, such as they are, are quite modest. I am considering running for president as a part of the Procrastination Party. Our motto will be: "We'll do it later." As president, I would do absolutely nothing until my last few months on office, during which I would rush to get done what I should have been doing for the last four years. Hey, it could be worse. At least I wouldn't build a wall to keep out non-procrastinators.
The battle procrastinators fight is a long, arduous, uphill one, not helped by the fact that we keep putting it off until later. Perhaps procrastinators will never be accepted as a valuable portion of society, but I will still identify as one. I am proud to be a pro.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.