Thursday, August 22, 2013


Efficient people are really lazy people in disguise--true or false?  If you said false, you clearly aren't one of us. The truth is we lazies strive to do as little as possible as quickly as possible so we can get back to lazing around. Being efficient fits nicely with our goals and, more importantly, it gets better press.  

Case in point: a quick peek at the dictionary reveals that "efficient" means being productive with minimal effort, while "lazy" means requiring little or no effort.  See?  They're the same. Except, of course, for the synonyms. Oy!  If you're lazy, you are indolent, shiftless and slothful. Slothful!  When the best way to describe you is by invoking the Seven Deadly Sins, you know you're in trouble. 

On the other hand, if you're efficient, Mr. Roget and his eponymous book can't praise you highly enough. Not only are you energetic and economical, you are also capable and clever, able and accomplished, shrewd and skillful, and also, my personal favorite, virtuous.

Not to mention that lazy is often followed by the word "bastard."

So unfair. And where's the gratitude? Where would the rest of you be if we hadn't perfected procrastination?  Take Hamlet, the biggest procrastinator of all time…okay, not a good example. Just remember this:  procrastinating is an art. A person may dabble for years and never become a virtuoso. Only a master procrastinator can leap from the precipice of putting things off into the whitewater of wasted time, swim through the sea of snide remarks, and all without drowning

Isn't it time the world lauded our contributions to society? Look at our magnificent "Paper Self-Management System" which enables offices everywhere to run smoothly.  Also known as "Elimination by Procrastination," this system allows the user to dispose of piles of paperwork without ever touching them. The secret lies in recognizing which documents will take care of themselves without human intervention. It also works with e-mails, texts and voicemails.  

Another of our crackerjack accomplishments is, "National Procrastination Week."  Troubled by the stressful lives of our friends and neighbors, we wanted to show them an easier life--our life, and so we instituted "National Procrastination Week"(March 4-10), to promote the many benefits of putting off until tomorrow everything that needn’t be done today. You're welcome.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't introduce you to some famous procrastinators in history. First, we have President Woodrow Wilson who prohibited child labor, limited railway workers to an eight hour day, declared war on Germany and wrote fourteen points about something or other. I should probably look that up. I'll do it later, I need a snack first … oops, where was I? Oh yes, the important thing was Wilson's firm belief that: "Today's greatest labor-saving device is tomorrow."

And then there's Mark Twain, father of American literature and the greatest humorist of his age. He was one of ours, too. Did you know he changed his name to Mark Twain because it took too darn long to write Samuel Langhorne Clemens? Think of all the time he saved over a lifetime! He even patented several time-saving devices including the "Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments" (to replace suspenders) and a self-pasting scrapbook featuring pages coated with dried adhesive that only required moistening. Genius!

And talk about efficient, when Twain learned that his birth coincided with the appearance of Halley's Comet, he declared that he would die when it returned. And, of course, he did. His motto was:  "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow."

Our third American hero is Les Waas, founder and president of the "Procrastination Club of America." The club boasts 12,000 active members and millions more who are planning to join, but haven't gotten around to it. The club started as a joke when Waas and some friends hung a sign up in a hotel that read: "The procrastination's club meeting has been postponed." Waas has been president for fifty-five years and explains that while the club would like to award an annual "Procrastinator of the Year," they are still waiting for the nominating committee to make a recommendation. (Steel, Piers, PhD. The Procrastination Equation. New York: Harper 2010).

So, what are the roots of procrastination? Is this just a modern-day reaction to our perpetual busyness? Excellent questions, glad you asked. Some ancient civilizations did embrace the concept of procrastination. Indian philosophy, for example, gives equal weight to the paths of action and inaction, and one of the foundations of Zen Buddhism is to live in the moment, aware of your actions, thoughts and sensory perceptions. 

Hey multi-taskers! Turn off your phones and pay attention. You don't see any Buddhist monks racing around town picking up their dry cleaning and dropping off their dog at the vet, do you? That's because they're serene. They're living in the moment. They’re in tune with their inner selves. Nah, they're probably just procrastinating…
The bottom line is: don't feel guilty for procrastinating. The important stuff will get done eventually and the other stuff will take care of itself.  It turns out some of the most creative people are the biggest procrastinators. Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One's Own:  "It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top." See? You weren't procrastinating, you were just being creative!  
This is a sample from my e-book, "A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities," available on Amazon for only $0.99. Such a deal!

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