June? Bah!


Now that June has arrived the entire northern hemisphere will hear happy, chirping voices ushering in summertime. A summer vacation is a reward for slogging it halfway through the year. It’s not looking good for me, though. I’ve done more shirking than slogging on the home front. The only thing I’ve got to show for 2017 at mid-year is a lengthy “honey do” list. The procrastination bug has really got me this time around. It looks like I’ll be vacationing in the garage.

Are there any fellow procrastinators out there? I’d ask you to send me an email but I know you’d never get around to it. With that in mind if I don’t hear from you I’ll consider you part of the team.

Anyway, while I’m waiting not to hear from you, I’ll offer a look at the procrastination gig from this end of things. After all, all true procrastinators have their own style. We should start comparing notes. This isn’t merely an affliction. It’s a lifestyle.

My style is decidedly lopsided. The procrastination urge doesn’t strike when it comes to work. I’ve always liked digging into work and getting as far ahead of things as possible. Paradoxically, that’s due to steadfast laziness. I’ve found that the faster and more methodical I am out of the blocks the less effort I have to expend in the long run.

That sounds like some warm-fuzzy happy talk. It’s not. There’s actually an analogue for this in aerodynamics. It’s called the power curve. It shows that, under certain conditions, you can fly faster for less power. This isn’t an esoteric thing. It’s basic.

But let’s not get smug about that one. There is, after all, another basic force at work: The shoemaker paradox. That’s the wisdom that the shoemaker’s kids have the worst shoes in town.

This notion hits a bullseye. So, while on the desk front my inbox is clear, my spreadsheets add up and my email is all answered, on the home front things aren’t always so pretty.

The garage has a half-fixed sedan squatting in it. When it comes to cars I keep on top of fluids, brakes, and belts; that’s not procrastination territory for me. But it doesn’t change the fact that a half-fixed car can languish in purgatory for a long time.

Meanwhile, a corner of the hallway is claimed by an assortment of un-mailed parcels, some addressed, some not. And I’ve got two, no, wait, make that three, boxes of mundane household paperwork that has to be sorted, filed, mailed, or thrown out. Darned if I can stir myself to look at it.

I have found that the problem with these types of chores is there’s no mileage in getting ahead of them.

In fact, I sense a bias in the opposite direction. Some neglected tasks just vanish. This is the seduction of procrastination.

Of the vanishing tasks, some roost out of sight and conspire to make a more concerted assault on me. Others, however, just give up and evaporate. The problem, as my fellow procrastinators will agree, is that you can never tell in advance which tasks are going to fall into which category.

Oh, you can sure try to figure it out. I’ve tried. It was never worth the worry. To be a true procrastinator, it helps to be a fatalist at heart. There’s no point in ignoring something if you insist on worrying about it, too. Apathy is the blessed ally of neglect.

I’ll invoke some wisdom from Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Here’s a quote from his book, Antifragile: “Few understand that procrastination is our natural defense, lessing things take care of themselves and exercise their antifragility.”

He’s not excusing a sweeping neglect of life’s essential tasks, but he’s aware that some things are simply better off not meddled with and that they’ll sort themselves out in due time.

No matter how simply we try to live, I reckon there’s an infinite array of things that try to claim our attention. What we choose to heed, and what we choose not to heed is a defining element of our nature. All conscientious people want to be “detail oriented,” but the big question is, oriented to which details? When it comes to this stuff, even seasoned pros in serious contexts can have major differences of opinion. That’s why cage fighting is less brutal than some of the wars that rage in trade publications.

The opinion around my neck of the woods seems pretty clear, though: Until that car in the garage gets going and until some progress is made paring down the mountain of neglected chores, my only vacation is going to be in the garage.

I’ll be holding a wrench instead of a mai tai.
June? Bah!

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at EdStephensJr.com. His column runs every Friday.

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