NORMALLY, I would have finished this column weeks ago. But I kept putting it off because my New Year’s resolution is to procrastinate more.
I guess I owe you an explanation. Sooner or later.
We think of procrastination as a curse. Over 80 percent of college students are plagued by procrastination, requiring epic all-nighters to finish papers and prepare for tests. Roughly 20 percent of adults report being chronic procrastinators. We can only guess how much higher the estimate would be if more of them got around to filling out the survey.
But while procrastination is a vice for productivity, I’ve learned — against my natural inclinations — that it’s a virtue for creativity.
For years, I believed that anything worth doing was worth doing early. In graduate school I submitted my dissertation two years in advance. In college, I wrote my papers weeks early and finished my thesis four months before the due date. My roommates joked that I had a productive form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychologists have coined a term for my condition: pre-crastination.
Pre-crastination is the urge to start a task immediately and finish it as soon as possible. If you’re a serious pre-crastinator, progress is like oxygen and postponement is agony. When a flurry of emails land in your inbox and you don’t answer them instantly, you feel as if your life is spinning out of control. When you have a speech to give next month, each day you don’t work on it brings a creeping sense of emptiness, like a dementor is sucking the joy from the air around you (look it up — now!). [read more]