Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Friday, April 9, 2010

Procrastination Rituals of the Not-so-Rich and Not-so-Famous

As part of their special issue on procrastination, Slate Magazine published an article on "the procrastination rituals of everyone from cattle ranchers to CIA agents."  Embedded in this important reference work is an alphabetized interactive list of occupations which allows the enterprising reader to "mouse over" a category of interest and learn about a corresponding procrastination ritual.  For example, if you were wondering how a Major League Baseball bat boy might waste time, you could be enlightened by this entry:
Bat boy (MLB) 
Henry Freedman
Houston, Texas
"The ballpark is the best place in the world to procrastinate. You’ve got a huge stadium to play with. We’d play catch on the field, all kinds of stuff. Play any sort of game you can come up with—pretending to throw balls at the crowd. We’d do a lot of things involving sunflower seeds, spitting them, flicking them, trying to kick gum all the way from the dugout to the field. ... We had one batboy who used to sneak out to the bullpen to nap. Sometimes we brought the relievers beer out there.”
Or you could look up poet, and find that Christopher Kennedy of Syracuse, N.Y., confesses that
“I spend an inordinate amount of time selecting the song for my MySpace page. It’s really just set up for my books, but I get obsessed with showing my stellar taste in music across the decades. It’s probably really annoying to anyone who has to get an update every time I make a change to my page. …You take someone like Shakespeare—if he was writing with a computer, we’d be lucky to have four or five sonnets and maybe one play.” 
Scrolling through the list, I found I had to know how a geomancer blows off his or her responsibilities.  I had no clue what a geomancer is or does, and Ivan McBeth of Dreamland, Vt. didn't help me out much.
“Part of our training is just to sit and distill our thoughts by gazing at things. Procrastinating is one of the things we try to be aware of. And not to do. I don’t really procrastinate.”  
In fact, his was one of several claims included in this handy little catalog that would have us believe that the individual didn't or couldn't or wouldn't dream of trying to procrastinate.  In this group were air traffic controller (thank God!), astronaut, funeral director, otolaryngologist, and psychic. 

While others were perhaps more forthcoming, the range of responses led me to speculate about the specificity and uniformity of the question(s) that elicited them.  The article begins with this introduction:  
We already know plenty about how college students and office workers waste time: They check e-mail, send Facebook status updates, and—ahem—read online magazines. But what does procrastination look like for everyone else? 
The handy dandy little compendium itself follows this:  "We asked people from all walks of life to describe their procrastination rituals." 

I thought the inquiry was fascinating, and the results entertaining if not exhaustive.  So I decided to do a little research of my own.  Following their not-so-precisely described "procedure," I asked a small "random sample" of individuals, all related to me in one way or another, what they did when they were procrastinating.  Here are my additions to the "literature" on procrastination rituals.

College Student--I spend lots of time on the internet, and play games on my phone.

Federal Employee--I shop!

Psychologist--Training a squirrel (operant conditioning and shaping) instead of writing my dissertation

Schoolteacher and Mom--I clean stuff instead of doing what I'm supposed to do.

Student in On-line Program--Watching YouTube videos, comedy performances and sit-coms; checking sports scores and forums

University Professor--I'm procrastinating about doing a video for class. I can't make myself do it. It's creative, it takes psychic energy. I tried to do a lot of reading, enjoyment, prepare myself by reading, don't concentrate on it, get myself ready to jump into it, put it off and put it off, rest up for a huge expenditure of energy. I do things that are more enjoyable, biding my time before I've got to jump in.

Unnamed Blogger--[disingenuously] I can't really afford to procrastinate.  The demands of the job are too great.  And I don't spend much time on the internet so I don't have that temptation.  I'm really above all that time-wasting stuff.  [Yeah, right!]

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