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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Procrastinating 101: Time for the Mad Hatter to Grow Up?

Today, we begin a new venture on Procrastinating 101.  We will spend the next several Tuesdays digesting and learning from the book Never Be Late Again:  7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged, by Diana DeLonzor.  

I have chosen this book from the stack of life-fixing volumes on my shelf because it reflects my sudden, and many would say, late interest in being more timely.  According to the back cover, I am promised discovery of:

  • The root causes of lateness and procrastination 
  • How anxiety, time perception, and adrenaline affect time management 
  • The most common mistakes late people make [I'm presuming she doesn't mean late, as in deceased]
  • Tips for overcoming the psychological obstacles that hold [me] back 
  • 7 unique and simple secrets to successfully managing [my] time
 This speaks to me.  Unfortunately.

As does this handy list at the beginning of the book's first section:


  1. I'm trying to break this perfectionist image.
  2. Wasn't it Einstein who first said time is relative?
  3. Why do we need labels like "late"?  Can't we all just get along?
  4. I was busy planning a surprise party for you.
  5. Really, I don't feel tardy.
  6. My biorhythms are off.
  7. Existentially speaking, how can you prove I'm late?
  8. I'm protesting the oppressive nature of clocks.
  9. Explain this whole "late" concept to me again.
  10. I thought you might want some time alone.
  11. I was born late, you know.
  12. Mentally, I was here twenty minutes ago.
So, how many of these have you used?  I confess to uttering something close to #s 1, 2, 3, 8 and 11 out loud.  I'm not saying how many others I've muttered under my breath, or thought inwardly.  It would seem that I am "punctually challenged."  Hence, the reading assignment.

I love following advice from those who've been there, so I was charmed by the harrowing tale with which Ms. DeLonzor begins the book's introductory chapter, "Running Late."  It related her own experience of "crashing" a wedding procession because of lateness, a story embarrassingly reminiscent of something I lived through.  Unlike Ms. DeLonzor, I didn't end up blocking the bride's access to the center aisle, but, along with my carful of family members, I held up my brother's wedding by a half hour.  My entire family has a legacy of embracing lateness, and claiming to find it humorous, but I can assure you, our new in-laws weren't laughing.  And because my brother was marrying into a Baptist family, we couldn't slosh our way to amnesty at the reception. 

But enough about me.  Lest we think that Ms. DeLonzor's opening account was an exception, there's this:

I am a former card-carrying member of the punctually challenged, and punctuality used to be my Achilles heel.  I was suspended three times in junior high school for tardiness.  I've been late for surprise parties, client presentations, court appearances, and classes for which I was the instructor.  Planes, graduations, and funerals have left, started, and ended without me. 
I like this woman already.  I know this woman.  I am this woman.  (And so, apparently, are 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population--though some of them are men.)

And since she purports to have left her tardy habits behind, maybe she can show me how.  And she doesn't underestimate the difficulty of reform.

Resisting that sudden urge to make the bed, unload the dishwasher, water the plants, or finish a newspaper article can be nearly impossible.
(As it was this morning.)

DeLonzor cites research showing that "the late" differ from our more timely counterparts on measures of anxiety and distractibility (we have more of both, of course), and self-esteem and self-discipline (less, naturally).  And she, and others, have found that "lateniks" consistently underestimate the passage of time, while those who show up on time overestimate it. But her main contention is that we get something out of being late, and until we understand what that something is, no amount of organization or time management will help us change.

Previewing the rest of the book, DeLonzor pledges to motivate the reader to change her/his delinquent ways, and to provide tips and exercises to achieve this.  

[I]f you practice the techniques in this book on a daily basis and stay committed, your days of rushing, apologizing, and excuses will be over, and you'll embrace a new, more effective way of managing your time and your life.
Sounds good.  I guess.  But what about drama?  Oh wait, could that be what I'm getting out of my Mad Hatter act?

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