Sunday, February 15, 2009

all of this has happened before...and it will happen again

Many moons ago during the heyday of my procrastination, whenever I had a big deadline--after all the socks had been rearranged by wool content and the bathtub tiles got a good scrubbing--I would suck down some coffee, pack up my stuff and sit at a computer in the most quiet, lonely, boring place I could find. The plan was that I wouldn't allow myself to get up from that spot until I'd at least made a dent in the big project. Which was nearly always due the next morning.

The situation was pretty straightforward: No music, no cable, no interesting friends to distract from their own work, not even any cute boys around to wonder about. I should have been able to sit down, pound out the project and still have time for a couple re-runs, eight hours of sleep and a balanced breakfast. Right?

Not even once.

So I'd sit there in the lonely place rattling my imaginary chains and try to concentrate. And without fail, I'd start writing rambling, off-topic letters. First came the obligatory journal entry detailing just how screwed I was, how YET AGAIN I'd waited until the last moment to even begin figuring out the requirements of the assignment, how I'd once again banished myself to the depths of Grainger (the beautiful library full of studious engineering types, very few of whom I knew well enough to conversate with) and how this time, yes this time for sure, I was in a mess from which not even an all-nighter could extricate me.

My journals from 1996-2000 are bursting with taped-in looseleaf sheets documenting the struggle between what I knew I should be doing versus the sheer agony of actually taking a step in the right direction. But regurgitating the same impending doom at least once a week got old. So I decided to channel my pain into a warning to others: Do your homework in a timely fashion or you could find yourself wishing you were watching the latest episode of your favorite dramedy instead of staring at the inside of a carrel wondering how you let time get away from you. Again.

The notes detailed how doing this paper/project/assignment/take-home exam was the equivalent of being repeatedly hanged, drawn and quartered. I'd suggest all kinds of things I'd rather be doing, such as sweating in a desert filing camel hooves or hanging outside the 93rd-floor window of the Sears Tower washing windows. And somehow I always found someone around me in the computer lab area to describe. There was the bug-eyed kid who looked like he'd skipped fourth grade that I was sure figured out a way to access dirty pictures on school machines. The weird broody kind of guy who gave me the feeling he was hiding an uzi in his big backpack and waiting to take us all out for high crimes of procrastination. The girl with the twitch I kept catching in my peripheral vision. The sad-looking person who seemed a little too relaxed, like she had already finished all her work and was just in there for fun. Beeyatch.

But I needed that venting--nothing gets you primed for productivity like the sleeve-rolling-up exercise of describing how much the impending job makes you want to throw yourself off a balcony. And apparently people enjoyed reading them. When I graduated, several people told me how much they'd miss the frenetic warnings against waiting until the night before the exam to start the assigned readings or stories of how a computer-lab stranger can really do you a solid by banging on the table when he noticed you drooling on your psychology book. Some friends even mention those 3 a.m.-emails when I see them now, all these years later. It's almost as if those missives were the precursor to this blog. Especially because this isn't the first post I've written about my tendency to procrastinate.

Two weeks ago I got a small assignment. It's due tomorrow. And while it really should NOT be a big deal, I have been completely unable to even get started. The ideas are whirling around in my head, but I have not been able to get more than a sentence down in eight full days.

So here I am, sequestered in the lonely, silent conference room of my building. There's a menacing-looking med student taking up the big table with books, each thicker than my thigh, and some people watching what looks like an awards show in the enclosure with the bigscreen tv (I'm glad I'm not aware enough to realize what I'm missing). I have been sitting on this couch with my laptop since 3:30 p.m.

It is now 9:30.

I made some headway after a peptalk from cc, but I'm nowhere near getting the job done. I told H I wasn't coming back until I had made some serious progress, and I'm pretty sure he expected me back hours ago. This sucks because he has the day off tomorrow and we have plans to catch a matinee. I'm sure he'll worry about my falling asleep in the theater if I pull an all-nighter, but I don't usually get tired until two days after staying up all night. He didn't know me in college, but it won't take him long to figure out how this cycle of insanity works.

Writing this post got the juices flowing. Now I feel like I can get down to business for real. Unfortunately, that's not all that feels like flowing; I hope H comes down here to check on me soon, because I really have to pee.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I try to break a project down into several pieces. To get started (and this is usually a few days before its due) I say I can quit as soon as I get the first piece done.

Funny thing is that once I get the first piece done, I start doing the others and its downhill all the way.

Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started....

Jon said...

This is a pretty long procrastination post. You must really not want to do this project. Maybe I need more projects in my life to avoid by posting more often... or not. I'm thinking probably not.

cadiz12 said...

i do not play around when it comes to putting things off. this post is 137 words longer than i'm supposed to make the project, and i threw it together in about 1/1000 of the time.

Kathy G said...

You sound like my #3 son; when he was in college he'd always find better things to do than homework.

He didn't last very long there.

Teej said...

I'm a bad procrastinator, too. And I wonder whether we occasionally saw each other during late nights at Grainger, perhaps in what I always called "the Raspberry Room." Do you know the one? My friend and I would set out for that giant building at about 8 p.m. and chant, "Danger! Danger! We're going to Grainger!" We thought it was very funny. For some reason.

(I still do think that.)

Teej said...

Oh, P.S. My friend told me to do this: Several days before something is due, do ONLY ten minutes of work on it. Set the alarm on your phone, the microwave, the stove, whatever, and write for ten minutes. Just ten! Then you can be all, "see ya, suckas, I worked a ten-minute work day" and go hang out. I think she was trying to get me to trick myself into continuing to write well past the ten-minute mark, but I am impervious to self-trickery. But what DID happen is that when I came back to the assignment the day before it was due, completing it was surprisingly fast and struggle-free. So look! You still get to procrastinate! It's just procrastination without any of the associated pain. It's, like, a procrastinator's dream.

cadiz12 said...

i stuck to that spot until 7 a.m. when i finally called it quits and went home, even though the assignment wasn't done to my liking. technically it's done, but it sucks. i fear this is one time i couldn't pull it off by the time the birds were chirping.

i frankly don't know how i lasted all the way up until graduation, Kathy. perhaps that's why the thought of further education scares the crap out of me.

Teej, are you sure we haven't met before? i know it's a big school, but we had so many of the same haunts! I absolutely know the raspberry room, what a perfect name for shade of paint. when i'd come with friends, we studied there a the tables (very sunny) and when i was in dire straits i'd head down to the lowest level where it was kind of a leaf green. those were dangerous times indeed.

oh and i am so totally going to try your friend's method! i don't know if there's much steam left in my old way, now. painless procrastination is a plan i can really get behind!

Psychic Pimp said...

Ah Cadiz, it takes me back to those college days when you entertained us all with your 2AM emails. Good times, good times. You always managed to get things done though....you need that pressure to get the jucies flowing. Plus, you still pulled off quality work and in the end thats all that matters.

Madelyn said...

I could never enjoy a job that has deadlines. Which means I will probably be a server for the rest of my life. Whateva!

Lia said...

I love procrastinating.

You know the pressure demotivator? Pressure: it can turn a lump of worthless coal into a flawless diamond, or the average person into a complete basket case.

Not that you're an average person, Cadiz. I hope the project turned out well.

omar said...

Only two times in my entire life have I purposely stayed up all night. One was prom night in 12th grade. The other was the night before my corporate finance final in my senior year of college, when I basically memorized the book.

In both cases, I was a barely-functional zombie for the next week until my body got back to normal.

In other words, I have NO IDEA how you do it.

Madelyn said...

I think there are 2 kinds of procrastinators. There are the ones that put things off until the last minute, but somehow, in the end, pull off whatever it was that needed to get done. It may not be their very best, but they finished. Then there are the procrastinators who put things off until the last minute and when they get serious and begin the project, become seriously overwhelmed and only get about half of it done, convincing themselves that they can go to sleep for the rest of the night (some give up earlier than others) and wake up super early in the morning to finish. BUT then morning comes and they're really tired, so they press snooze until finally they get up at the time they normally would, convincing themselves that if they skip the shower and head straight for school, they can finish right before their class. Sometimes they finish, sometimes they take the zero. Needless to say, I am the latter. Hence my C average in college. But hey, I finished.

Guyana-Gyal said...

You're a true blue writer, you know that? ALL writers procrastinate.

Sphincter said...

I feel your pain. I always say I'm going to make it a point to buckle down and get a system, so that I never spend another freaked out evening like that again. And then I procrastinate about it. And put it off until the next time when that system would really come in handy. I hate that.

Swiss Miss said...

Why do you think I'm reading your blog at this very point? Totally putting off the two articles I have that are due on Tuesday...help

cadiz12 said...

good luck, swiss miss! i'm hoping to try and use Teej's suggestion next time i'm procrastinating. maybe it can work for you too?

ELASTICWAISTBANDLADY said...

This post was eerie. Know what I'm doing right now? I have an essay due in just a few scant hours. It's an easy subject that I know well and can recite the data and hard facts by heart. I only have to fill 3 double-spaced pages with blah blah........and yet here I sit with only the title written down. I gave up and went to bed last night and set my alarm for early morning....and then started looking at blogs.

I can already pinpoint the crux of the problem. I like to write but I don't like writing under someone else's artificial framework and dictates of structure. And so I procrastinate. Badly. Adios A average.

Cool Cat said...

ok, i cannot hold back any longer: where you have been? no new posts? i hope all is well?!

and though i have never had your stay-awake-forever super powers, i must admit i still procrastinate here and there, though it's harder to pull off in the "real world"!

PS
please tell me where the title of this posts comes from?!

cadiz12 said...

i'm alive cool cat; and while i've never really been into sci-fi let alone any "space operas," H and i have become mildly obsessed with Battlestar Galactica and have inhaled several seasons in a matter of a few weeks (we're currently about three episodes from finishing season 3). that's where i got the title of this post--something about "eternal recurrence" seemed really appropriate to my neverending procrastination loop.

no worries, if i can figure out where the heck they downloaded (uploaded?) to, there will be another picture-fied post detailing some of the other crafty stuff that i've been up to lately.

thanks for checking up on me!