By Anne T. Donahue
This year, I vow to start January right: I am going to change next to nothing about the way I approach school and work. Meaning? I am going to continue to save all my work for the last minute and then scramble to get it all done while in a deep haze of TMJ-inducing stress.
Haters will say it’s unhealthy. And in all fairness, it likely is. But also, I’m in my thirties. I know how my ADHD-riddled brain works, and I know what can and will push me to meet deadlines and to feel like a person. So in the spirit of doing the absolute least until being pushed to the brink of a panic attack, here’s every defense you need when you’re told not to procrastinate.
Argument: “But what if you get sick/something happens/etc.?”
Defense: “I live in the present.”
Well, that’s a lie. I absolutely do not. And I have 100% been burned by coming down with the flu/needing stitches/etc. and still needing to complete a task I’d been aware about for three months prior.
But that doesn’t matter. In a climate rife with mindfulness (my most-hated word), I’ve learned that “what if” will not prepare you for anything, let alone the crisis you’re envisioning. Also, most people will understand if you ask for an extra day or two because they have also saved deadlines until the last minute and are probably doing it along with you. It’s a beautiful cycle from which none of us will ever escape.
Argument: “But how can you enjoy the day with [task] looming?”
Defense: “Time isn’t real.”
Arguably, this isn’t a sentiment that holds clout if you’re speaking to a physicist. But most of us are not, and also: what is time? More importantly: how dare anybody assume that I can’t enjoy myself amidst a looming deadline? In the words of Don Draper, it will shock you (how much fun I can have when I know I have an essay due in 12 hours). Compartmentalization is a necessary ability when navigating the world in any capacity, and I choose to exercise that muscle as often as I can.
Argument: “Stress is bad.”
Defense: “I disagree.”
With all the honesty in my heart, I need to feel stressed to get anything done. This is the way my brain is wired, and it is the ethos with which I lead. I need the pressure to be on. I need to be clenching my jaw. I need to hyper-fixate as part of a fight-or-flight state that somehow translates into doing my work so efficiently I can barely remember getting it done. I need to have a meltdown the day before it’s due and ask anybody who’s listening what I’ve done to myself; to my life. I need to be motivated, and nothing motivates me like a completely self-imposed brand of fear. The more time I am given, the more time I will take to scroll through Twitter and stare out the window at nothing. My worst work is completed when I hand it in a week before it’s due.
Argument: “How do you live this way?”
Defense: “This isn’t an argument, and also: I know no other way.”
Every time I think about getting a head start on anything, I distract myself with an errand that is unnecessary and stupid and ultimately adds to the list of things I’ve done instead of my work. I don’t do well in a relaxed mode. I’m not great at balance. When I’m in the weeds, I tend to take on even more work to ensure I’ve built myself a house of cards with no room for variables. This may seem risky, but to me, it’s a routine: if I have too much time, I’ll use it to spiral. If I give myself barely any time, I’ll conquer to-do lists in a way that puts Tracey Flick to shame.
This is the way procrastinators function: barely, but enough to keep going. And we’re fine! Maybe one day I’ll even hand my weekly piece into my editor before dark on the day its due. But then how would I spend the rest of my day? And what would my editor do without the pressure of having to edit something at the 11th hour? (You’re welcome, Christopher!)
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