Procrastinator? Precrastinator?

By David Snyder

Macintosh, 1984

I’ve written a bit about the pace of everyday life at the moment. In a word, it’s quick! Stuff’s always going on; there’s never been more coverage of more news. Mobile technology throws it all into our palm for a few hundred dollars. All that is known. I’ve also written a bit about whether or not it’s valuable to slow done, to flick through the feeds a little less absentmindedly. In response to my own proposition, I’ve submitted that there is indeed cause to slow it all down, and I believe that. However, what of procrastination? What if one slows it all down, only to spend the gained time not by reading or thinking, but by flittering about the web or looking through old photos? Is there value in that?

Surely there is. Procrastination is a dirty word, it seems — especially amongst students! High school used to be all about the different clicks, the jocks, the mean girls, the nerds, the music kids, but now there are two camps: the procrastinators and the precrastinators. This is a crude oversimplification, but there’s some truth in there somewhere.

Bare with me, as I flesh out in real time where I stand on this spectrum I’ve devised. It’s well known and rather infamous around my house, amongst my parents and sister, that I’ve always been one to start working on a paper or project during the small hours of the morning, the morning of the assignment’s deadline, typically. I almost always escape unscathed, a little droopy eyed, sure. But I scraped by with good grades and a fun story to tell. That was most prevalent in high school when the stakes were perilously low. College has been slightly different. The central reason for a gradual sliding towards procrastination has been the much-improved assignments. The stuff I’m studying these days is much more interesting, so the incentives are in my favor.

My grades have certainly improved since cutting back on the daring academic pursuits of my youth. My overall health has as well, that’s for sure. But what of the joy of creation, of the rush of inspiration? That’s the single greatest thing about waiting: the creative explosion. When I flesh out my schedule, pencil in working times, and gradually chip at away at something, there’s little creative zest. The finished product is typically polished, but I doubt that it’s particularly daring. This is no doubt because when one take’s one time, one is more prone to stick with whichever idea pops into the head first. This allows for a real honing of that original idea, but original ideas, no matter how refined, are oft the most conventional ways of looking at something. When one is forced to go for broke, to really lay it all out there, that’s where the interesting stuff is made. This, for me, was often found during a period of hyper-caffeination, sleep deprivation, or prolonged absence from the keyboard. Generally, two of those three are in effect at any given moment.

My own analysis is anecdotal, of course. But there are some studies that back me up. I recently read a study in which a student went around a slew of businesses and corporations and surveyed the employees. It was found that the generally regarded more creative people were also the ones less likely to work ahead of time! Therefore, with a pinch of salt, the more one procrastinates, the more likely one is to find a spark of creativity along the way. After all, what does one do when procrastinating? For myself, it’s looking around Wikipedia, Medium, or Tumblr. There’s always loads of good, new stuff over in those places. And, more often than not, I’ll stumble across something that really peaks my interest, that really strikes a particular chord with me. Whatever that random thing may be might have nothing at all to do with what I’m putting off, but it gets the juices flowing all the same.

Precrastinators make the trains run on time and procrastinators fill our bookshelves and art museums. We desperately need both camps in top form. There is no right way or wrong way, so long as the thing gets done well in the end. Steve Jobs famously, or infamously, headed up the original Macintosh project in the early 1980s. His team’s motto was “great artists steal.” Those tech alchemists and computing pioneers were experimenting with hardly believable new tricks for those days. But they took their sweet time playing around, experimenting, and often left some of the essentials out to dry. Jobs changed the motto to “great artists ship.” After a whole bunch of messing around, of procrastinating, that team knuckled down and shipped out the most revolutionary computer of the day.

If you, gentle reader, are a hopeless procrastinator, then that’s just damn fine. Play around, come across weird and unpredicted new things. Hope to stumble across inspiration. If you shiver at the very thought of waiting to begin until the threshold of a deadline, fear not, for we need you all desperately. We need both phases of the Mac team, and the world would be an endlessly less enjoyable place without one side of that coin.

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