I don’t claim to be the smartest person, not even close. I’m certainly not the most responsible person either. I’m not the hardest worker. I’m not the most sincere. I’m definitely not the nicest guy; people’s feelings often bother me. I wouldn’t say that you can always count on me. I’m easily frustrated, shortsighted at times, indulgent and often act without regard to consequences. Boy, that is not a pretty picture. If this were my profile on social media you would probably steer clear, right? It would be a good choice. Two things that I am, or at least think I am and tell others that I am, are organized and unable to procrastinate. These qualities are typically seen in a positive light, I imagine, but there is a dark side to every character attribute. For instance, being organized could also mean that I’m rigid and controlling and not open to change when it is most needed. Having a fear of procrastination could imply that I’m hasty and rush through everything. These two qualities in tandem, seen from the dark light, might describe someone who is aloof, with a head full of steam, and reinforces old practices and habits that are outdated and possibly counterproductive. So, I think I’ve adequately billed myself as the epitome of someone you’d hope to never come in to contact with. Now let me roll it back a bit and see if I can save myself from myself.
I remember when I was younger and would interview for jobs, I always had this corny, canned statement: “I’ve never been on time for a job.” This typically drew odd glances, rightfully so. But I would always follow it up with, “Because I’m always early.” And this was true. It still is. Time is a concept that as I get older I become more curious about. This is probably because as I get older I have less of it ahead of me. But, at the time, I was probably not thinking that philosophically. It’s just that somewhere along the line that is one of the many lessons my parents taught me, yet one of the few to stick. Who knows why that one did… I was in college and working at a pizza place as the opener, typically with the owner. Every day he would pull up and I would be sitting on the stoop waiting for him. The truth is that I had only been there a few minutes, but without fail, I always beat him to work. Because of this he gave me a key; I had kind of jumped the queue into some sort of manager, in a way. So while my shift was to start at 10 a.m., it typically started at 9:55 a.m. or so, and because I had become an efficient worker before being blessed with the key, I was able to get a lot done in that 5 or so minutes. Enough to make it look like the average college kid was a slacker. That’s pretty stereotypical for working at a pizza joint anyhow. Eventually my manager asked me if I wanted to become a real manager. I would have to switch from opening to closing shifts, something that I wasn’t interested in, but I was actually less interested in the added “responsibility” that came with becoming a manger. I said, “No.” I’m not really too sure what he thought of this, but I continued to work there for a few months until I graduated, opening the store every day, 5 minutes early.
Another job I had in college was at a laundromat. I worked there for almost two years, and by the end of my tenure I was working the midday shifts, 2-6 p.m. It was a sweet gig. All I had to do was sit in the AC and watch TV, making change and serving the occasional beverage, sometimes cleaning up a minor spill. I can’t tell you how many episodes of Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown I watched back then. I actually got a number of my friends’ jobs there, too. Some lasted longer than others, some left with grace, others were forced out, but the manager always trusted my recommendations, as foolish as they may have been in many cases. I had one friend who was hired twice but never worked a day. The first time an opportunity to take a trip came up and he tried to get clearance, but she wasn’t having it. It was intolerable to think you would miss your first shift at a job. Understandably so. A few weeks went by and I took his application out of the file and threw it away so that he could apply again. I was unsure how he was going to get by the interview because they had obviously met before, but he had cut his hair and dyed it since then, and he may have been wearing glasses, too. Anyhow, she wasn’t the brightest bulb so it worked. Then he didn’t show up for that first shift either. There was no third try. I don’t even recall the reason he bottomed out twice. I’m sure at the time it was worth it.
At this point you might be asking yourself, “Where is he going with this?” That would be a fair question. And here is my answer: I’m organized in that I try to craft my surroundings to meet my liking and comfort. I don’t procrastinate in that I take action to make sure that comfort can be reached as soon as possible. I once half-jokingly told someone that every move I make is calculated. There is some degree of truth to that, but I would be giving myself way too much credit if I said it were completely true. As I said, I’m really not that smart. But it might be something that I would do if I had the mental fortitude to do so; to act according to every situation as needed, to read others so well as to be able to predict their next moves and likely responses in certain scenarios. So let’s consider my aspirational cunning something I hope to craft further into the future and I apply when able in the present.
This is going somewhere, trust me.
I had a colleague recently who I am working on a project with who was, yet again, failing to respect my time. This was the third project I had worked on with her in the lead role. It was a lesson the first time out because she put me to work like a day laborer, making sure I did all the heavy lifting. It was educational, so I really didn’t mind, but I had become very aware of her style of co-production. The second project I still did all the heavy lifting, but I was able to force her into positions where she had to abide by a set schedule, keeping more in line with my utter disgust for procrastination. I was also able to apply a little structure to increase the scaffolding of the organization associated with our project. I thought we were finding a groove. Then the third project got underway, and man was that a cluster-bomb – which brings us to today, literally. The last time I put any real serious work into this project was August of 2016 (10 months ago at time of writing). By that point I had done all the substantive investments into the project and she had done little more than theorize. Over the course of the last several months I tried to get her to come back to the project with no avail. While she had some legitimate excuses, most of the time she was truly being irresponsible. I would know, I do it well myself, from time to time. So deadline extension after deadline extension, excuse after excuse, we’re finally up against the gun: the project is due come hell or high water by this Monday (three days from now). But I’m over it. I did so much so long ago that if she had any modicum of responsibility and organization she would have responded to my request to complete the project in a timely fashion. Now she thinks she can order me around and give direction when it is her who couldn’t be troubled for the better part of a year. I did a little bit, responding where I thought necessary, and then told her in no uncertain terms that she needed to carry the pail herself. I stood by the well waiting to fill it up and she gallivanted all over the country with her boyfriend doing god knows what.
I am organized (to an extent) because I need to know what needs to be done and where I’m going with it, how it fits in with the larger puzzle. I don’t procrastinate because I simply don’t understand it. Look, I love to have fun, goof off, run around the country acting the fool just as much as anyone, and maybe because of this that is why I don’t procrastinate. I do prioritize, certainly, but I never put off what can be done today (all the while making sure I keep my sanity and have a little enjoyment in life). If I get my work done now, then I can just get ahead of the pack. So, to all you procrastinators out there who work with others: don’t be so selfish, so lazy, so unaware of your negative impact on others’ quality of life. It is not our responsibility to be your butler, available at your discretion and without concern to the task. Simply put, have a plan and stick to it. If events change, then change the plan. But don’t just float along merrily as if the world is the wind and you’re the old oak tree, refusing to bend in the breeze.