Procrastination, Pessimism, and Inexplicably Good Results


I missed the memo about procrastination, pessimism, and inexplicably good results.

I’ve heard it said that if it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done.   I think it’s more a case of Parkinson’s Law operating to fill the available time with endless detours, tangents and misdirections along the path toward completing a task on time. 

I’m not sure what it is, but there’s just something weird and wonderful about completing a project under an extreme time crunch.  There’s a cycle of emotions that begins with denial which then segues to panic.  The negative thoughts descend…I’m gonna fail, I’m gonna get fired, I’m gonna make a complete ass out of myself.  Procrastination inspired pessimism is truly the dark night of the soul.

But sometimes a miracle occurs and the panic inspires a clarity of thought that propels the project forward.  My theory is that it takes considerable time and deliberation to come up with bullshit; simple, clear, and even brilliant ideas usually don’t take much time to formulate and articulate.  When we’re able to seize upon that bit of clarity at the 11th hour, it’s such a rush. 

There may be a lot of rationalizing and delirium going on at this point, but I think that’s a healthy little trick our brain plays on us to keep from going completely nuts while under pressure.  When there’s no time for second-guessing, we convince ourselves that our last-minute efforts are genius, and hey, sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time, they are.

Procrastination can also push us to lower our standards improvise creatively.  Perhaps if we had the luxury of time, we’d include professionally reproduced graphics in that big presentation, but instead, we do something freehand which lends the project some ironic, pre-schooler charm.  Again, when we’re hopped up on 5 hour energy drinks, we somehow convince ourselves that this is very, very clever, and the slap-happy enthusiasm for these wacky, last-minute improvisations is what sells them. 

I’m not saying I’m an advocate of procrastination in every instance, but I think there’s something good buried deep, deep down within the chaos that procrastination creates.  There’s self-trust and just a bit of faith…you know somehow it will all come together.  You take inventory of your resources and limitations, keep an eye on the clock, and then you just say a little prayer. 

Ever see the movie Shakespeare in Love?

There’s an adorable scene that talks about this very phenomenon. And it goes a little something like this…

Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Hugh Fennyman: How?
Philip Henslowe: I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

A mystery, indeed.  And time to get crackin’ on that motion.  Memo received.

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