Dear Eleanor and Wesley,
I have an affliction. It is fierce and aggressively impacts nearly every aspect of life. Though it may be successfully managed, I do not know of a cure. I’m sure it came up when your Mom and I were dating, but she did not come to know the full extent of it until the early months of our young marriage. I shudder to think of what may have become of us if she had known earlier. One day I couldn’t hide it any more. There was an application for a job. I wanted to get the job and for the sake of my beautiful bride, I needed to get the job. The application was quite involved but reasonably standard fair. It took only one small line of text uncover my dirty secret: Due February 10th by midnight. Those are the most terrifying words that could possibly appear on a formal document. Though I risk my shame, I must admit that I am a procrastinator.
Basically what happened with the application was that I waited all the way until the 10th to put on the finishing touches. I had classes all day and a significant load of homework, which carried me into the early evening. Now this is where the twisted lens of the procrastinator’s perspective reached full skew. My band was scheduled to play a show at 8pm. Done by 9pm, which meant I would have 3 full hours before I needed to submit at 12am. What could go wrong? How about moving our set to 10pm? Yes, that could go wrong and did. I got off stage at 10:45pm, got back to ASU in front of a computer by 11:15pm and thanks to some amazingly selfless heroics from your mother I managed to hit submit at 11:59pm. That click heard round the world completely changed the course of my professional life and our marriage.
I’ve got no idea if this is a hereditary condition. If you have any choice at all, be a planner. Just in case, I’ve got some advice on how to deal with it. To establish my track record, I ended up in a profession built upon managing myriads of rotating deadlines with the weight of federal legislative mandates behind them. I’ve managed not to be a screw up and here’s how. First, prioritize the essentials. It does not matter what “it” is, “it” will get done faster and more efficiently if you know what to do first. Second, embrace the pressure. If you tend towards procrastination then you inevitably will put yourself in pressure situations where your only choice is to succeed. In that moment you can let expectation cripple you, or make firm your confidence that you will find a way to make it work. Third, find your zone. Sometimes it is a place, or a song, or a mood. For me it was the hours between 10:00 and 11:30pm. Find the trigger that allows you to unleash unrelenting productivity. Create the circumstances to be fully immersed in your task and dive in head first. Fourth, learn to be “clutch.” Clutch is coming through with quality work when everything is on line. Clutch players hit three pointers at the buzzer, clutch performers nail the landing, and clutch workers get the job done on time. I can’t really describe how to make that happen, but I know when I really pushed myself, it did.
Finally, the best habit is to learn from your mistakes. There’s a difference between an error in estimation and an impossible situation. If you’re just lazy, or try to operate with zero foresight, you may need to take a step back to recognize some bigger issues. Here’s what I really want you to understand: Life comes at you with a lot of pressures. The weight of expectation from all the angles you deal with can feel unbearable. You know what, you might screw something up. Something big. Some earth-shattering, world-changing, apocalypse-inducing blunder. This is huge so read closely: I will never stop loving you. You didn’t earn it in the first place and nothing you do will take it away. It’s not perfect, but my love and enduring affection is yours. Now your Mom on the other hand… well she’ll probably love you to. It’s 11:59. I’m out.