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the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

The Atlanta Leaders for 100% Literacy (ALL) movement, which brings together 139 community members from a range of professions, aims to hire a new superintendent who can intervene with students and improve district literacy rates.
“Atlanta Leaders for 100% Literacy” demands district focus
Shalin BhatiaFebruary 12, 2024

The Atlanta Leaders for 100% Literacy (ALL) movement is urging Atlanta school board members to underscore the urgency of hiring a superintendent...

Due tomorrow? Do it tomorrow! A defense of procrastination

With the zeal and enthusiasm of New Year’s Day having long since faded away, this is the time of year when many kick the can of resolutions down the road, or give up on them altogether. Although I have not made any resolutions this year, I can empathize with those of you who have decided to wait another week before getting that gym membership or giving up soft drinks; I am what you could call a procrastaholic.Ever since seventh grade, I have waited until the last possible minute to complete assignments. I simply don’t have the motivation to do work unless a deadline is looming over my head. This year alone, on two separate occasions, I have started and finished a chemistry project the day it was due (sorry, Ms. Relja). Until recently, I have seen procrastination as one of my weaknesses. But I’m starting to realize that it actually can be a positive tool to accomplish things and make informed decisions.To all my fellow procrastinators out there: take heart! According to Stanford philosopher John Perry, there is such a thing as “structured procrastination.” His epiphany, according to his 2012 book The Art of Procrastination, came in 1995, when he was putting off working on a project at Stanford. Perry realized that while he was procrastinating on some things, he was still being productive, working on other things, like “gardening or sharpening pencils.”

The key, according to Perry, is to trick yourself into putting tasks that seem, but really aren’t, important or menacing at the top of your to-do list, and then including easier, more manageable tasks lower down on the list. As a result you will knock out the easy items as a way of putting off dealing with the supposedly more important tasks, which you will eventually complete when a new set of even more important tasks overtake them for the top spot on your list.

This strategy doesn’t work for everyone, and, admittedly, procrastination can be a bad thing. For example, if you have a test looming tomorrow, postponing studying will do you no good. But for certain people, myself included, procrastination isn’t always as iniquitous as it’s made out to be.

While I would certainly love to get more than the five or six hours of sleep I get many nights, I can’t help but think that even if I had started on an assignment as soon as I received it, I would still end up staying up late tweaking it the night before it was due, being the perfectionist I am. In this way, procrastination is my tool against spending too much time on things that should be easy to knock out.

For another example, we can look to Lehman Brothers, the infamous investment bank that played a major role in the Great Recession of 2007-2008. According to Frank Partnoy, a professor at the University of San Diego and a self-proclaimed procrastinator, senior executives at Lehman Brothers attended a decision-making class in the fall of 2005 where they were taught to go with their gut and make snap decisions. The rest is history—these snap decisions helped torpedo the economy in 2007, which, in turn, led to the worst recession in American history since the Great Depression. Making snap decisions on important issues obviously didn’t work out so well.

In Partnoy’s 2012 book Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, he argued that in many, if not most, cases, it is propitious to wait until the last moment to make a decision, so that you can be as informed a possible when you act. In most decisions we face, there is not a clear right or wrong choice. Because we can’t be sure what the best possible course of action is, putting off the decision can be beneficial to everyone.

As I put the finishing touches on this story mere minutes before my deadline, I feel a wave of relief: another project, successfully completed in the nick of time. While some may see my procrastination as a bad habit, I would call it a valuable tool. Procrastination gets a pretty bum rap from many, and I think it’s time we procrastinators set the record straight and take a stand against these slanderous accusations. Or maybe let’s just wait until next week.

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Due tomorrow? Do it tomorrow! A defense of procrastination