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ASAP is a Four-Letter Word

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The world is full of doers, all busy and buzzing about just doing things, while the rest – people like Lane Parker -- take a more measured approach, calmly weighing just when to do most anything.

Most people consider procrastination a four-letter word. To me, ASAP is a four-letter word. But we’re almost four months into the new year, so I’m starting to think seriously about making my New Year’s resolutions, and I think one of those resolutions should be conquering my procrastination habit.

Procrastination is as old as the Pyramids. Literally. According to a book on procrastination, which I have not gotten around to finishing, the Egyptians had two words that can be translated as “procrastinate.” One word is pro-procrastination, the other anti. “Procrastinate” comes from two Latin words: “forward” and “of tomorrow.”

It’s too bad dictionaries define the word negatively, because procrastination is neither laziness nor idleness. What might look like inaction to the casual observer is actually a prolonged internal period of preparing to begin, all the while knowing that, as Dilbert said, “Most problems go away if you wait long enough.” And let’s not forget procrastination’s positive by-products — all the dusting, organizing, rearranging.

We procrastinators are encouraged to carpe our diems. “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” To which Mark Twain wisely replied, “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done the day after tomorrow just as well.” In addition to remembering Twain’s advice, we can summon our inner Scarlett O’Haras, or quote the handyman from the film ‘Tremors’, who explains, “We plan ahead. That way we don’t do anything right now.”


Recently I discovered an online article insisting that I had not a procrastination problem but rather an impulsivity problem. If the author had he just postponed submitting the piece, he would have had time to realize that he was describing distraction, not procrastination.

Although I like the idea of being “of tomorrow,” I know I should live for today. I’ve thought seriously about this. I’ve slept on it – for many nights. And I’ve decided that, yes, I will. I will seize the day.


With a Perspective, I’m Lane Parker.

Lane Parker is a writer and editor in San Francisco.

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