To start this story about 2)procrastination, we could begin with Marty Nemko, letting some time go by at the piano. “I’m always trying to 3)cram in as much as I can,” he laughed, “and sometimes, it makes me late.” He counsels people who have trouble getting things started…but we’ll get back to him in a minute, because we could start with a list of prominent procrastinators.
President Bill Clinton was called “punctually challenged” by 4)Al Gore. 5)Robert Redford, 6)Mariah Carey and 7)Naomi Campbell are just a few of the famous known to have “time issues.”
And the economist 8)George Akerlof once found himself faced with a simple task: mailing a box of clothes from India, where he was living, to the United States for his friend. Akerlof was eager to send the box off. But there was a problem. The combination of Indian 9)bureaucracy and what Akerlof called “my own 10)ineptitude in such matters” meant that doing so was going to be a 11)hassle—indeed, he estimated that it would take an entire workday. So he put off dealing with it, week after week.
This went on for more than eight months, and it was only shortly before Akerlof himself returned home that he managed to solve his problem: another friend happened to be sending some things back to the U.S., and Akerlof was able to add his friend’s clothes to the shipment.
There’s some thing comforting about this story: even Nobelwinning economists procrastinate! Many of us go through life with 12)an array of undone tasks, large and small, 13)nibbling at our conscience.
And then there is 14)Barbara McKaySmith. Among her family and friends she is 15)infamous for being late, a busy mother of two who admits she is hardly ever on time. “Well, I guess it’s all a matter of, what is ‘on time’?” she said.
But before we get around to telling you more about Barbara…meet Diana DeLonzor. She has written a book for people who don’t want to be late anymore. She knows the problem well.
“I was late for everything, and I had been all my life,” she said. “I was 16)suspended three times in junior high for 17)tardies. I was late for weddings, funerals, and everything else in-between.”
But, let’s put off getting advice from Diana for just a minute, to talk about standard time. Standard time was adopted back in the 1800s to help the trains run on time. But now it turns out even train time can 18)be subject to procrastination. It was recently revealed that New York 19)commuter trains pull out one minute after their scheduled departure time…hidden help for those who are always running just a little late. But now that the extra minute is public, true procrastinators know they have one more minute to push it.
Diana DeLonzor calls them “deadliners”:“Somebody who 20)is drawn to that 21)adrenaline rush of the last-minute 22)sprint to the finish line.”She was once one of them.
“My heart beat faster, my blood moved through my veins faster,” she said. “And I enjoyed that rush. And I realized that’s why I was late.”
And being late amounts to more than a few wasted minutes. “23)Chronic lateness costs the American public over $3 billion in lost productivity every year, and it causes a lot of stress in relationships,” DeLonzor said.
The key to curing lateness, experts say, is to understand its origins. “It could be fear of failure, it could be 24)hedonism,” said Nemko. “Some people are simply lazy. We’re not allowed to use the word‘lazy’ these days.” In his work as a career counselor, Marty Nemko says he often has to figure out why clients just can’t get started.
One of his clients, Jeffrie Givens, works at a computer but wants to be an opera singer. “What would be going through your mind at that point that would keep you from practicing that 25)aria?”Nemko asked. “I might say I’ve practiced enough,”Givens replied. “I might say ‘I’ll do it later.’ I might say, ‘I’m not in the mood, I’ll try again tomorrow.’”
Barbara McKay-Smith knows exactly why she’s late: There is always one more thing she wants to do.“When I think to myself, ‘Oh look, I still have ten minutes before I need to be out the door,’ I always think, ‘Well, that’s ten minutes that I can use to put in a load of laundry, to 26)straighten up the kids’rooms.’ I 27)invariably find 15 minutes’ worth of things to do.” Which means her kids, and her husband, Mike Yoder, spend a lot of time waiting for her.
“I don’t want to be late, and I live with someone who’s late all the time,” Yoder said. Does it drive her family crazy? “Constantly,” she said. “It’s pretty chronic,” Yoder laughed.
“Fortunately, you’re laughing,” I said.
“I have to laugh at it,” he said.