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Bargell: Manana – The art of procrastination

The tax man cometh. No, in case you’re concerned this is a column about the collection and allocation of taxes, not to fear – I’ll leave that debate to the political pundits. In this case, tax season, for me, goes hand in glove with all of those great “tips” about spring cleaning I’ve run across of late. Both remind me of another of life’s lingering (literally) issues – procrastination.

It haunts me even in this forum. I’ve known for a pretty long time that Wednesday inevitably will follow Tuesday. But, despite my best intentions, many a Tuesday afternoon I find myself scrambling to put a few words on paper. Often, a “friendly” reminder pops into my email box with only one word, “column?” Each time it comes up I cringe because (i) I knew it was coming and (ii) I can’t believe I’m not really done yet.

I suspect I’m not alone in suffering from the procrastination affliction. Sadly, I just don’t ever get around to asking other folks about it.



A few weeks ago I ran across an article in Real Simple magazine all about procrastination. The irony was not lost on me that I came upon the article while flipping through a magazine when I instead should have been writing. Ordinarily, I don’t get much of a chance to read the magazines I have dutifully ordered from local girl scouts, band participants and the like – unless of course, there’s something else pressing I should otherwise be doing. So, I procrastinated, reading about procrastination. Perfect.

Fortunately, the magazine provided some scientific support for the notion we really can’t help procrastinating – that procrastination effectively is part of our genetic make-up. That is, as humans we tend to flee from unpleasant tasks and opt instead for those that give us “immediate mood repair.” This is getting good I thought, an excuse to well, make excuses. To my chagrin, the article debunked one of my most favored excuses to procrastinate – that is, I work better under pressure. Instead, another article I consulted from the web, that popped up when I searched, “Buddhist philosophy on procrastination” (looking for the Zen of procrastination) calmly explained that procrastination produces stress. And, while a little bit of stress is good, I’ve found putting off taxes until 11:59 on April 14, or tackling spring cleaning in September does not promote the internal harmony I am seeking.



Both articles did give tips on how to cure the practice of procrastination, starting with an admonishment to take on the most difficult task you have on your plate first – when you’re at the top of your game so to speak. Now, I just have to get around to figuring out what’s the worst, taxes or cleaning. Another common tip was to break up a seemingly overwhelming project into smaller pieces. A great concept, but really, which piece to then handle first?

All the thought about procrastination made me want to better understand the origins of the word. (Another great way to avoid dealing with the hardest task first.) Initially, I thought the prefix “pro” suggested something positive. But, as all you Latin aficionados out there know, pro means “before,” and does not necessarily connote a positive experience. The word instead derives meaning from its root of “crastinus” or “belonging to tomorrow.” Used in a sentence in my handy-dandy Merriam Webster Vocabulary Builder, “every year the Mortons procrastinate about preparing their tax returns, and before they know it April 15 is breathing down their necks.” Now, I’m back to where I started – the tax man cometh.

I guess I’ll start cleaning.

Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week. Spanish Proverb

Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at cindy@visanibargell.com.


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