"If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done."
I first saw this quote when I was 10 years old, and at the time, and I had NO idea how accurate that quote would become, for my own life.
Toastmaster of the day, fellow PROCRASTINATORS, distinguished guests… good evening.
My childhood was calm and peaceful, I was lucky. I grew up in South East England with both my parents and my older brother, I went to high school, I went to University. In 2008, I left the UK and I never went back. That’s my story.
BUT I’m a last-minute person, I’m a professional procrastinator, I’m the type of person who frequently fails to do any kind of real work, or actually be anywhere on time… unless I’m under extreme pressure.
You know that feeling, there’s a deadline looming, but you find other things to do. There’s a meeting to prepare for, but you leave it until the last minute because you’re fascinated by something totally unrelated to the task in hand.
Does this sound familiar to you? Is this something that you’ve ever done before in your life? Hands up please.
Those of you with your hands down, you’re definitely lying. And, if you’re not, then I definitely hate you.
To visualise the concept of procrastination, just imagine.
To the east you have the Mountains of Distraction, to the west Lake Coffee Break. In the north was the great City of Closet Re-organization right next to Social Media Forest.
Right in the corner, about this big, is the comfort zone. I’ve never been there, but I heard it’s nice to visit sometimes! I leave things to the last minute and it makes me feel uncomfortable.
Now what are the disadvantages and advantages of being a procrastinator?
The disadvantages may seem obvious… for example.
On several occasions, I’ve left packing my suitcase to the last minute, then I left leaving my house for the airport to the last minute… otherwise known as “being late”, and I missed my flight. Was there space on the next flight? No. Did I miss the first part of my trip? Yes.
I submitted my University thesis - no joke - within 30 seconds of the deadline after sprinting across campus. I had 1 year to write it. Did I still get my degree? Yes. Did I submit the best version of my thesis? No.
Leaving things to the last minute means that you miss out sometimes. It means that you don’t do the best that you could. You sell yourself short.
Now, are there any benefits?
Professor Adam Grant, the author of a fantastic book called “Originals” believes that procrastination is an important part of any creative process. He even goes so far to say that we SHOULD procrastinate in order to fuel our creativity.
British psychologist Anna Abrahamovski says that procrastinators intentionally subject themselves to last-minute pressures where they are then required to multi-task and innovate. Somehow, this makes sense. We are aware of the risks and do it anyway. Perhaps this shows an underlying awareness of how we perform best.
Other theories suggest that procrastination is a form of rebellion, or conversely, a trait in people who care too much about their own performance – we need a perfect process, a perfect result in mind, before we can even start.
Assuming there is basis to these theories, what does this say about us habitual procrastinators?
We are rebellious, we are creative,
We show self-reliance and self-confidence.
And maybe, we care too much about doing well.
I joined Toastmasters, not only to improve my public speaking skills.
I joined to improve my organisational skills, my ability to make a plan and stick to it. I wrote most of this speech today, and practiced just before coming here - so it’s clearly a work in progress.
But now, I don’t necessarily think procrastinating is all that bad. In fact, we should appreciate who we are.
“If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”
I say embrace the last minute, be thankful for it, think how YOU can use that last 60 seconds to your advantage, and don’t try too much to change who you are!
Back to you, Toastmaster of the Day.