How to Procrastinate Writing a Paper

According to the playwright, screenwriter, and novelist Paul Rudnick, “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.” When writing a paper using the process of procrastination, a few things are needed. First and foremost, of course, would be either a computer or paper and a writing implement. Some swear by writing on good old-fashioned paper, but I prefer to type things up on my laptop. That in itself is a wonderful procrastination tool, with all kinds of shiny distractions on the Internet like Facebook, Pinterest, and Hulu. It also has a clock, which is important to race against when you get to those final moments. I also highly recommend having a good imagination and a sense of humor. Optional are things such as books, television, other people, drinks, and snacks. For this particular paper, in addition to my laptop I utilized pizza, coffee, windows, a beautiful spring day, my children, and laundry. I also had napkins on hand for greasy pizza fingers and any spills that may have occurred.

The first step to writing a paper is brainstorming for a topic. I spent a couple of minutes writing the following list: how to juggle my life, how to clean out my car, how to eat pizza, how to shop at thrift stores, how to get children to school on time, how to drive your parents crazy, how to drive your children crazy, and how to enjoy a lovely spring afternoon. However, although I determined that all of my ideas were viable, I had a really hard time settling on one. I ate a slice of pizza and decided to brainstorm some more. Then it occurred to me that writing a paper about procrastinating while writing a paper would probably amuse me the most. That settled it; I had chosen my essay topic.

With that monumental task out of the way, I ate another slice of pizza. Next, I wiped the grease from my fingers and started outlining. I began to have second thoughts, wondering if I could really stretch this out to at least two-and-a-half pages. After a brief debate with myself, I decided I was tired of changing my mind, so I was going to stick with this topic.

Once I got back to outlining, the tedium got to me quickly, so I began the next step: drink coffee. This was followed closely by wondering why on earth anyone would think pizza and coffee might be a good combination. While my mind was already wandering, I began to stare wistfully out the window at the lovely spring afternoon surrounding me, wishing I were swinging on the swingset or lying in the sunshine. This led to a brief contemplation of the difference between “lying” and “laying,” and whether or not I really felt like pulling out the grammar textbook to double-check.

All the warm sunshine and meandering thoughts created a seamless transition into the dozing-off phase of the process. If you are not careful, you can get stuck in this phase for a long time. I recommend blaring loud music and/or drinking more caffeinated beverages if you catch yourself starting to snooze, although you can also proactively set an alarm. Since I was multi-tasking by working on my paper while waiting in my daughters’ school parking lot to pick them up, I knew I especially needed to stay awake. I managed to catch myself before completely drifting off and drank more coffee while mentally slapping myself to redirect my focus to the task at hand.

By the time I finished outlining, I had to set the paper aside until the following day. My daughters were coming out of their school, and I had to go pick up my son next. Once I took everyone home and fed them some sort of dinner I would have to run back to my school for an evening class.

The next day I started working on it fairly early. I planned to flesh out the outline into paragraphs by adding details to each item, with special attention paid to the introduction and conclusion. I would complete this during the day in order to not be stressing about finishing the paper late at night. But first, I needed to start some laundry.

The key to a successful procrastination is the “but first.” There is always something just slightly more pressing than the task at hand which can keep you putting it off indefinitely or at least until the last possible moment. In my case, I had a lot laundry to fold, so I started a television show on Hulu that I would watch while folding. Once I finished the folding, I was so engrossed in the show that I didn’t work on my paper at all. By the time the show ended I needed to switch the laundry, which led to more folding and more tv. It was a vicious cycle, which also included a lunch break, a couple of incoming phone calls from family members, and stopping to help my son push his dead car into the driveway. I had my document open the entire time and fully intended to work on it shortly, but the afternoon flew by until it was time to pick up the kids from school.

After picking up the kids, running errands, and making dinner, I was finally ready to get back to work on my paper. I began to write but had several distractions including a surprise visit from a friend, a bowl of ice cream, and more tv shows, though the latter was brought on by the husband this time around. I thought about leaving, but I was too tired and not entirely sure that would actually help. I turned on some soothing classical music, put in my earbuds, and doggedly wrote until I was up to nearly four pages.
At that point I knew I could push through and finish that night, or I could get a good night’s sleep and take the risk that I wouldn’t quite finish in the morning. I chose sleep, which definitely would not have been the priority in my younger years.

The final step in procrastination is waiting until the last possible moment to finish the paper. Nothing is more exciting than not knowing if you are going to have time to shower or if you must suffer the smelly consequences. Then there is the small matter of getting four children out of bed and pushing them to be ready on time so all five of you can get to your respective schools before 8:00 a.m. Eating and grooming are for the predictable and boring mere mortals who get things done with a cushion of time left before the deadline!

Procrastination is not for the faint of heart, but with a lot of practice you can polish your technique and be nearly as professional at it as I am. You only must believe that you have that special hidden talent.

How to Procrastinate Writing a Paper

Amy Levos

Joined October 2010

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Process Analysis essay for my composition class.

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