The Procrastination Handbook

Posted: October 22, 2014 at 5:04 am

Some people call themselves procrastination experts, but I laugh at their presumptions. I wrote the book.

In Grade 11 biology class, our teacher, Mr. Leckie, introduced us to the scientific method. We talked about hypotheses and collecting data and drawing conclusions. Each student had to design his/her own biology experiment and conduct the research over the entire term. The project was due at the end of the term, which was months away. It counted for 50% of the course mark.

I had the not-so-original idea of a running a three month experiment to monitor the effect of playing music to plants. One group of plants would get a steady diet of Led Zeppelin and The Who every day, and the control group would grow (or not) in silence. I liked that I was introducing rock music to biology class. (As an aside, in high school I would go to sleep each night wearing huge headphones, listening to a record. Yes, a record. For you youngsters, it’s a shiny round black thing which is spun as a needle rakes along its grooves. It even has two sides. I was a bit of a headbanger back then, as now, and I played my rock LOUD. My mother always told me that I would harm my hearing if I didn’t turn it down. Since I was invincible, I disagreed. Guess who was right. Turn down those iPods, kids!)

I delayed the planting of my subjects. One month passed. Oooops, I thought, I had better get started. Of course, that stalling ran to two months. With a month to go, I realized that I’d have to get mature plants, and measure what a 30-day rock diet did for my lucky listeners. Actually buying the plants seemed like a task for another day, and then the next. A month later, I was shocked when I realized that the project was due the next day. I hadn’t planted anything, hadn’t bought anything, and hadn’t played music for several months to plants I didn’t have. Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out how I could conduct the experiment in the one night I had left.

In a flash of inspiration, I decided to trash my plant idea and instead write the Procrastination Handbook. For my biology final, worth 50% of my grade. I pulled an all-nighter, writing a step-by-step primer of why people procrastinate, the different ways that people procrastinate, and ways to avoid procrastination. I knew that Mr. Leckie had a good sense of humour, but I wasn’t sure he’d accept a psychology paper for half my grade in his biology class. As a straight ‘A’ student, I was taking a huge risk…..if Mr. Leckie gave me the zero percent grade that I deserved, I would actually FAIL the course.

I will never forget the smirk on Mr. Leckie’s face as he handed my Procrastination Handbook back to me a week later. Not only did he give it an ‘A,’ he also asked if he could make copies. Long after I finished high school, I heard that for 30 years, Mr. Leckie provided a copy of my handbook to each one of his students at the beginning of each school term.

Somehow, my idiotic Grade 11 self turned a complete lack of planning and common sense into a triumph. But I would have been better served if Mr. Leckie had taught me a useful procrastination lesson when I was 16..…I learned it the hard way later in life, as we all do. On the plus side, every time my mother nagged me about procrastinating about anything, I smugly reply, “Hey, I wrote the book!” I’ve been using that line for 40 years.

  • Matt Mathers

    this is brilliant!

  • Bill Crow

    Glad you liked it, Matt. I didn’t learn my lesson, as chronicled in another story on my website, “My Celebrated Blue Period.” Check it out!