Sometimes procrastination can help

For someone whose job relies on hitting deadlines — usually a dozen or so every week — you might think I have my work pretty well scheduled.

You would be wrong.

While I usually am able to get my various assignments filed by the time they are due, I also have a tendency to push some of them off until the last possible moment.

This job can be a juggling act, making sure meetings and events are covered, articles are written, social media and other online tasks are addressed, photos are taken, correspondence is answered and other responsibilities are met.

Many of us find ourselves multi-tasking. It’s something journalists just have to do. Sometimes, that means things get shuffled around, especially when an unexpected assignment pops up.

Still, there are some things you know can be kicked down the road a little bit in order to take care of other tasks.

This column is one of them. Since it doesn’t appear until our Sunday edition, I’ve gotten into the habit of waiting until Saturday afternoon to write it. It’s not a habit I necessarily want, but it happens.

There are weeks where I find myself with a little bit of “open scheduling” and can’t think of a topic to discuss, so I find something else to do.

Other weeks, I have multiple ideas on which to opine, but the time isn’t available. Once there is a free space, I can’t always remember what those ideas were. I really need to start writing them down.

I guess, to some extent, I’ve always had a bit of a procrastination streak in me.

There were many assignments in high school and college I would wait until the last possible opportunity to even begin. I was lucky for most of them and still able to get a decent grade, but I knew I shouldn’t have put them off.

I’ve been bad with Christmas shopping the last several years; usually not even starting until a couple of weeks prior to the big day.

It’s probably not the best idea to have me involved in planning a party or other event.

Putting something important off is never a good thing, although sometimes it has helped me.

By putting the extra pressure on myself, I find my thoughts string together better and I’m more focused. I don’t let the normal distractions get to me.

Deadlines suddenly become even more important. It’s no longer a situation of, “Oh, I have a week to finish that.” It’s now, Oh! I have 20 minutes.”

It’s the same feeling those of us in journalism feel when facing a deadline for a major project; wanting to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.

The stress levels increase and put us more in that zone.

It’s not a situation we want to be in all the time, but when the need is there it can be a big help.

It’s that extra adrenaline pumping through our systems. Much as athletes are more focused during games, it affects us in similar ways while working on our assignments.

Now, I am in no way recommending people just put off until tomorrow what they can do today. However, if you know you have the extra time, it’s OK to slide one thing down the list.

Part of procrastination can also be considering prioritization. You know other things are more important to complete first.

Just don’t forget about the rest or the deadline might become tighter than you need.

Then the work has the chance of coming out as a rambling mess, much as this column probably appears.

Yes, this was one of those weeks I simply couldn’t think of an appropriate topic. I chose to address other responsibilities first, setting my priorities, and honestly didn’t even start to write this essay until around 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

But, the column is finished. You are reading it, either in the paper or online, and I’ve moved on to other assignments.

This is one instance where procrastination worked out OK. I’ll try not to make it much of a habit moving forward.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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