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The sweet, secret satisfaction of procrastination

Mark Lazenby/The Globe and Mail

The Essay is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide

I discovered a couple of things in the past few minutes: The world is a totally different place when you are upside down, and successfully standing on your head is a particularly un-gratifying experience.

My neck hurts now, and no one was around to capture this moment, so evidence of my achievement does not even exist.

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So why did I do it? If I can't post my success on Facebook triumphantly, why bother?

Here's why: It's because for those 15 minutes my world stopped and nothing else mattered. This is the joy of procrastination, something I've done my whole life.

By procrastinating, I can ignore the world of troubles that builds up around me. My future deadlines could not possibly be as important as advancing to the next level of a game, or rereading a book for the third time.

I realize that my problem is not unique, ranking somewhere between "strong foot odour" and "can't parallel park." (I've had my struggles with both, but I'll save that for another time.)

The immediate satisfaction that procrastinating provides is likely the reason it is so common. Procrastination is a sweet, refreshing Popsicle on a hot summer day, while tasks and goals are swarming bees seeking out your sugary treat.

As long as you are okay with swatting away bees, procrastinating is an enjoyable experience. Occasionally, you may get stung, but that doesn't mean the next time you eat a Popsicle, it will be any less satisfying.

I have been feeling procrastination's progress-crippling effect quite strongly lately. I am at the point in my life where decisions must be made regarding school, careers and living arrangements. It is a crucial chapter in my life, defining what my future will hold.

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But if my life were a Choose Your Own Adventure book, I would set it down and go play ping-pong instead.

I have been told that "the world does not stop when you do." But when I'm procrastinating, it certainly feels like it does.

I am an avid NFL fan, and on Sundays I sit on the couch and watch as nine hours of my life pass by like an angry motorist. In this serene environment, work or assignments don't matter. My e-mail goes unchecked, and any problems (beyond the Chicago Bears' offensive woes) fall by the wayside. When I emerge from my football cocoon, I feel less like a beautiful butterfly and more like a spiteful moth. Everything I have been putting off, I continue to put off.

Being a chronic procrastinator, I have handed in my fair share of late assignments, but the penalties were never severe enough to deter me from watching another YouTube video.

Even in the working world, my lateness has never been a real issue. I once worked in landscaping for one of the strictest men I've ever met. He would find any excuse to berate you. Even if all your work was done correctly, your uniform was too dirty. However, he tended to arrive at work 50 minutes after we were supposed to start, which meant I was never penalized if I wanted to enjoy a second cup of coffee in the morning.

Currently not working, I find myself ignoring the need to submit college applications and update my résumé. These tasks represent another step toward joining the real world.

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Procrastinating gives me the opportunity to avoid this harsh reality, and live in the present instead. The present is a time that has no consequences, or outcomes. For me, the present is a state of happiness.

In the end, this constant need to put things off is my own fault. I was never one of those agenda-toting kids who would remember meetings and practices.

And I more than got by on that. Today, I am thriving as a completely non-self-motivated individual.

I have above-average marks, some rather employable skill sets and most of all, I am blissfully ignorant of what tomorrow will bring.

Am I in for a rude awakening? Probably.

But life, in a true reflection of myself, seems to be putting off my comeuppance for now.

Eric Thompson lives in Belleville, Ont.

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