My article is due in my editor's inbox on Thursday mornings. So after a grueling three days of performing academic high-wire tricks in order to complete all my last-minute papers and tests on time, I settled into the couch in my apartment Wednesday evening, determined to hammer out a post before I went to bed.
I proceeded to spend the next three hours talking to my roommates about people who ride wooden barrels off the side of Niagara Falls. When 3 a.m. rolled around, I decided I would just write the column the next day. It still counts as Thursday morning as long as it's done before noon, right?
In the introduction to "20something Essays by 20something Writers," editors Matt Kellogg and Jillian Quint write about the Random House essay contest that produced the book. Although the contest had been running for six months, two-thirds of the contestants submitted their essays between 10 p.m. and 11:59 pm on the day of the deadline. The writers, obviously, were in their 20s.
Quint and Kellogg, however, put a positive spin on this incident and its implications.
"The more we thought about it, the more we realized that this procrastination wasn't necessarily a generational fault but rather an indication of how today's world works," they write. "In an era of text messaging, online shopping and movies on demand, why would anyone do anything more than a day or two in advance? It's not that we're lazy or bratty or glib; it's just that we're fast."
I like to think they are right about this. When I'm assigned to write a paper about political coups in a remote African country, I don't have to spend weeks poring over 1,000-page tomes about the history of Botswana. Instead, I jump on Wikipedia and I can write my paper in 45 minutes.
Unfortunately, such open access to online information makes it easy to completely discredit the paragraph you just wrote after reading fire and brimstone quotes from Spencer W. Kimball.
A simple search of the word "procrastination" on LDS.org makes it quite apparent that Quint and Kellogg won't be making it into the Sunday school manual any time soon. It turns out procrastination is actually contrary to the gospel. Who knew?
"One of the most serious human defects in all ages is procrastination," says President Kimball. "An unwillingness to accept personal responsibilities now."
In seminary, we all memorized Alma's words famously beseeching us not to "procrastinate the day of (our) repentance until the end." Contrasting this eternal principle with the way my peers and I work is enough to show that this little generational tendency of ours really isn't eternally sustainable.
If college students were in charge of designing and executing the plan of salvation, all of us would be scrambling to find our bishops while in line for the judgment bar. Or more likely, we would set up some kind of a system in which we could confess our sins via text message. ("Hey bish, can i talk 2 u??")
Of course, it's more than just laziness that feeds this habit. It has become so ingrained in our generation, that we wear the all-nighters and eleventh-hour projects as badges of honor. Self-mastery has always been seen as an admirable virtue in Mormonism. But for some twisted reason, a lot of us young, single Saints give more value to enduring the extreme pressures produced by procrastination (i.e. pounding two cans of Rock Star energy drink and staying up 40 hours straight to write a research paper) than responsible, disciplined time management.
For others, it is a way to maintain a feeling of exceptionality without the burdens of actually being exceptional. "Look at what I can accomplish when I put things off until the last minute," we seem to think. "Imagine how great I would be if I actually put time and effort into my work!"
Abandoning this attitude would certainly improve our quality of life and put us on better track to celestial glory. But don't ask me how to do it. Because right now, it's 12:47 pm on Thursday, my deadline has passed, and I can almost hear my editor's wrath coming through cyberspace.
It sounds a lot like a rapidly approaching waterfall.