Backstory: Read this tomorrow

I'm a procrastinator. That's not a confession or an apology. It's an advertisement. I'm a professional procrastinator.

Since childhood I've been called a procrastinator by everybody from my parents to my fourth-grade teacher, who didn't appreciate my laissez-faire attitude about when to return from recess, to a series of former bosses who took seriously the "dead" in "deadline."

Then one day I decided: If I'm a procrastinator, then I will be a procrastinator.

I got business cards:

Dale Roberts

Procrastinator

Just Do It – Tomorrow.

Now I write and teach about the positive side of procrastination. In my book "Debunking the Myths about Procrastination," I refute the prejudices of time-bound people.

Take the proverb, "Procrastination is the thief of time." No. Punctuality is the thief of time. If you arrive punctually for a meeting, you'll waste time waiting for people like me to show up late. I never have to wait: I arrive last, so the meeting starts as soon as I take my seat.

We hear the proverb, "The early bird gets the worm." What about Robert Benchley's book "The Early Worm?" Plus, the early bird may get the worm, but at the mousetrap, it's the second mouse that gets the cheese.

If procrastination is bad, why does it begin with the prefix "pro," which means "good?"

My book "Time Out" is an exposé of time-management scams – books and classes claiming to teach people how to manage time. But there's no such thing as time management. We can't manage time. Time is a function of the laws of physics.

We measure time by the apparent movement of our sun as seen from Earth, as the galaxy we call the Milky Way, in rhythm with 100 billion other galaxies, swirls in the cosmic dance, in the infinite mystery of our ever-expanding universe. How do you manage that?

My seminars on using time are different – for example, the start time is "7-ish."

I'm not saying the procrastinator's path is always smooth. Last month I sent a magazine editor two articles that I had promised to write for her August 1999 issue: "How to Protect Your Computer From the Y2K Catastrophe" and "Why the CD-ROM Will Never Replace the Audiocassette." I couldn't convince her that the articles are even better now, since they have the advantage of a historical perspective.

I've just finished compiling a book of proverbs – and counterproverbs – about procrastination that includes:

"Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today." (Ben Franklin)

"Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow." (Mark Twain)

"Never put off today what you can put off tomorrow." (Spanish proverb)

This is my best book yet. I just sent the manuscript to the publisher. Watch for it in your local bookstore, in May 2002.

Dale Roberts, a college career counselor, lives in Asheville, N.C.

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