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Procrastination Kills

YOU COULD call this a period piece. It is an event that occurred quite a long time ago. It is a cry from the past, a scar that was etched on the riverbed of my memory as a token of permanent shame. The drama unfolded one wintry morning in the bowels of my long and unfruitful academic career. It was the first time I had ever flunked an English test.

The thing is, there were four of us and we didn't want to look stupid. Of all the things we wanted to look, stupid was right at the bottom of the list. We didn't really attend classes to know what we could expect in the test either. So, we thought we would prepare for it. But as with all great plans that fail, procrastination happened. We were warned about the test a week in advance, and everyday for six days, we would congregate at a friend's home to ostensibly prepare for the test. And everyday for five days, we chatted about movies and cricket and when the time came to go home (those Halcyon days were littered with curfews and deadlines imposed by unforgiving parents), reminded each other that Rome wasn't built in a day and we had ample time to study for the test. On the sixth day we decided that the only reason Rome wasn't built in a day was because its architects were blithering incompetent nincompoops and that we could do so much better. If we had to build Rome in a day we could do it with hours to spare. So, we sat down and talked some more about movies and cricket. In hindsight, it was just as well because you can't really prepare for a test a day in advance. But we were too young to know.

So anyway, as that fateful hour approached, we felt pretty smug and cosy in the cushion of our confidence, bolstered by nothing else but a gut feeling that we were really clever boys and by the reassuring fact that one of us had managed to befriend a teacher's son and had been privy to a sneak preview of what could be expected. But then Tragedy twined her slithery tail around our prepubescent ankles.

Even before the question paper reached my table I could sense something was wrong. All my co-conspirators who were sitting in the front had turned pale and sweaty. One of them, a little kid with a dark and pimply complexion, had turned so white in fear he had begun to look like a Scandinavian jockey with a queer mutation of Alzheimer's disease. The question paper we finally got was completely different. We had been tricked, betrayed and deceived. I wrung my hands in agony and prayed for a miracle. Nothing happened. I flunked. Moral of the story? Procrastination kills. And it makes you fail tests. All right, so in a broader, shall we say, cosmic, sense, English tests don't really matter. Unfortunately, most bosses don't look at it that way. They differ. So you have people who get yelled at for not doing things on time and employees who get badly written memos because they pushed deadlines too often.

Truly, one could argue that the greatest victim of procrastination is productivity. Why does it happen? There are a couple of reasons. It stems from:

A fear of failure;

A fear of the unknown; and

Sheer laziness.

Most people fit the last category. For them, there is very little that can be done except of course, the eagerly attested cure for all evils - introspection. Unless they choose to stop being couch warmers, there is very little the outside world can do.

For people who suffer from a fear of failure, here are a few words of consolation - there is no such thing. As most wise men would tell you, the only sort of failure there is, is the failure to try. Most people who end up being successful have failed at some point or the other in their lives. Lastly, people who are afraid of the unknown are afraid because they have these little things called comfort zones outside of which they do not like to venture. The only way out of this mess is to gulp down that lump in your throat, roll up your sleeves and get into the thick of things. It won't take long before your comfort zone expands.

That said, once you have taken the decision to be more effective with your time, there is one thing you could do to make things more orderly - make a list for starters. As you finish each task, tick the item off your list. If for some reason you are unable to complete a task within a reasonable timeframe, move on to the next one and work your way up till you have reached the end of your list. Oh, and make sure your list is relevant to your job description - drinking coffee and chatting with colleague don't make the cut - or so my boss says.

ARJUN SENGUPTA

arjuns.hyd@cnkonline.com

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