My first serious case of procrastinatus occurred when the frog showed up in my mailbox. I was taking a biology course through distance ed when, along with a heavy textbook and a CD, I received a plastic jar the size of a basketball. It was filled with a murky solution of formaldehyde, and to see what was inside, you had to tilt the jar to the light, revealing a bit of clam shell, a flash of anemic sea worm, a spindly webbed foot.
I was struck by the strangeness of this. Whose job it was to pack dead things into jars and mail them to students? Where did they get these things? Did they grow clams and frogs for this purpose? Did they have a big aquarium, I wondered, from which they chose a random sample? I didn’t know, but I did know that as an avowed vegetarian, there was no way I was dissecting Kermit.
I decided to protest this wanton destruction of frogs by sending the jar back to the school along with a blistering letter. But protests are a lot of work, and I had things to do. So I put the jar on a shelf with the rest of my biology course and promptly forgot about it. Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of it and feel guilty, but then I would turn my attention to more enjoyable things – like, say, a Friends rerun - and the feeling would pass.
This went on for months, until I looked at my calendar and realized the final exam was looming. In a panic, I did what any 21-century student would do: I Googled it. I found a website with a virtual frog dissection, finished the paper and snuck the frog and its jar into a return box along with some textbooks.
But I would have saved myself a lot of trouble if I’d done this in September. That’s the funny thing about procrastination: putting off unpleasant tasks doesn’t make us happy. If anything, it serves us a big helping of anxiety, followed by some shame for dessert. Yet everybody does it: even Nobel-prize winners.
If you’re a distance student responsible for setting your own deadlines, you know that being a distance student is not the same as sitting in a lecture hall. So for you, we’ve created this blog. Let us know what might help you get your frogs off your shelves, and we’ll try to help.