The unbearable lateness of being

Remember when “multi-tasking” actually meant something? Me neither.

It’s days like today when fulfilling obligations that can only be completed in solitude (for instance, writing thoughtful, incisive or at very least droll columns for a free liberal weekly) happen to collide with significant communal events whose celebration is ideally undertaken in the company of loved ones (anything happening on Christmas Day, for instance) that a person’s time management practices are called into question and a systematic accounting of priorities is called for.

Columnists the world over are searching for anything to write about this week besides their New Year’s resolutions. Not one to be held hostage by an effete compulsion to avoid the obvious, though, I feel as comfortable as one can — sitting alone, wearing a coat and hat in the garage on Christmas Day — publicly reflecting on the ways in which I might more efficiently organize and manage my time in the new year.

And while a lengthy description of all the resolutions I’m mounting this year regarding, for instance, greater frequency in mustache trimming ahead of large family events or the taking of photos that may or may not be greatly magnified on the cover of certain local Gannett publications that shows in vivid detail how the hair that naturally grows out of my face appears to be waging asymmetrical warfare on my mouth may be endlessly interesting, a more fruitful discussion will focus on something we all experience. If you feel you’re pulled in too many directions and often budget your time unwisely, read on.

My procrastination has developed beyond what could politely be termed “habitual” into something best described as a freakish and potentially hazardous boil of psychological deferral. The nuisance that my foot dragging causes others — which seems to range anywhere on the spectrum of discomfort from simply knowing that Rick Perry walks among us to the persistent, ghostly itch of a missing toe — is a burden all its own and only serves to compound my uneasiness on the matter.

For all that, though, my New Year’s resolution is not something so pedestrian as “Just stop procrastinating, Joe Manning.” I know better than to set myself up for failure. Instead, I’m writing a caveat into my regularly scheduled program of avoidance, which states: I will attempt — to the best of my abilities — to limit the effects of my own procrastination on others. Should scheduling conflicts arise as a result of my own procrastination, I will determine a course of action that honors my loved ones first and repositions personal duties, Cardinal basketball, God and country, work and so on, into an itemized pile to be dealt with later, in order of crushing immediacy.

Some might call this collation of duties, aspirations and desires something abstract like “prioritizing.” I’m calling it what it is — Selective Procrastination.

In 2012, I am determined to put things off until the last minute in the right order.

I’ll not miss out on the experiences and moments that comprise a life well-lived because “there’s something else I was meant to do before and really ought to be doing right now.” Persistent procrastination will no longer get in the way of doing the right thing — now it is the right thing.

It comes as no surprise to me that no sooner has this new bylaw been written than it is to be practically tested. A uniquely topical paradox is occurring in real time as I’m writing this column. I just received a message from one of my oldest, closest friends, which reads:

We’ve got fresh eggnog and a bottle of Basil Hayden here. It’s my birthday and we celebratin’. —Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ

The thought of putting something that is spelled N-O-G in my mouth on purpose is only slightly less repellant to me than the idea of drinking bourbon named for a UK basketball coach. Besides that, I’ve got work to do. But 2012’s protocols of Selective Procrastination clearly states that, because I should have written my column a few days ago and didn’t, and because that act of neglect now threatens to interfere with humane interaction with loved ones, the only right thing to do is to get up, spend an hour or so with some folks I’ve not been able to see this holiday season, and finish this column first thing in the morning.

I know, it’s not even 2012 yet, but I’m not one to dawdle.