This is a very dangerous slope that I know A LOT of college and high school kids get stuck on. And I get it. It’s just so much easier to do something fun now, do the schoolwork when you actually have to do it, and skate on by. I was even one of the kids who justified it by saying I worked better come crunch time than I did when the deadline was far away. Which, when you really think about it, is DUMB.
Here’s a little newsflash for those too young or naive to have experienced this themselves: you’re going to get bit. It might start off as little nibbles that aren’t too painful, but if you don’t develop those better study habits your teachers preached to you about, one day a chunk of your butt is going to be missing from the large bite that was taken. Life doesn’t always go according to plan (people over the age of 30 shouting AMEN at this point). Especially during my college years, I became as secretive as possible about upcoming assignments. And you know what happened? People in my life kept scheduling things for me to do during those last few days I had before something was due. And why shouldn’t they? If you had something important to do like a big paper or project, you’d say so, right? Wrong.
For me personally, there was also an actual feeling of relief when I no longer had that big project looming over my head. Anyone seen The Fifth Element? Milla Jovovich and Bruce Willis and Chris Tucker and many other named actors? Yea, I like that movie. It came out when I was in 5th grade. My dad and I went to the theater to see it. But you know why I remember when this movie came out so well? Because I had a project in school I hadn’t started on. That was back in my more sensitive days before procrastination became a way of life. I still had good study habits, and it was KILLING ME inside to have that project distracting me from all other thought.
You’re probably still thinking, “But Michael, you’re a self-proclaimed dummy. Hence your blog name. I’m smarter than you. I haven’t been bitten. In fact, the stars align in order to help me skate thru school.” Again, no. I’m just on the other side of the situation.
Case in point: my last semester in college I suffered a major downswing in my motivation levels. I just wanted college to be over. This school thing had dragged on for 17.5 years counting kindergarten. I had taken only one semester off (and by that I mean summers) since I’d graduated high school. I was drained. So what happened? I did work late. It became normal for me to start on things the day before. And you know what happened? My quality of work went down the tubes. I wasn’t thinking things out with enough advance to see how many holes there were in my process. Some of you remember that survey I took for a school paper awhile back? Well I didn’t do any editing after the rough draft on that. Come the day it was due I was just starting on a real analysis of the statistics I’d gathered. There was SO much data to pour over, and my brain just wasn’t cooperating.
Then for the final paper in that same class…. well 4 days after it was due I emailed the professor and laid it out for him. I haven’t started on writing the paper (which was a downplay; I hadn’t started on research either). Would it be better if I just skipped the paper and focused on studying for the final test? To my ashamed credit, the teacher liked me. I was very cooperative in class and only skipped once or twice. He told me even with not doing the final paper I could still get a B. It took me awhile to figure that one out, because the final paper was supposed to be worth 20% of my grade. NEW MATH, yay!
The point of this is not to tattle on myself or clear my conscience or tell you one of the stories where everything worked out fine. That was a hunky-dorey turn out. The story I should tell is that the only C I ever got in high school was because I procrastinated to the point of no return on a project. And since my history teacher was an idiot and had actually not given any tests or had us do any other assignments that quarter, I got a big zero. He gave me a C because anything worse would make him look suspicious.
So I beg of you school-age people: when you have an assignment coming up, knock it out early. It will really free you up to do what you want. And you may just have a few eureka moments between the time you do it and the due date to rethink how you wrote or did something. I have a story of this happening too.
I had a speech class in college. I think we all do, and I hated mine as much as most people. Anyway, my last big speech was on The Real Tomb of Jesus documentary. Apparently someone was sure they’d found the bones of Jesus the Nazareth which proved he didn’t have a bodily resurrection and apparently also showed he’d fathered a child with Mary Magdalene. What? I can’t make this stuff up.
Well the point of my speech was to show people who didn’t believe that true Christians don’t just have a blind faith but a thinking faith. God doesn’t call us to turn our brains off. I researched this with my pastor (oddly enough ripping off most of his sermon notes on the topic), watched the documentary and the after-discussion on it, and even did some research on my own. I felt very confident about what I was going to say… but as always I waffled on the introduction. I was talking about something very serious to me, but I needed to loosen up my audience so they didn’t throw fruit at me with all my pro-religious talk in their liberal university classroom.
Because my research and slide show was done so early, I had time to write 5 different introductions and run them by some people to weed out the best one. Then the morning of the presentation, genius struck me. My grandmother was visiting. So I took a few pics and changed my introduction to something along these lines:
“Religion! That highly divisive subject. I notice everyone in the room just got a little tense. It’s okay, relax. I’m not here to convert or kill any of you. I just want you to know of some recent things I’ve been dealing with and hopefully show you that Christians aren’t just walking around believing in a bunch of ridiculous facts wrapped around poor science.
See, James Cameron, the guy that brought you the Terminator movie, had recently slapped his name on a documentary claiming to have found the bones of Jesus. If this were true, it would be deeply impacting on the Christian faith. As it’s a lie, I find it deeply insulting. See, my faith is as dear to me as my sweet Grandmother (flashes slide of smiling and waving Grandma). Yes, I’m shameless. That’s my actual grandma, taken this morning. Anyway, with this bold and ludicrous attack on Christianity to help Cameron drum up viewership for his documentary, James Cameron has figuratively slapped my grandmother (flash on picture of grandma looking sad and holding her cheek).”

The whole place loved it. Most of the tension drained out of the room and it freed people up to listen and learn.
You can claim it was that great last minute pressure that brought the idea of using the pictures to me. But I will assure you it was the great amount of time I had to think over other ways that led to this stroke of brilliance.