I'll Catch Up With You Later It started out as routine shirking. But drawing on years of practice, I was able to press on and discover new terrain: the zone that lies beyond paralysis.
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – I generally have a lot of fun writing this column, and I'm looking forward to doing it this time, too. I even have a really interesting topic, which I'll tell you about later. When, you know, I'm ready to work.

First, however, I have something more important to tell you. I have just passed through the three levels of preparation that immediately precede doing anything of importance, a process I recently discovered while engaged in a number of other projects instead of doing things I should have been doing in order to put off several other things I will tell you about later.

Come with me, if you've got the stomach for it. I feel it is important to take you through my discovery personally. What I have done pushes the boundaries of an essential business art into a region formerly unoccupied by anyone with any serious intention of doing anything.

What I'm talking about here is the art of Crastination. It's a new word. Because I'm convinced that what I have just done has never been done before. Yes, in the past several hours I have lifted this old art to unprecedented heights, achieved levels of excellence heretofore considered impossible by all but the maddest of dreamers. For it is a demanding master, this art of Crastination. It is not for the faint of heart. But for those who seek to follow its path, it is an honorable and beautiful discipline indeed.

There are three separate forms to the art of which we speak:

Phase One: Pre-Crastination. A new word for a new concept. This is the stage that lays the groundwork. For this column today, for instance, I awoke early. It is Sunday, and I set my alarm for 7:30 A.M., fully intending to begin writing By 9 A.M. in my home office. I believed the lag time between awakening and the starting hour would give me plenty of opportunity for classic phase-two multi-untasking.

But I was wrong. Something new was afoot. I wasn't even prepared for the usual drill of e-mail checking, desktop organizing, and vague perambulation. I had a ways to go to get there. That's right. I was pre-crastinating. Excited by this discovery, I pushed on into virgin territory.

I used a combination of the Big Breakfast gambit (bacon, home fries, eggs, toast) with its attendant preparation and cleanup, and the new PlayStation I had installed on the TV in my study. Those things are addictive! My wife came in at 10:10 A.M., just when I was deep into this part of the process with the seventh level of Crash Bandicoot.

"I thought you were going to work," she said. She looked amused. I don't believe she understood the seriousness of what I was attempting. It was possible, I noted to myself, that I was engaged in the first pre-crastinating yet undertaken. I felt a chill at the thought.

I finished my gaming well in time to get with my retargeted start-time of 11 A.M. That's when I moved into...

Phase Two: Classic Pro-Crastination. You think you know this term. But you don't, not really. This is not old-fashioned putting things off we're talking about here. With its new hyphen, this is Professional Crastination, nothing more nor less. For this stage of the dance, I selected three old favorites:

--Calling my mother to say hello. --Responding to e-mail and chatting online with buddies. --Cleaning up my Windows registry. --Eating again, but lighter.

All right, that was four. Together they took me to nearly 12:30 P.M., fully five hours after I awoke with the intention to work.

And here's where things get difficult. Hell, they get damned near impossible. The normal person would buckle and cave at this point, get down to the task at hand. But not the true Crastinator. No, when weaker spirits would be falling into the task with a sigh of relief, that is the exact moment those drawn to a higher calling try to break through to the great white light that plays just outside the periphery. That's where I stumbled upon...

Phase Three: Post-Crastination. Brand new territory, accessible only to those who have taken the first two steps to their exhausted conclusion and are still not ready to give up and do a little work.

It's awful high up here, with very little oxygen. You're operating on sheer fumes, that's what it is. Every corpuscle in your mind and body is screaming to get down to base camp, where normal people occasionally get something done. But you press on into the unknown. You are filled with terror and an impossible hope. Maybe, just maybe, there's something beyond human existence on the other side of that terrifying summit of denial, fear, and just plain guts.

Will the work still be there when you come down?

I don't quite remember what I did while I was Post-Crastinating. I think I decided that it had been too long since my last decent workout, like several years, and I took a walk to the lake near my house. There were some boys there, fishing. I watched them for a time, until they seemed annoyed at my suggestions, and I went away.

Everything gets kind of black there for a while, and then I remember waking up in my chair at home. I had just downloaded Sonique, a very good MP3 music player that enables you to play just about any kind of music you want after downloading it off the Internet. I downloaded several selections and listened to them. Yep. That's music, all right.

The sheer weight of the triple Crastination effort was upon me now. My legs felt like puny rubber bands, my arms like sticks. I could barely breathe. I dragged myself from room to room. This could not go on much longer. Was there another plateau on the other side of this one that I hadn't yet discovered? Was it possible?

It was nearing 3 A.M. now. There was bowling on TV. Bowling is the most important sport for Post-Crastinators. I sat with the bowling for a long, long time.

And then, suddenly, it was over. The sky brightened. The road ahead looked clear. The crisis had passed! I was ready to write this column!

I walked with a light and frisky step upstairs to my office. I sat down at my desk. All my creative juices flowed into me suddenly. I had prepared for this task in the best way I know how.

And here I go!

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name.