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The Comprehensive Internet Guide to Procrastination



As an expert on the subject of wasting time, I am pleased to present to you this complete and unabridged guide to internet procrastination. Through long experience and much effort, I have discovered and invented a wide variety of time-consuming actions which can eat up your free time while accomplishing nothing productive whatsoever. You too can experience this, with nothing more than your Internet browser and time that would be better spent doing something else.

Anyone can waste time playing games, aimlessly reorganizing sock drawers, staring blankly at the TV, or looking out the window or into space. This page, however, is for activities that are both interesting enough to keep you occupied for long stretches of time and bizarre enough to elicit the desired reaction from friends: "You spent how long doing what?"



* Internet Anagram Server--

This website provides almost endless fun. Take the name of any one of your friends-- the more letters, the better. Then scroll down the incredibly long column of anagrams the server provides, scanning for statements that actually make sense. (Sometimes the best way to do this is to narrow your search to include a particular word you've found in the name, but don't forget to go back to the general search when you've looked through that short list.) You can spend a good hour on most names (add the middle name if you need to!), and when you're done, all you need to do is insert the name of another friend. So click on over to the Internet Anagram Server (I, rearrangement servant).


* The Google game--

The object of the game is simple: go to the Google search engine, type in any three words, and find a combination that will bring you exactly one result. Yet this game is challenging enough that it takes hard work to find a successful three-word combination. Some wacky combinations will amazingly show up on 2, 3, or 7 different sites; others will be so rare that you won't find a single result. But through perseverence, and the continued entering of words that have no logical connection to eachother, you'll finally find three words that bring up only one result. And the joy of success will prompt you to start from scratch and do it all over again...


* Class searches--

This one is tricky. If you do it at the wrong time, you'll actually be accomplishing something productive, completely destroying the purpose of the procrastination. Hence, you must be sure to work on planning out your class schedule long before you actually need to register-- a month is optimal. If enough time is invested initially, this is an approach that keeps on giving, since after determining which classes you want to take, any additional time you spend perusing schedules and class evaluations will be utterly gratituitous. As a consequence, you can then waste at least an hour on it every night for at least a full month. If you're an NU student, you'll use CAESAR and CTECs.

Bonus: Use the course catalog or a yearly planner to come up with future schedules up to a year in advance, which you will surely discard when the time actual comes to register for those classes.

Bonus: Search for course evaluations of classes in subjects you will never take.


* Internet Detective--

Search the internet for mentions of yourself, your friends, your family, kids you knew in high school, or anyone else that strikes your fancy. You can do this by simply entering the name of choice into a search engine and seeing the results, but your options go much further. (And you'll probably need them; while searching for someone with a name like, say, "Britt Gordon-McKeon," doesn't involve much creativity or hard work, most people have names which they share with from a couple to dozens and dozens of other people.) Use tidbits of information you know about them in the search. Search for their e-mail address or aliases you know they once used. Follow the trail of information you find to access more sites, with a growing sense of what they would likely be mentioned online in reference to. Use the - sign to exclude mentions of individuals with the same name who recur in your searches. And don't forget to use less prominent search engines-- Google won't catch everything.


* CTECs--

This is for Northwestern folks, or anyone else who goes to a college with public online course evaluations. CTECs are designed to give you an idea of what classes are like, but they can be used for so much more! Look up the classes you've taken already; see what other people thought of the class compared to what you thought. Then read the comments and try to figure out who in your class said what. But there's more. Look up all the courses that you can remember your friends taking, then search through the comments at the bottom, trying to find which comment is theirs. Does it sound like something they'd say? Does it remind you of comments you remember them making about the course? You can read and ponder for quite a while until you feel you've discerned your friend's voice in the mass of comments.


* Census data--

There is so much census data out there that you can spend forever exploring it, looking for whatever strikes your fancy. One particularly interesting feature is the ability to get data by county or city. You can find out all sorts of information about the county you live in, then move on to other counties that interest you. You can also get lots of demographic info for the country as a whole, and some interesting reports here.


* Tests and Quizzes--

These are everywhere to be found online. Want to find out your inner goddess, your TV family, your sexual personality, your theme song, or what breed of dog you are? Try Emode.com. Want to take the gay test, the slut test, the bitch test, the lazy test, the pregnancy test? Head to TheSpark.com. Or create your very own quizzes at Friendtest.com, and take other peoples' tests. And you can find personality tests, purity tests, IQ tests, and much more at the aforementioned sites as well as many other ones just by searching.

Bonus: One of the best things about quizzes is that they're a great way to pull your friends down into procrastination with you. Many of them have features that allow you to compare your scores directly with your friends, and if it's not built in, you can always tell your friends your score and point them towards the quiz in question. They'll get hooked, and likely return the favor, pointing out a new quiz months later and starting the cycle again.


* Public Records--

At sites like SearchSystems online, they have long lists of what public records are available for free online. For most of the states I've checked, there aren't a whole lot of records which are both available, free, and interesting. (Although you can go here to get birth and marriage records for a couple of states, including California and Texas.) But real estate records and property values are virtually always available, so you can figure out how many acres of land your friends have at their houses which you've never seen, or learn their neighbors' names. And you can figure out how much money that fancy house that you always drive by is worth (or who owns it!), if you know the address. Plus, there are some tidbits that might be of interest, depending on the state you live in and whether you're interested in the licensed dentists in your state. It's unlikely you'll find anything of tremendous interest on these sites, but eking out bits of information like a middle name or mother's maiden name that you didn't know about is a psychological victory, more than enough incentive for a hard-core procrastinator.


* Statistics--

Pick a sport-- my suggestion is baseball, but you can adapt it to your own preferences-- and think of something statistical you'd like to figure out. Not something simple, like which American League outfielder has the most home runs, but be more creative. Unfortunately, sites like ESPN.com have decreased the amount of time it takes to compile a good statistical argument, as they gradually increase the quality of the statistics they run. But you can still spend a good amount of time compiling evidence for why a chosen borderline-Hall of Famer deserves inclusion when compared to any number of HOFers, or making an argument for the greatest living player. (Note: it will be more fun and you'll be more motivated to continue procrastinating if you find someone to actually argue against!) Explore stats and analysis at places like Baseball Prospectus or Baseball-Reference.com, as well as ESPN.com.



There are plenty of places online where you can find games to fill up time. At Yahoo Games, you can play against other real human beings online, instead of just your computer, and even play along with geographically distant (or not so distant!) friends. There are also many other places you can play a variety of interesting games, although I must admit I don't play them often and will not vouch for their quality. But I suggest the most interesting and unique ones, like Splat the MP at Panlogic, or Ethical Foreign Policy or the other games at Spinon (oh, those Brits!). Forget those boring games of Tetris or Asteroids... the Internet is much more fun than that!


* Websites--

Although working on a website is typically thought of as a productive enterprise, you accomplish a lot, and people don't typically think you're crazy for spending time on it, it's still absolutely worth mentioning because of the massive amount of time you can spend on creating one. You can put an hour into a webpage once, or you can spend an hour every day and hours at a time on your site; it's all up to you. It can truly eat up more time than almost anything else. And although you will have something to show for your hard work that you can be proud of, as long as you work on your website instead of doing something else that is more important and needs to be done, it's still procrastination, and one of the best kinds.

Bonus: Websites can also be used for "reciprocal procrastination." After you create your site, contact all of your friends who have websites of their own. If you regularly update your site, they can visit for procrastination purposes, thus giving you visitors. And they can reciprocate by updating their own websites regularly, giving you the opportunity to procrastinate even more by reading their sites.


* And More...

While there are some tried-and-true wonderful ways to procrastinate out there, like the ones I've listed above, both you and I can find new ways every day. This wonderful world wide web of ours has endless possibilities, and they can be stumbled upon when you're least expecting them. All you need is a healthy curiousity and the willingness to explore, and you can be sucked down into the whirlpool of procrastination in ever more fascinating and bizzare ways. Just don't forget to brag to your friends and observe their looks of shock or their knowing smiles, because that's half the fun!






Disclaimer: Procrastination is not a joking matter! It's a serious problem that ruins people's lives. According to the University of Buffalo, procrastination "can lead to feelings of guilt, inadequacy, depression and self-doubt among students. Procrastination has a high potential for painful consequences." If you suffer from this disorder, get help. Visit MentalHelp.net to learn about your problem and how to fix it. I renounce all responsibility for the participation of any of my readers in this practice. Nothing on this webpage should be interpreted as encouraging people to indulge in this terrible and life-damaging pastime.


Last updated 5 September, 2002


Intellectual Property Rights denounced by Britt Gordon-McKeon, 2002