I have a tendency to tell lots of white lies to my girlfriend. And
while I know people say little fibs aren’t necessarily a bad thing, I
keep finding myself in mix-ups and feel bad. Do you think white lies
can be okay?
If your mother told you that lying can bring nothing but
trouble (in addition, of course, to a nose the size of Pinocchio’s),
she was actually lying through her teeth.
Whether we like it or not, the reality is that white lies are
necessary. You just can’t tell people exactly how you feel all the
time. I mean, look what happened to Jim Carrey in “Liar, Liar.”
Sometimes, white lies are necessary simply to preserve a sense of
decency and to serve as a lubricant for the hard truth.
For example, if your girlfriend asks you if you like the
yellow and brown polka dot dress she wore to your formal—even if you
think it looks like something your mom would have worn in the ’60s—you
probably don’t want to tell her that. A simple “You look beautiful”
At the same time, you will have to be prepared for the
negative consequences that may arise from even the most benign fibs.
Not being truthful with others usually means you are not being truthful
with yourself, and this can be a slippery slope. Sometimes not being up
front about how you’re feeling and what is going on in your head will
just lead to conflict and distrust.
You should always try to be honest about your feelings about
people, particularly when it comes to relationships and love. In these
matters, white lies—even if intended to spare feelings—can be very
detrimental. If you went out for drinks on Saturday night with your
ex-girlfriend and you don’t want to worry your girlfriend over
something that wasn’t a big deal to you, I suppose you could resort to
a white lie. But your relationship should be based on trust to begin
with, so a much better choice would be to be up front with your
girlfriend about your plans and assure her she has nothing to worry
about. If you can’t be honest with her, maybe you should think about
why you’re with her in the first place.
Also keep in mind that lying can be addictive. I believe that
lying is an acquired—not an innate—skill. So try to steer away from
developing this trait too much. You may find yourself unnecessarily
making up stories for no reason just because you’ve become used to it.
This can be dangerous, because you have to have a particularly good
memory to be a good liar. Simple facts can be mixed up and will get you
into even more trouble. As Richard Nixon learned, the cover up is
always worse than the crime.
Nikki, who tells the truth (well...most of the time)
I feel like I’m always procrastinating. Whether it’s random e-mails,
surfing the internet, or the facebook, I can never seem to focus and
get done what I need to do. What should I do?
News flash: you don’t have to be efficient every second of the day
to get things done. In fact, some procrastination is important—and you
should expect to have some lag time in your day. Don’t worry: you’re
One key to avoiding procrastination is to compartmentalize
and set aside specific times for work and fun. Setting up a series of
daunting tasks throughout the day will push you into a trap of
uncontrolled procrastination. Make a schedule so that certain parts of
the day allow you to focus fully on one task—and make sure you pick the
times wisely (for example, your prime time to read 400 pages of
Nietzsche is probably not Saturday night after bar hopping).
Also, school work saturation is never a good thing. Focusing
on homework 100 percent of the time will not only get old, but will put
you on the fast track to a burnout. One of the many wonderful aspects
of extracurricular activities is that they provide “productive
procrastination” (no, that is not an oxymoron) away from your
academics. And yes, spending time with friends and just hanging out is
also considered okay (even at Harvard).
As with most things, procrastination can only become
dangerous if you take it too far. Chronic procrastination is more
complex than simple time management, and may actually reflect a
reluctance to take risks or confront decisions. So think about what
lies beneath your habits.
While some procrastination is okay, and necessary, here are
some tips to help you focus and get your stuff done. First, acknowledge
that there are some things in life you just have to do, like pay bills,
register for classes, and get through your Quantitative Reasoning
requirement. Once you learn what you absolutely must push through, you
can slough off the things that don’t matter.
Step two to overcoming procrastination is to replace “finish
it” with “begin it.” Taking a step at a time will make you feel less
overwhelmed. Also, throw away any notion of perfectionism. It’s okay to
be human—focus on getting things done instead of making things perfect.
Thirdly, dispel the notion that doing everything at the last minute is
good, even if you feel that you’re able to write or work best under
time pressure. Working on the wire is stressful, and ultimately a
Finally, allow yourself a reward after completing a task—the promise of guaranteed fun will surely act as a helpful motivator.
It may just start with having a planner—maybe even those
special planners that Harvard passed around. Then you can be productive
and also know when “Love Your Body Day” falls. Killing two birds with
one stone is always productive.
Nikki, whose favorite procrastination technique is facebook stalking
—“Dear Nikki” will run on Mondays. Send letters to DearNikki@thecrimson.com. Letters will be published anonymously.