DEAR NIKKI: Lies and Lag Time

Advice Column

Dear Nikki,
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?

—Frustrated Fibber

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” will suffice.

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)

Dear Nikki,
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?

—Doomed Delayer

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 normal.

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 serious gamble.

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 Letters will be published anonymously.