Procrastination is the putting off of an unpleasant task until the last minute. It's quite common. Hell, if you are reading this, you probably are procrastinating right now. The Ridiculous Procrastinator is someone—often someone very capable—who does this to such ridiculous extremes that it is almost funny. He will put off writing a 10,000-word paper until the night before it is due, and once he sits down to start it, he will find half a million petty tasks that do not need to be done to avoid writing that paper. Often, he will find that the assignment practically writes itself once he gets going.
Some common tactics of the Ridiculous Procrastinator include sharpening pencils, constantly checking email, cleaning, feeding the pets, talking on the phone (bonus points if they talk about the task), reading TV Tropes (bonus bonus points if they're reading this page) and basically anything that they can do to avoid doing what they have to do.
When they finally begin working (usually when they realize they only have about an hour left to finish), they begin working like The Flash after drinking 12 pots of coffee. In some cases, they finish their project at the last minute, run like madmen to their class (or workplace, or what have you), only to find out that the deadline's been changed, or the project's been canceled, meaning they've done all that work for nothing.
Most procrastinators are aware they have a problem and intend to correct their Fatal Flaw. They'll get right on it tomorrow.
There are a ton more examples beyond those listed below, including:
... bah, we'll add them later, we got time, you wanna shoot some hoops or get something to eat?
In a filler episode of the 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist, Roy Mustang had done several things such as sleep at his desk and try to feed his subordinate's dog, Hayate, before finally getting to work on reports at the last minute.
Lucky Star: Konata and Tsukasa dedicate entire episodes to this. Konata is a better example of this though — her last-minute studying can be so effective that it puts her in the Brilliant, but Lazy category.
Kodomo no Omocha: Sana's mother Misako treats deadlines as mere guide line and makes cruel fun of her editor.
Chiaki Yoshino in Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi is a mangaka infamous among the editors for his last-minute work. In general, the editors in this series spend their lives running after their procrastinating charges to get manuscripts on time.
Archie Comics: In Betty's Diary, Betty once wrote about trying to fix everything that she's been trying to put off. Sounds well and good, and she even inspired Archie to do the same. Except, Archie is a much worse procrastinator than she was. He wound up spending almost an entire week trying to do the things that he's been putting off.
During a flashback in the first Red Dwarf novel, Rimmer spent so long creating an extremely intricate and detailed study plan that he didn't actually have any time to study.
Same thing happened in the series.
In The Cheese Monkeys the last chapter had this where Happy and his classmates verge on insanity only to find that their professor has been fired and they've been awake for five days for no reason.
In several stories of Ephraim Kishon: Several artisans - one plumber, one painter and the most egregious example would be a carpenter who once promised to make him a table in a few weeks, and delivered after years.
While we're at it: There's a story about a rabbi who orders a pair of trousers from a tailor while on a trip, but has to leave the town again before the tailor's finished them. Six years later, he coincidentally travels to the town again, where he runs into the tailor, who happily tells him that he just finished the trousers.
Rabbi: "God created the whole world in six days, but you need six years for a pair of trousers?"
Tailor: "Yes, rabbi - but look at the world, and then look at these trousers!"
Oblomov. After the head of his village tells him that there are problems, he starts thinking about reforms, and spends the next years with that, without doing anything.
Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat (1889): "It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours."
Growing Pains: A Season 4 episode, "Nasty Habits," sees Mike put off writing an important term paper until the night before it is due. Everything distracts him – even the then-brand new song "Could've Been" by teen pop singer Tiffany. (The episode aired in December 1987, just as the song was starting to climb the charts.)
Sam Malone did this on Cheers once. Diane made them take a break for a week to figure out what the relationship was, and he spent the week partying with his friends, claiming that, even as a relief pitcher, he was known for 'coming through in the clutch', and that he worked better under a deadline. He was wrong.
The Malcolm in the Middle episode "Reese Cooks" featured a subplot where Francis kept on procrastinating on his paper, finding the most ridiculous things to do to avoid working on it until his friend locks him in a room alone with just his pencil and paper. Francis then spots a loose thread, and when his friend opens the door in the morning, he finds Francis sitting there with his sweater completely unraveled.
The first episode of Black Books features Bernard doing this to avoid doing his taxes. He lets in a pair of door to door evangelists, phones his mother, and then tries to get himself seriously injured to get an exemption.
Neil on The Young Ones managed to do this in miniature: attending an exam, he squandered so much time laying out his writing implements, good-luck charms, and other materials that he never actually got the chance to write anything!
One episode of The Amanda Show featured a sketch about a superhero called The Procrastinator.
Man: Procrastinator, Procrastinator! My baby is stuck in a tree!
Procrastinator: A Tree! That’s no place for a baby, The Procrastinator to the rescue!
(man starts to leave, Procrastinator doesn't follow)
Man: Hello, Procrastinator, my baby?!
Procrastinator: Yes he is in a tree, I'll save him... eventually!
An episode of Neds Declassified School Survival Guide delt with Procrastionation. Ned and Moze make a bet that Ned won't finish his social studies project on time because he'll procrastinate like he always does. This almost comes true until Ned learns that he can use his procrastination as a way to motivate himself, allowing him to complete his project and get a passing grade. Unfortunately, Moze loses the bet since she put off learning her dutch clog dance due to painfully wooden shoes she had to wear.
"Hot Cocoa ~A Restless Night's Song~" is about Len having to pull an all-nighter to finish a major long-term assignment the night before it's due. Rin has to keep checking in on him throughout the song to make sure he stays on track and to keep him going with countless cups of hot cocoa.
"I had looked away from reality
I've dug my own grave, day by day
'Tomorrow, I can finish it.' 'I'll do it tomorrow!'
Putting it off like that is how I reached this point today."
Jeremy from Zits is a master of this. In one instance, he stays up all night working on a playlist to listen to while writing a huge paper that's due the next day; he plans to start actually writing at dawn.
FoxTrot: Peter Fox once started reading Moby-Dick the morning of the due date of his essay on it. His father is genuinely proud of this, saying that it reminds him of when he did his entire dissertation the morning of the day it was due.
Jason, being a massive nerd, is an inversion. He loves schoolwork so much he once finished his exams early - in September. Another time, he waited until the last minute, literally, to begin an exam, saying he liked the challenge.
Peanuts: Quite common with Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty.
Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin is a repeat offender. For example, when he has to give a report on the brain, he gets three days to prepare. He writes it on the bus on the way to the school.
Wally from Dilbert. He is a master of this trope, minus the part about doing anything. In one comic, he convinces the Pointy-Haired Boss to not give him any projects for the next year as he's working on the WDNW project, which he says "prevents the 1s and 0s in the code from becoming 10s". He buys it, and Wally points out that the PHB never realized that the full name of the project was the Wally Does No Work Project.
The PHB has similar tendencies. He once tells Dilbert that an assignment is urgent, and Dilbert says it's only urgent because everything sits on the PHB's desk until it becomes either moot or a crisis. The PHB even stacks them in bins labeled "Aging", "Crisis", and "Moot". The PHB is so miffed by Dilbert figuring out his system that he vows to give him nothing but the "Moots".
The Big Finish Doctor Who audio play "The Kingmaker" involves the Fifth Doctor being attacked by a time-travelling killer robot owned by a publishing company, there to force him to write a children's book he was contractually obligated to finish by threatening to kill him if he doesn't. The Doctor admits to having run off with his advance and done very little work, but claims to enjoy writing, saying he was just struggling to get on with it. We only realise just how bad he's been at getting on with it when he goes to replay his voice notes from the last time he worked on it, and his voice sounds significantly deeper and more Tom Baker-y. Peri comments on this, but he tells her that "your voice always sounds different on tape".
The titular character in Hamlet decides to kill Claudius early on, but spends much of the story fooling around and killing other characters; he finally does it near the end. (And if Laertes hadn't imposed a half-hour deadline in the last scene, who knows whether he'd have done it then, either.)
Probably justified in that Valve only has so many people working for them, as well as a "work on whatever game/project you want" policy. So, if nobody feels like working on your favorite game that week/month/whatever, you're probably not going to get updates for it for a while.
A minor meme on some forums (particularly Blizzard and Valve) is pretending that the word "soon" is copyrighted, because they use it so dang much.
Procrastination Giants in Kingdom of Loathing. They decide to put off kicking your ass until tomorrow. While you are beating them into oblivion. One of their attack messages has them see a "Beat up intruders" on the calendar from two weeks ago and decide now's as good a time as any to do it. They can give you a status effect that makes you "decide to attack later" when you try to attack.
Possibly also this trope (among other reasons) for the famous non-vaporVaporwareDuke Nukem Forever, as when Gearbox Software took over the game was completed and released suspiciously fast. It was said during an interview all Gearbox did is basically just tying up loose ends and bugs to complete what is already an almost complete game.
The reason why the eponymous Violet threatens to leave the player character.
In Garfield and Friends, (The U.S. Acres segment) there was a procrastinators' club. They basically sat around saying "meh, we'll do it later" when it came to actually doing anything club-like.
In Family Guy, there's a meeting hall where one of the notices at a notice board was about a procrastinator's club meeting being postponed.
The House of Mouse short "Mickey's Piano Lesson" has Mickey putting practicing for a piano recital with Minnie to do other things, like eating pie, giving Pluto a bath, going on a picnic, skating the half-pipe and skydiving.
Hilariously inverted in Recess, when the entire class has to stay inside due to a rainstorm. Gretchen gets so bored she decides to do tonight's homework right then and there...as well as all the homework for the next 7 years of her education.
The Simpsons had Lisa decide to write a novel, and do absolutely anything she could to avoid actually writing.
Bart also has shades of this.
Mrs. Krabappel: Bart, you had three months to complete this project and you started thirty seconds ago.
If you are reading TV Tropes right now, odds are you're procrastinating. Truth in Television if there ever was such a thing. In fact, most Pot Holes to Ridiculous Procrastinator are not from example pages, or character pages, but from Troper pages. (Bonus points if you are reading this page to procrastinate.)
Yet another T-shirt reads "I Have Not Yet Begun To Procrastinate".
An article by Terry Pratchett, describing how he goes about writing a novel, says that in the old days all writers could do that counted as "work" but wasn't actually writing was change the typewriter ribbons and clean the "e" with a pin. In the computer age, however, you can spend hours writing macros that would speed up your writing by a couple of minutes. And if you get bored with that, you can read anything that looks interesting, which is called "research".
Douglas Adams: "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by". The reason the first Hitchhiker's book ends where it does is because at that point his editor lost patience with all the missed deadlines and told him to just finish the page he was on. According to The Salmon of Doubt, he once took an impromptu trip to Australia to comparatively test-drive a new underwater vehicle and a sting ray for an article so that he could procrastinate on another one. Similarly, he once hiked up Mt. Kilimanjaro — spending a part of a trip in a rhino suit — for similar purposes (though that was also for charity.) During the writing of Mostly Harmless he was locked in his hotel room by his editor and was only allowed out for the occasional walk.
Frank Frazetta did almost all of his work within a day of their deadlines. While the finished product was always top-notch, it would take him several days to recover from exhaustion.
Neil Gaiman tells a story about being at Harlan Ellison's house at the same time as an editor who had come to collect a new piece that Ellison had promised her for an anthology. Gaiman said that Ellison pulled him aside and told him to keep the editor distracted while Ellison finished writing the story.
Two of Ellison's most well-regarded stories "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman", and "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" were each written the night before their deadlines.