The Art of Procrastination

The Art of Procrastination, by John Perry

I can’t remember who recommended this – I see it was on Lifehacker last week, but I didn’t see it then – anyway, it is a very amusing read. Here is a quote from the Structured Procrastination website:

Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important. If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him do it. However, the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.

Structured procrastination means shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact. The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.

This is from the essay Structured Procrastination, which won Perry (an emeritus philosophy professor) the Ig Nobel Prize.

Of course, my whole blog and internet postings are based on this system. I was a bit shocked a few weeks ago when a colleague offered me some fairly urgent work. She probably thought because I post so much on mailing lists that I didn’t have a huge amount of real work waiting for me.

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