Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Art of (Structured) Procrastination

I am a procrastinator. It's part of my makeup, part of my writing, part of my life. And so when I found John Perry's The Art of Procrastination in a local independent bookstore, I snatched it up. Humorous, self-deprecating and thought-provoking, it's a fun read -- one that pokes fun at the habit, but manages to analyze its pluses and minuses as well. So, this semester, I made it required reading for my first year seminar, and on the day I introduced it, I even wore my "Structured procrastinator" tee shirt.

Perry's premise is that structured procrastinators actually accomplish a great deal while they're procrastinating. We know what we're supposed to be doing, and while we're putting off doing that thing, we do other things instead. In the end, we get a lot done, even if none of it is what we're supposed to be doing.

I first read the book over a year ago, but it wasn't until last week that I realized one of the things that has cemented my structured procrastination habit.


Being a parent makes you a structured procrastinator. Oh, okay, it helps if you already have the procrastination gene (if there is such a thing), but I suspect that even the most task-oriented person can get sucked into structured procrastination while waiting for her children to do...whatever it is she's waiting for them to do. We learn to fill tiny pockets of time with quick little tasks in order to be efficient, but the irony is that what begins as an effort to not waste time becomes a habit that does exactly the thing it set out to avoid.

Provided it doesn't get out of hand and keep us from accomplishing things that are important, structured procrastination is actually a pretty good idea. We get little things checked off our lists, and sometimes the little things are a warm-up to the big stuff. And sometimes, the big things -- especially the big ideas -- need time to simmer before the answers bubble up.

Stop by tomorrow for a three keys post on what to do when the procrastination -- no matter how structured -- isn't working.

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