Tuesday, February 19

Structured Procrastination: Procrastinate And Get Things Done

Writers are often world-class procrastinators. Rather than writing now, we write later. The good news is that you can be a world-class procrastinator and still get things done.

John Perry writes:
[T]he 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.
.  .  .  .
Procrastinators often follow exactly the wrong tack. They try to minimize their commitments, assuming that if they have only a few things to do, they will quit procrastinating and get them done. But this goes contrary to the basic nature of the procrastinator and destroys his most important source of motivation. The few tasks on his list will be by definition the most important, and the only way to avoid doing them will be to do nothing. This is a way to become a couch potato, not an effective human being.

At this point you may be asking, "How about the important tasks at the top of the list, that one never does?" Admittedly, there is a potential problem here.

The trick is to pick the right sorts of projects for the top of the list. The ideal sorts of things have two characteristics, First, they seem to have clear deadlines (but really don't). Second, they seem awfully important (but really aren't). Luckily, life abounds with such tasks. In universities the vast majority of tasks fall into this category, and I'm sure the same is true for most other large institutions.
To learn more, read Structured Procrastination.

Other articles you might like:

- Story Craft: Five Important Questions
- Joe Konrath Made $15,000 dollars over 7 days using Amazon Select
- Screenwriting Software: Adobe Story

Photo credit: "¿¿¿???" by Luz Adriana Villa A. under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. In my experience, the problem with procrastination is that the merely urgent tasks overwhelm the important ones. This means that someone else set my goals, not me.

    1. Yes, that's the downside. Perhaps the trick is fooling oneself to procrastinate about the insignificant tasks and doing the pressing ones.

  2. Replies
    1. Yes! I thought it was a clever idea, if one could get it to work.


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