Structured procrastination is the art of ma- king this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely. See a sample reprint in PDF format. . an emeritus professor of philosophy at Stanford University, is the author of "The Art of Procrastination,". THE ART OF PROCRASTINATION. People procrastinate for a swarm of reasons. Here is a short, fun quiz to see what kind of procrastinator you might be.
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Editorial Reviews. Review. “A splendid way to avoid one's work.” —Ben Schott, author of Schott's Original Miscellany “Do not put off reading this charming guide . This is not a book for Bill Gates. Or Hillary Clinton, or Steven Spielberg. Clearly they have no trouble getting stuff done. For the great majority of us, though, what . This is not a book for Bill Gates. Or Hillary Clinton, or Steven Spielberg. Clearly they have no trouble getting stuff done. For the great majority of.
In contrast, the perfectionistic procrastinator usually expects more of herself than is realistic. But in their self-deprecation, they often miss an important issue: They knew the decision would change the course of their lives forever, and they wanted to be absolutely sure they were doing the right thing. By waiting too long to begin writing up his research, David avoids testing his potential. This procrastinating pattern keeps the past alive in the present. Initially, he wanted to work out at his health club every day during the week.
You can see the Fixed Mindset at work in this kind of scenario. These catastrophic expectations are even more intimidating when they are nameless and vague: It is often both interesting and helpful for procrastinators to articulate the nameless fantasies of dread that haunt them. How bad would things get? What chain of events would lead up to the final catastrophe? Here is an example from a man whose expectations careened from perfection to mediocrity to disaster.
Ethan, a middle-level manager in banking, was, in outward appearance, very successful. He had a secure job, a devoted wife, and a comfortable home. Yet he always felt in jeopardy of losing everything. This demand to be in top form all the time grew into a pressure greater than Ethan could bear, and he began to procrastinate, putting text. Consequences Real and Imagined 31 off paperwork and phone calls, delaying personnel decisions, and postponing preparation for meetings.
He feared his procrastination would be discovered and it would lead to his being fired. From one incident of imperfection, Ethan anticipated total disaster: I might even do myself in. Now I feel too depressed to work on my agenda.
I need a drink. Disaster feels so imminent that Ethan becomes paralyzed and unable to do any work.
He eventually saw there was a big difference between running a mediocre meeting and losing his wife, his job, and his hope for the future. The next time you find yourself slipping into a paralysis of perfectionism, consider playing out your worst-case scenario for that situation. Perhaps as you do, you can remind yourself that, although these fantasies are your fears, they are almost certainly exaggerated.
And if you can take your thoughts a step further to shift from Fixed to Growth Mindset, you might begin to see that you can view imperfection in an entirely new light—as an impetus to improve or to learn something new, instead of as a death warrant.
For some, it is measured by societal standards of job status, financial stability, or personal power. For others, success implies a more relational achievement, such as a loving relationship or a happy family.
An internal experience of success might be living mindfully or feeling content. Procrastinators, however, have trouble following through on their intentions in a timely way, so they feel like failures every time they let themselves down—again. Yet, if they can shift into a Growth Mindset, appreciating their efforts toward improvement, they can see that getting better at the timely pursuit of intentions is success.
The potential pleasure in success is dampened by the close calls, the last-minute scramble, the all-nighters that required Herculean efforts.
They criticize themselves for their lack of success and wish they could be free of the chains of procrastination that hold them back. But in their self-deprecation, they often miss an important issue: Do you feel anxious when you receive a lot of recognition? When your manager suggests a promotion, do you start to wish you were invisible? Do compliments embarrass you or leave you feeling apprehensive and wary?
If you are successful in one area of your life, do you mess up in another? When things are going just fine, do you assume the other shoe is about to drop? If you have more opportunities to be successful than others in your family, do you worry about losing your connection to your relatives? These are just a few experiences that point to a fear of success. Jane remembers the first time she considered this counterintuitive notion.
She entered college as an English major, but when she took a psychology course in group dynamics, she immediately felt at home.
She discovered that her mind had found its element. Her required three-page papers turned into such detailed ten-page outpourings that she was often late turning in her weekly assignments. She did so much research for her final paper that she did not finish it on time, and she received an incomplete in the course.
The professor called Jane into her office and expressed concern that a strong student was jeopardizing a high grade. It had never occurred to Jane that she could be afraid of doing well.
She had found a subject that fit the way her mind naturally worked, but there would be complications. She would follow an entirely different career path from the one she had envisioned. She thought only her older brother could inhabit the role of being really good at something.
Her anxiety about being successful was unknown to her, but it was demonstrated by her procrastination. Why are some people unable to pursue success wholeheartedly, whatever success means to them? It can be baffling to find yourself undermining the very success you desire. We think many procrastinators are conflicted about being successful, as Jane was. They fear the downside of success often without even being aware of it.
Most people who fear success want to do well, but because of unconscious worries, the desire fails to turn into reality. Does it stop us from moving forward and taking risks that could enrich our lives?
Does it lead us to restrict ourselves to such an extent that we lose our spontaneity, our curiosity, and our desire to master new challenges? For many procrastinators, they also create conflict. On the other hand, some people who want it all find that procrastination gets in the way of having it. Cross-cultural pressures can have an inhibiting effect on success.
People who left their homelands and moved to our country may feel that succeeding in the high-pressured, competitive American culture means abandoning the traditions and values of their native lands. Caught between a desire to assimilate and loyalty to their heritage, they may use procrastination to avoid making an impossible choice. These are all significant factors, but they do not tell the whole story. We must also consider the more personal concerns that lead men and women to avoid success and to rely on procrastination as their way out.
We present below some common psychological predicaments that reveal a fear of success. I Have to Retreat Some people worry that success will require too much of them, more than they can afford to give. Because working toward success demand a lot of time, effort, and dedication, there are those who believe they are not up to the task. It feels safer to hold back, to retreat. Here are some possible variations. Take It or Leave It. By delaying, procrastinators appear to be disinterested in competitive struggles and indifferent to text.
People who are afraid of failure choose not to compete because they are afraid of losing or being exposed as weak or inadequate. People who are afraid of success, however, choose not to compete because they are afraid of winning.
Shaun is an architect whose lifelong dream has been to have his own architectural firm. He is a creative thinker, but he delays laying out the designs he plays with in his head. As a result, he is always behind schedule. Shaun is anguished by his inhibition. My great ideas exist only in my head, where no one else can see them. It makes me nervous when I hear a lot of compliments. But this preoccupation may be a distraction. What if he could consistently show his designs and he did ultimately have his own architectural firm?
Everyone would pay attention to whether my business was successful or not. I might never have any free time to have fun and be lazy. This worry about escalating expectations is a common anxiety for those who fear the pressures of success. One procrastinator expressed it vividly: You train for months, get yourself ready physically and mentally, you keep trying over and over to clear the bar and break the record.
Then, when you finally do jump higher than you ever have before, what do they do? They raise the bar. An indirect method of staying out of the spotlight and avoiding competition is to delay making commitments. Instead they may spread themselves over numerous interests and activities and end up busy yet frozen, unable to progress toward any one specific goal.
Procrastinators who fear failure have trouble making commitments because they worry that they will make a mistake and commit to the wrong thing. Procrastination is their way to step on the brakes. Some procrastinators who fear success worry that if they stop fooling around and get down to work, they will work all the time and never be free to fool around again. I might as well wait until I have only three days, so I only kill myself for three days. That way I can at least have a life for two and a half weeks.
Procrastinators often assume that, because their delaying seems to operate outside of their control, their working would become just as unmanageable. They fear that without compulsive procrastination, they would be doomed to compulsive work. The fear of morphing into a workaholic suggests that you worry success will create a sense of helplessness instead of a sense of power: Success Is Dangerous: Somebody Always Gets Hurt Many people who procrastinate to avoid success expect to be punished for their desire to win.
Whatever happens, someone ends up feeling bad—hurt, diminished, or left behind. Going after success feels like entering a dangerously aggressive world.
These fears may be somewhat based on reality if you are in fact competing with someone who would be a sore loser, or they may be imaginative worries. Either way, these concerns feel real. Fear of causing harm and being harmed can be a powerful inhibitor to doing your best and may become an invitation to text. I Could Hurt Someone Else. Maybe you kept the A you got for your last-minute paper a secret from your friends who got Bs and Cs, even after working hard.
You may be concerned that your good news will be bad news to someone else. In some cases, of course, keeping your success to yourself is simply courteous: They have diminished themselves in order to prop up someone else. When you assume that being successful means that you are hurting someone else, success becomes equated with aggression. Teresa went to work to augment the family income. Her husband, Tony, was a building contractor whose business had hit hard times. Teresa started making good money on commissions at her sales job.
But instead of capitalizing on her success, she got so far behind on her paperwork that her job was threatened. It may be a distortion in our own thinking, a misreading of the reality around us, that sets us up to assume that our achievements will inevitably hurt someone else. Some people can enjoy the success of others without feeling deprived, diminished, wounded, or left behind.
Maybe Tony would have been happy for Teresa if she had let herself do well. For example, it may be difficult to let yourself be successful when you expect that your success will carry you away from your family and culture. College students whose parents have not gone to college face this difficult dilemma. They are aware of the sacrifices their parents have made to give them greater opportunities; they want to make their families proud and to be in a position to help the family.
At the same time, they are entering a social and intellectual culture their parents have not experienced, and the more they succeed, the more the differences grow. I Could Get Hurt. One danger many people foresee in achieving success is that they would get what they want—and then would be attacked.
When he was hired, Andre and his manager expected that he would rise through the ranks into middle management. Instead, Andre put in minimal effort and was never promoted. Not everyone has to zoom up the ladder of success.
As children, many of us have learned that our successes can indeed trigger retaliation: Recurrent experiences like these can create a worldview in which success seems a setup for retribution. Success Is Off-Limits: This idea of being basically flawed is a construction, an idea, not a fact, but we understand how compelling this feeling can be and how it can lead to pervasive procrastination.
In their guilt, however, they do not differentiate between real crimes and imagined ones. One hard-core procrastinator felt guilty about the unhappiness he had inflicted on his family growing up. I had fun tormenting my sister. Although he was also injured in the crash, Damien survived and appeared to make a full recovery. However, after the accident, Damien stopped progressing in his job with the power company.
Damien understood that his grief affected his work. Damien suffered from survivor guilt. As the one who lived, he felt he did not deserve to have a happy or fulfilling life. Three years later, he was still blaming himself and still stagnating. Some people experience survival guilt for escaping a chronically bad situation if they leave others behind.
They feel guilty because their lives are improving while others they care about continue to suffer. For example, many college students who have moved away from difficult family situations feel guilty for abandoning younger siblings who are still living at home, coping with parents who may be depressed, abusive, alcoholic, or negligent.
These students find themselves procrastinating in school, unable to allow themselves academic success. They form tight bonds, like soldiers in foxholes. Some of them commit themselves to getting out, but some put off looking for a new job or work in a desultory way, eroding the confidence needed to land a better job—as well as their chances of receiving a decent recommendation.
Asserting the right to your own life may bring you into conflict with your family system or with cultural values. Lilly is from an Asian family that moved to California when she was five. Her parents owned a small grocery store, where she worked every afternoon during high school. Lilly won a scholarship to college, majored in economics, and planned to go to business school.
In her junior year, her mother fell ill, and Lilly offered to move back home. Her mother encouraged her to stay in school, but her father expected Lilly to return home to care for her mother and help out in the market. Lilly agonized over what she should do.
Unable to make a decision, Lilly became distracted in school and put off doing her work. Her grades suffered to such an extent that she was in danger of losing her scholarship and being forced to leave school. In effect, her procrastination was making the decision for her. Rachel, for example, is a shy person who remains in the background, both at work and in relationships. She wears clothes that hide her shape, and hers is the face that gets lost in the crowd.
Although she fantasizes about having a satisfying job and a loving marriage, Rachel text. When Rachel did manage, after many delays and incomplete attempts, to get a new job, she could not enjoy it. Since she believes success has no place in her life, she sees any accomplishment as a fluke, a random stroke of luck; success can vanish at any moment.
Rather than dream of success and be disappointed, Rachel avoids both hope and disillusionment by assuming that success is not meant for her. There are two aspects to the self-concept: In making herself almost invisible, Rachel communicates that she is barely there. Rachel was the fourth daughter in her family, and immediately after her birth, her father had a vasectomy. At the other extreme from Rachel, there are people who worry that if they stop procrastinating and go full speed ahead toward success, it would come to them too easily.
I have to hide it. I would like to go back to school and get a degree in art history. Then I would really feel as if I had it all. But then the envy would be even worse! The fatal flaw reassures them that they are not really so different, and therefore they can be accepted and loved. After all, even though they may feel they could be perfect, nobody is perfect.
Why is it so important for people to maintain this illusion about being perfect? They believe they would indeed be special if they stopped procrastinating. As long as they believe they are flawed by their own choice, they can maintain the belief that they still are perfect. So, perhaps you have been using procrastination to avoid success because you harbor one or more of these fears.
The theme common to all of them is the belief that you must choose between having success and having love. If you become an uncaring workaholic, who would be your friend? If you are too perfect, who would accept you as one of the gang? If you expect your success to create problems in your relationships, you may not want to risk alienating the people around you.
Perhaps your accomplishments had an unsettling impact on your family, or you assumed they did. For example, you may have sensed that when you accomplished something, a sibling felt jealous or left out; the family may have seemed out of balance; your parents may have even seemed threatened.
Eventually, you may have concluded that everyone would be better off, and you would be most accepted, if you accomplished less rather than more. Whether this idea comes from your direct experience or lives in your mind without being tested, it can have the powerful effect of inhibiting your efforts to achieve success.
As you consider the relationship between your procrastination and your fear of success, try to stand back and take a more objective look at your situation. If you can challenge the assumption that at the first sign of success everyone will leave you, then you may be surprised to notice that there are some people who will not use your success against you.
They will delight in your success and celebrate it with you. However, some people may resent your success—perhaps even some of the most important people in your life. If so, the question you must confront is: Can you make progress for yourself in spite of their resentment or their retreat from you?
Are you strong enough to survive without their total support? Remember that success does not come all at once. As you begin to resolve the anxieties that lead you to procrastinate, you will make progress toward your goals. As you move ahead, your conflicts about succeeding can kick up again. Improvements represent a threat to the ways we have been organized to defeat ourselves.
We understand that success might have its dangers for you. We know these dangers are powerful. Achieving your idea of success—whether it be going back to school, exercising and losing weight, getting a new job, finding a good relationship or leaving a bad one—will inevitably involve facing change. Change may feel risky. When you make a change, you encounter the unknown in yourself, in your relationships, and in the world.
But we think you may be in a better position than you realize to tolerate the risks. You can change and adapt to new circumstances, even to success.
You delay returning the call, finally calling back at 3: You resent the rising costs of energy, and you think about recent media reports about the big profits being made by the utility company. Though your checking account balance is more than adequate to cover the payment, you hold on to your check for so long that you have to deliver it in person to prevent the company from shutting off your electricity. When you finally do it, you have a feeling of satisfaction for having made the company wait for its money.
You promise you will do it, but you never actually get around to it. Eventually, she becomes frustrated and angry about the delay, which she feels is an act of hostility. You resent her nagging. Another, quite different fear is at work here. People who are particularly sensitive to feeling controlled, however, may rebel against every rule and resist every request; for some, procrastination becomes their way to feel they are in control.
As you consider your own procrastination, do any of the above scenarios sound familiar? Proud of your independence and determined not to compromise yourself, you want to prove that no one can force you to act against your will. Procrastination has become a strategy for fighting a battle—a battle for control, for power, for respect, for independence and autonomy. Do you ignore credit card due dates and then feel resentful when you are charged a late fee?
Are there people who are inconvenienced by your delays? Consider, too, how people respond to your procrastinating. Do they become irritated by your lateness? Frustrated with your excuses?
Do they give up trying to influence you and eventually let you do things your own way? Without realizing it, you may be using your procrastination to assert your independence. You may be more of a fighter than you think, and procrastination may be your way to battle for control. Rules Are Made to Be Broken. There are undoubtedly times when obeying rules is tedious for you, and you feel an urge to break free.
For some people, this occurs only in a limited number of specific situations; others feel they are constantly subjected to rules against which they want to rebel. Whether you fight against rules occasionally or constantly, you probably feel restrained by directives that seem to be too confining for your sense of who you are.
A public relations specialist recalled his experience in high school and junior college.
But when the teacher told us what to write about, I felt there was no room for me to express my own individuality or to be creative. I would end up asking for an extension, and then writing about something different from what was assigned anyway.
If you feel that following a rule somehow makes you unimportant or indistinguishable from others, then you may feel compelled to break it. Adrienne describes her rebellious experience: My mother always made me write thank-you notes the minute I opened a present, and I had to spend hours cleaning the house every Saturday morning while my friends were out playing soccer.
Procrastination increases her sense of freedom and reassures her that she is not a prisoner of these injunctions.
The rules you break may be your own. You might decide you want to follow a 1, calorie diet every day for two weeks, but you put off going to the grocery store to buy what you need. Even though the idea for the diet was originally your own, it feels like an external demand you have to fight in order to feel free.
The very fact that there is someone in a position of authority over you may leave you feeling small and helpless. This reaction is common in highly authoritarian corporate, academic, and family settings where, to enhance their own sense of power, subordinates delay responding to their superiors. Perhaps you delay turning in reports or put off preparing presentations for your teacher or your boss, even though you may be on time doing things for friends. If, as you delay, you worry about whether your report or presentation will be good enough, or about how it will compare to others, your procrastination probably has more to do with fear of judgment than with fear of losing the battle.
In situations like these, procrastination can act as an equalizer. Get Off My Back. Procrastination becomes a way to resist that intrusion. I was so relieved to finally have her out of my hair! Think of how you feel text. Said one procrastinator: So I put the forms in a drawer and forget about them.
That way I can still enjoy the rest of my life—at least for a while. After putting it off for months, a young man finally created an online advertisement to sell his car. All those people were after me, wanting something. I felt like telling them to go away and leave me alone. They might get this thrill from driving race cars, playing the stock market, rock climbing, working for a start-up company, or engaging in high-risk behaviors such as gambling or dangerous sex.
The excitement comes from flirting with danger and surviving by your own wits and skill. Your senses must be totally alert since you risk your job, your security, or your life at every turn.
Some procrastinators feel a similar sense of risk when they delay until the last possible moment. They take things so far that their lives and well-being are jeopardized. How long can you delay work for a client before being dismissed from the job or sued? How much will your spouse tolerate before becoming infuriated with you and deciding to leave?
Finally, when there seems to be no chance for text. If they are lucky, they survive, elated and triumphant.
The Taste of Revenge. Procrastination can also sweeten the victory of revenge. If you feel hurt, angered, slighted, or betrayed by someone, you can use procrastination to retaliate. Procrastination can become your means of inflicting some pain or discomfort on those who hurt you.
For example, your manager needs your quarterly sales report so that he can prepare for his meeting with the company president.
When you delay, your boss looks bad to his boss and, inwardly, you are delighted. You miss the final but are able to convince your teacher to give you a make-up exam.
She now has to create a new exam just for you and must schedule time to be with you while you take it. The Ultimate Battle. The most profound of all battles-byprocrastination is the battle against reality. Some of us are simply unwilling to accept that what is, is. Sometimes people invent how they think things should be and then live according to their vision, as if it were reality.
Lindsay, a computer programmer, had trouble keeping jobs. She came late and left early. She asked a lot of questions of her coworkers and manager rather than take the time to figure out solutions for herself.
When she started a temporary job, she assumed she would be kept on permanently without having to work hard to prove herself. Lindsay spent money as if she already text. I can act in the way I choose for myself. I do not have to go along with your rules and your demands. While some procrastinators measure their worth by their experience of success or failure, these procrastinators rely on feeling autonomous as the measure of their self-worth.
The self-worth equation that we described in the chapter on fear of failure applies here, too, though with some modification.
The procrastinator again defines self-worth in terms of performance, but in this case, it is by not performing, that is, by procrastinating, that self-worth is enhanced. If your sense of self-worth is based on your ability to defy influence by others, every encounter can take on exaggerated importance. A single, small defeat can leave you feeling as though you have compromised yourself, that your ability to be an autonomous individual is in doubt. Life may therefore have become a battleground on which you fight every rule, argue about anything, or ask for special consideration in large and small ways.
In the back of your mind, you may be always assessing who is stronger, who is in control, who has the upper hand. You are ready, at the least provocation, to rebel against authority and assert your own influence in the situation.
Sam, an accountant and hardcore procrastinator, is a case in point. His major concern in life is making sure that he is not controlled by anyone. I hate that word. Sam even fights when no one is involved but himself. Some procrastinators are so determined not to lose the battle that they are willing to pay a very high price to win.
Jessica has diabetes and is extremely overweight. Does all this sound far-fetched to you? Before you conclude that this talk of battle and extreme consequences is not relevant to your own situation, consider the story of another procrastinator.
Courtney is an intelligent thirty-four-year-old woman who presently works as a department store sales clerk. When Courtney went away to college, she finally felt free. She did a lot of socializing and very little studying and ultimately flunked out of school. I actually enjoyed most of the classes, especially the sciences. I even thought about going to medical school to become a pediatrician.
I know I had the ability to make it. But there seemed to be another part of me that wanted to destroy that possibility. Growing up, she felt she had no life of her own, with her mother directing her activities and her father deciding what her future would be. The sad part is that I really wanted to do well in school and to make something of my life.
Years later, Courtney regretted the compelling forcefulness of her need to prove her autonomy. Courtney can now embark on a new path in her midthirties, but she has many regrets. Committing yourself to a relationship, putting your thoughts into writing, or carrying out a business decision may mean that you are making your interests known, exposing your preferences for all the world to see. For procrastinators who fear losing the battle, exposing what they want, think, or feel leaves them feeling vulnerable to others.
Their concern is not that, once exposed, they will be judged as lacking ability or as being too successful but rather that they will be disempowered, their weaknesses ruthlessly probed. Battling in secret seems a much safer course of action—or inaction. Jeremy, who puts off everything from dating to deciding on a career path, described his experience this way: I want to find out what cards the other person has before I make a play. Until I find out, I keep my cards close to my chest and try not to reveal a thing.
As soon as you make a decision or commitment, however, you may begin to feel trapped or exposed. Your only protection seems to reside in avoiding any commitment, big or small. That way, you can shift to something else at the slightest intimation that someone might try to control you. Escape is always at hand. Your chances of winning improve. Take Tom, for example: You were just late. This way, not only can you hide your actual feelings, but you can also claim that your behavior is beyond your control.
If you could be on time, you would, but procrastination always seems to get the better of you. The indirectness of procrastination can also protect you from admitting the power of your own anger.
Expressing your anger indirectly may be a way for you to keep your emotions under control. Any expression of irritation or anger might show that people can get to you, that someone can push your buttons. Your opponent would then know how to get to you the next time. A Philosophy of Defense Whether procrastination is used to fight minor skirmishes or to wage full-out war, people whose main concern is winning or losing the battle seem to make several basic assumptions about the world and their power to influence it.
The World Is an Unpredictable Place. For the embattled procrastinator, uncertainty lurks everywhere. Relationships with other people are not to be trusted. You never know whether someone will encourage and support you, or attempt to control and manipulate you. Rather than allow yourself to be lured into believing the best, you feel safer if you simply assume the worst. No wonder you feel you must conceal weakness and never reveal your neediness or dependency.
The person who fights by procrastinating often feels powerless in relation to someone who is strong. The other person may have a lot of actual power, like your manager or professor. Or the other person may have a lot of personal power, such as your assertive spouse or your opinionated friend. View Full Size Image. This is not a book for Bill Gates. Or Hillary Clinton, or Steven Spielberg. Clearly they have no trouble getting stuff done.
It may sound counterintuitive, but according to philosopher John Perry, you can accomplish a lot by putting things off. In , while not working on some project I should have been working on, I began to feel rotten about myself.
But then I noticed something. On the whole, I had a reputation as a person who got a lot done and made a reasonable contribution. 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? 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.
Take for example the item right at the top of my list right now. This is finishing an essay for a volume in the philosophy of language.
It was supposed to be done eleven months ago. I have accomplished an enormous number of important things as a way of not working on it. A couple of months ago, bothered by guilt, I wrote a letter to the editor saying how sorry I was to be so late and expressing my good intentions to get to work.
Writing the letter was, of course, a way of not working on the article. It turned out that I really wasn't much further behind schedule than anyone else.
And how important is this article anyway? Not so important that at some point something that seems more important won't come along. Then I'll get to work on it. Another example is book order forms. I write this in June. In October, I will teach a class on Epistemology. The book order forms are already overdue at the book store.
It is easy to take this as an important task with a pressing deadline for you non-procrastinators, I will observe that deadlines really start to press a week or two after they pass. I get almost daily reminders from the department secretary, students sometimes ask me what we will be reading, and the unfilled order form sits right in the middle of my desk, right under the wrapping from the sandwich I ate last Wednesday.
This task is near the top of my list; it bothers me, and motivates me to do other useful but superficially less important things.
But in fact, the book store is plenty busy with forms already filed by non-procrastinators. I can get mine in mid-Summer and things will be fine. I just need to order popular well-known books from efficient publishers. I will accept some other, apparently more important, task sometime between now and, say, August 1st. Then my psyche will feel comfortable about filling out the order forms as a way of not doing this new task.