We all know the downsides of procrastination (and I will be listing them here in future posts, and you will have a chance to tell me–and my readers–some of your downside stories). They are the stuff of nightmares.
However, it is my firm belief that procrastination also has its uses, and that in fact it can be very beneficial in certain contexts. That will be the whole, overall point of the new book I am writing. It is a book in defense of procrastination. How overdue is that?
This very blog/book project provides an excellent example of what I mean by benefits.
About ten years ago, I did a program, also called “In Defence of Procrastination,” for CBC’s Ideas. In it, I explored the downsides and upsides and examples and horror stories associated with procrastination. I talked to experts in the field (experts of both the psychologist and the practitioner varieties). I talked to people who were married to procrastinators (argh!) and those who worked with them. I amassed quotations on the subject, and I explored the historical and cultural angles of the phenomenon. At the end, on the basis of numerous examples and mounting evidence, I proposed that the procrastinators among us should not feel so guilty: we may actually be doing something that will benefit ourselves and humanity when we finally do get to the task at hand – or even, sometimes, while we are procrastinating.
Ever since then, I have been planning to turn all that material into a book. I figured that while they were reading it, people would at least be procrastinating in a productive way (I planned to include crossword puzzles, doodle pages, etc. that they could use along the way to slow their return to reality down even more.) Plus, with a book they would have something concrete to show to their spouses and bosses that would get them off the hook–for a few minutes anyway. (“Look, darling! I know I said I’d paint the bathroom four years ago, but it says right here in this book that the delay is a sign of creativity!”)
Anyway, I’m only getting around to writing the book now (not only because of procrastination, but partly because of it). But look what’s happened in the meantime? The evolution of the Internet has allowed book writing to become a public activity, which means that all of you can help me write it – by sharing your thoughts and your examples. If I’d written this book ten years ago, it would have been a totally different (and far less interesting) project.
So, in the near future (“near” being a relative term), I am going to post the outline of the book (developed ages ago), and start posting the introduction (which I also wrote several years ago). Then I am going to write the entire rest of the book right here online, including but also adding to the material I did for the Ideas program. The book won’t be in its final format when I write it here, though, because I need your input all along the way to make it the best that it can be.
I won’t publish any examples or comments from readers of this blog in the book without asking for the permission of the person who sent it in, so make sure your avatar will lead me to you if I want to get in touch. But I do I plan to scatter comments and examples from readers (attributed unless they ask to be anonymous) throughout the book. You will help me make my case.
But more on the outcomes and the processes later. For now, what I want are your examples of procrastination behaviours in which you indulge on a regular basis and — even more interesting — bizarre things you have done at some time in the past (or present) to avoid doing something else. When I did the Ideas program, I talked to one guy who’d had a empty beer can collection in his closet when he was in highschool (?), and one night before an exam, instead of studying he took all of the cans out of the closet (there were dozens) and sorted them by label colour into towers on the floor. Then he threw them all back into the closet, because what else are you going to do with a beer can collection? But he’d wasted most of the night. Another person I talked to, a writer, had on a deadline taken her microwave apart, screw by screw, cleaned all of the pieces, and put it back together again.
So how about you? What is the most ridiculous, funniest, most creative, or most time-consuming procrastination episode you have indulged in? Please let me know via the Comments section if you’re okay with others reading them too, or at mary at marywwalters dot com if you prefer to remain anonymous.
Note that it may take me a while to post the comments on the site after you send them in, as I want to read them before they are posted, and throw away the spam, and I am often away from my computer for up to eight hours at a time (that would be at night). So patience, eh? Play FreeCell while you’re waiting for me to approve your post.
I am sooo looking forward to this! I wish I’d started it ages ago. No I don’t.