Procrastination in the News (1)

In Defense of Procrastination Walters

The online journal Quartz has published an interesting article entitled “The Complete Guide to Procrastinating at Work,” although I do think its title somewhat overstates its content.

The author, Anna Codrea-Rado, offers eight points relating to procrastination, some of them intriguing (Joseph F. Ferrari, an expert in the field, says that there are two types of procrastinators – those who delay decisions and those who delay actions), some worrisome (it includes a link to an article that advises employers how to avoid hiring procrastinators), and some consoling (it suggests that maybe our procrastination tendencies have been instilled in us by the school system or other childhood circumstances and are not some gigantic personal failure after all).

Ms. Codrea-Rado asks, “Can procrastinating ever be a source of productivity?” and of course I would answer that question with a hearty affirmative – that is, in fact, the whole point of the book that I am (fairly soon) about to start constructing here before your eyes. However, I do take small issue with this apparent guidance:

The Creativity Research Journal studied the working habits of a particularly intelligent group of people, winners of the Intel Science Talent competition. They found the group procrastinated productively. Some used procrastination as a trigger for a helpful amount of stress needed to ignite positive action. Others saw it as a “thought incubator”: They put off making a decision because they wanted to fully process it before finding a solution.

The problem, as I see it, is that if you are delaying intentionally, you are not in fact procrastinating. There is a certain lack of power on the part of the person who is procrastinating, at least in my experience: When we are doing it, it has hold of us, rather than the other way around.

Although I did interview one professor, Dr. John Perry at Stanford, who has developed a whole protocol for “Structured Procrastination.” More on that later. (Or you can Google him, or even check out his book, if you are looking to kill a bit more time right now.)

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