Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Start Procrastinating Today!

Seth Stevenson's "Letter to a Young Procrastinator" (Slate, May 12, 2008) makes an interesting suggestion.

Stop resisting and embrace your procrastination. Don't agonize in front of a blank computer screen. Don't sit around for hours—intending to start your work any moment now—only to find that in the end you've accomplished zilch, save for ruining your own day.

You could instead, for instance, work on a small, tangential aspect of the assignment. Some weird take on things—one that doesn't make you miserable. This may be of little direct application, but there's a chance it could also pay off, kick-starting a new line of thought or adding nuance to your final result.

There's obviously a bit of irony in his tone, and I am, to be sure, not recommending this approach, but there is something about the idea of not putting off your procrastination til tomorrow and getting it done today that appeals to me.


Chris Cotsapas said...

I think these sorts of techniques are useful when you're at a mental block (for whatever reason). Tricking myself into starting *something* project related, no matter how tangential, is better than surfing the web.

I also keep a list of mindless but useful things to be done, which I allow myself to procrastinate with. This way, at least I'm being productive whilst I procrastinate.

Hope the collarbone feels better...

Thomas said...

Thanks. Yes, I'm feeling much better. Stevensen continues:

Or, better, take a walk outside. Read a book for pleasure. Roll a spliff and share it with a friend.

You're going to procrastinate anyway, so you may as well enjoy the time you're stealing from your tasks. While that grind in your econ class is toiling, you're becoming a more relaxed, quirkier, less-programmed person. You nurture the creative sprouts that take root only in long hours of idleness. You're open to soulful experiences that lie only beyond the bounded worlds of work and study.

When I wrote this post I chickened out about this part of his advice. The idea, again, is simple: don't kid yourself about whether you are working. If you're putting off the task, put it off. Enjoy that time as you become a "relaxed, quirkier, less-programmed person".

The irony (perhaps even paradox) is that you will have to not put off putting something off. You'll have to get straight to it. Not easy.