Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Procrastination with a Purpose?

 If you're wondering if yesterday's post represented an unusual turn of events for me, you must be new here. 


Ten years ago, I discovered a fun little read called  The Art of Procrastination by John Perry, an emeritus professor of philosophy at Stanford. Yes, I know the two halves of that last sentence don't sound as if they belong together (one of these things is not like the other?), but I'm not making this up. And, as evidence, I submit the subtitle of the book: "A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing."

I wrote about Dr. Perry's book way back then (see the post below) and I've been assigning the essay in Chapter 1 to my freshmen ever since. As I wrote yesterday's post, the essay was echoing in my head, so I thought I'd (re-)share a bit about the book here.

Dr. Perry's first chapter began life as an essay -- one that won the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize in Literature. Before purchasing the book, I stood in Hearts and Minds and read a good chunk of that chapter, and that's what sold me on the book. After I brought it home, I set it aside, picking it up now and then to nibble at it a chapter at a time before finishing it all in one big bite this morning. No, I did not put off reading it; I merely savored it. 

Dr. Perry doesn't extol the virtues of procrastination, except in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. Throughout the book, he points out that lots of procrastinators accomplish quite a bit, much of it while they're doing something else, (a.k.a something besides what they're supposed to be doing). He intertwines his philosophy on the life of a procrastinator with strategies and, true to his education roots, a disclaimer that he's not recommending procrastination as a lifestyle, merely pointing out that we're not all lazy lollygaggers who put things off to the point that we never accomplish anything.

If you're a procrastinator (especially a "structured procrastinator," as Dr. Perry has dubbed himself), you'll laugh out loud at this book. If you know (or live with) a procrastinator, you'll either chuckle, or grow increasingly annoyed (see chapter nine) as you read this book. Or, perhaps you'll do both.

The timing of my reading is a bit ironic. I read two chapters last night before going to sleep, then finished this book this morning -- after spending much of the day yesterday putting off doing a project at the top of my list. I picked up the book last night in part because it related to the project I was working on, which is also part of what compelled me to finish the book this morning. By the time I finished it, I'd mentally written half of this blog and had begun coming up with new ideas for a class I'm proposing.

And my project? I finished it. Before I finished reading the book.

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