My lifelong habit of procrastination has gotten worse in the 20 years I have had fibromyalgia. The pain and fatigue limit one’s activities, both physical and mental. So I was intrigued by references to Structured Procrastination. John Perry, an academic, says it works for him:
the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.
Structured procrastination means shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact.
Just add non-urgent but seemingly more important tasks to your list, then in avoiding them you will do some of the others.
But there are some problems with this. One is that it requires a disciplined prioritizing method where finally all the projects you really intend to do get done, if only by adding another more formidable project to push others to the top of the list.
• the real procrastinator lacks discipline, ipso facto.
• the real procrastinator knows that there is no top of the list.
• and the real procrastinator is adept at doing things not on any list in order to avoid things on the list. I can spend a whole afternoon researching fascinating things on the web, which have very little to do with anything I’m actually doing or planning to do. It’s fun, educational, and can always end up as part of a blog post, but it really doesn’t do anything for the list. It may even add things to the list: now I need to read a book/do more research on this new topic I have become interested in.
An even more serious objection is that every day of procrastination adds to the chances of unforeseen events occurring. These can range from life-threatening (I meant to replace my tires months ago, now I’m sliding sideways after a blowout) to merely project-threatening (I’m finally going to take care of this right now––but the person I need to talk to is out for a month on bereavement leave). In the real world things change all the time; in the procrastinator’s world, things only change for the better (If I wait, maybe tires will go on sale again, because I missed last week’s sale.) Even if you really can finish that task in the 24 hours left before it must be completed, what if you come down with the flu, have to concentrate on a lost wallet or a sick dog, your spouse or children require your time, someone steals your laptop or it has a fatal crash, and so on. And there you are, left defending yourself with the words of Jake in the Blues Brothers:
I ran out of gas. I, I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD.
But I had other plans for today!
Locusts in Australia. Source.
Full disclosure: I wrote this as soon as I had thought about it, honest––but there certainly were other more important things I should have been doing!