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Introduction to the Art of Procrastination PDF Print E-mail
Written by Husen   
Tuesday, 01 January 2008 20:14

Unfortunately procrastination is often dismissed as an evil that must be avoided, worse yet it is often considered a plague or a disease that must be dealt with. Procrastination has been the best friend of almost all the greatest accomplishers in history. Procrastination is the guardian angel of creative authors, it is the haven of brilliant scientists and it is what ensures long term success for professionals and business people.


Yes, I am dead serious. All these people telling you that procrastination is evil and must be overcome are playing with your mind and morbidly deceiving you. Today is the day you are to be enlightened and learn how to procrastinate your way to success.

A successful person must understand that there are different types of procrastination of which one is crucial to success. Paul Graham classifies procrastination into three different kinds A) procrastination by doing nothing, B) doing less important things, and C) doing the more important. The type of procrastination that is most necessary for a successful professional life and to ensure productive creativity is the last type—focusing on doing the more important. (http://www.paulgraham.com/procrastination.html)

In a video that I once watched, Stephen Covey conducted an experiment that can illustrate how procrastination can be used to maximize use of time. He summoned one of the audience and gave her seven blocks and asked her to fit it all in a container which was already half full with small pebbles. The lady kept trying for about two or three minutes before she realized that it was utterly impossible. Then she decided to use another empty container of exactly the same size that was provided, but this time she fit in all the blocks first and then poured in the pebbles filling the holes between the seven block that are in the bucket and the bucket of exactly the same size as the first fit all the blocks and pebbles. Covey then explained that the blocks represented major projects that you might have in your life while the pebbles represented the everyday errands, and the container represented time, which is the most limited resource we have. In the same fashion we must fit in the main projects in our day and then fit in the small tasks in the gaps in between.

The previous experiment was designed to show how much more you can fit in limited space if less important tasks are deferred to after all the major projects take their due time, and then the less important can be fit in the small spaces of time that are left. It is important to identify the more important tasks and focus on them while deliberately putting off less important or less significant errands. These can be things such as buying something for the house, sending some email, chilling out with friends, and others. Deciding what is less important must be made on a one to one basis, because there are no absolutes in deciding what is unimportant. For instance sending an email can be a trivial matter that only serves as a distraction from what one is doing at some times, and other times it can be a crucial matter upon which depends your professional life, study life, or family life.

This one-on-one basis of discretion must be applied to every situation. In fact even the first type of procrastination -doing nothing- cannot by dismissed as counterproductive or a waste of time. The first type can boost productivity if used properly. For example in studying it is always advised to take pre-planned breaks. It is only the unplanned breaks or breaks that are too long that are counterproductive. By deliberately doing nothing for a planned amount of time you are effectively and productively using type A procrastination.

Going back the example given above about Stephen Covey’s experiment, the break times can be used to fill in some trivial tasks such as preparing a snack to eat, or pay a visit to the corner store and buy that drain-clearing solution for your kitchen sink. This way you can maximize use of your time and you are still not studying three hours in a row which can actually be very unproductive due to lost attention, fatigued brain and strained eyes after the first hour or so of studying. This way you are not only employing type A procrastination to improve your studying productivity but you are doubling the productivity once more by fitting in the less important in the breaks and this way you are positively using type B procrastination.

Type B procrastination is inevitable at times, putting off seemingly insignificant tasks for too long, or putting off too many of these errands will eventually lead to too much to be done and will probably cause seemingly small, harmless problems to exacerbate. Thus, some time must be assigned to carrying out errands and short, small tasks.

From the previous we can conclude that all types of procrastination are useful if applied properly. Therefore, what a successful (or potentially successful) person should seek is not to overcome procrastination but to learn how to procrastinate productively. You have already gotten a head start in the art of procrastination by reading this article, but you can only master the art of procrastination by practicing. You might want to take a look at some other articles on the topic as well before you start the application process—procrastination can be fatal if not applied properly. A brief list of articles on the topic is provided below.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 13 January 2008 13:25 )

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