The Art of Structured Procrastination

Proverb "procrastination Is The Thief Of Time" Written On A Blac
If you’re one of our philo­soph­i­cal­ly-mind­ed read­ers, you’re per­haps already famil­iar with Stan­ford pro­fes­sor John Per­ry. He’s one of the two hosts of the Phi­los­o­phy Talk radio show that airs on dozens of pub­lic radio sta­tions across the US. (Lis­ten to a recent show here.) Per­ry has the rare abil­i­ty to bring phi­los­o­phy down to earth. He also, it turns out, can help you work through some world­ly prob­lems, like man­ag­ing your ten­den­cy to pro­cras­ti­nate. In a short essay called “Struc­tured Pro­cras­ti­na­tion” — which Marc Andreessen (founder of Netscape, Opsware, Ning, and Andreessen Horowitz) read and called “one of the sin­gle most pro­found moments of my entire life” – Per­ry gives some tips for moti­vat­ing pro­cras­ti­na­tors to take care of dif­fi­cult, time­ly and impor­tant tasks. Per­ry’s approach is unortho­dox. It involves cre­at­ing a to-do list with the­o­ret­i­cal­ly impor­tant tasks at the top, and less impor­tant tasks at the bot­tom. The trick is to pro­cras­ti­nate by avoid­ing the the­o­ret­i­cal­ly impor­tant tasks (that’s what pro­cras­ti­na­tors do) but at least knock off many sec­ondary and ter­tiary tasks in the process. The approach involves “con­stant­ly per­pe­trat­ing a pyra­mid scheme on one­self” and essen­tial­ly “using one char­ac­ter flaw to off­set the bad effects of anoth­er.” It’s uncon­ven­tion­al, to be sure. But Andreesen seems to think it’s a great way to get things done. You can read “Struc­tured Pro­cras­ti­na­tion” here. 

Have your pro­cras­ti­na­tion tips? Add them to the com­ments sec­tion below. Would love to get your insights.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Sci­ence of Willpow­er: 15 Tips for Mak­ing Your New Year’s Res­o­lu­tions Last from Dr. Kel­ly McGo­ni­gal

The Art of Liv­ing: A Free Stan­ford Course Explores Time­less Ques­tions

The Mod­ern-Day Philoso­phers Pod­cast: Where Come­di­ans Like Carl Rein­er & Artie Lange Dis­cuss Schopen­hauer & Mai­monides

Take First-Class Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es Any­where with Free Oxford Pod­casts

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Comments (4)
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  • whatshisname says:

    I was going to make a com­ment but I think I’ll wait ’til lat­er.

  • CEH in NJ says:

    I had more impor­tant things to do than read Struc­tured Pro­cras­ti­na­tion today, but I read the arti­cle any­way. Read­ing the arti­cle is a good way to kill time prop­er­ly while think­ing about how to kill time more pro­duc­tive­ly. Thanks for the point­er.

  • Viva says:

    I can’t decide whether or not to read it.

  • Anna says:

    I start pro­cras­ti­nat­ing when I have task that’s results are not need­ed, nei­ther for me nor for any­body else. For­mal things, sup­port­ing the ideas of some­body else because of duty, not because of my con­vic­tion. Things that are not inter­est­ing and not suit­ed to me, but I have to do them. When the task has­n’t any vis­i­ble mean­ing or it is too com­pli­cat­ed to find even the hid­den mean­ing of it for me, then I become an expert in pro­cras­ti­na­tion. Actu­al­ly first two times I do even such tasks with ener­gy, but for the third time the pro­cras­ti­na­tion starts… When the task does­n’t fit into our indi­vid­ual Maslow’s pyra­mid we start to streak. We don’t pro­cras­ti­nate when real­ly hun­gry, freez­ing or our lives are in dan­ger, not at all. So, we have to stop doing things that we don’t like even if we get some mon­ey for them. The only psy­cho­log­i­cal trick against pro­cras­ti­na­tion is to find a per­son­al mean­ing of any task — why do I do that? That’s all.

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