Making Procrastination Work For You

Recently when I was no doubt avoiding washing the dishes, I came across this article by John Perry, a professor at Stanford University . It's quite genius. In it he explains, "an amazing strategy I have discovered that converts procrastinators into effective human beings, respected and admired for all that they can accomplish and the good use they make of time. All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you."
He calls it "Structured Procrastination", breaks down the psyche of the average procrastinator, and works on the premise that if you put one dreaded item at the top of your "to do" list you will do a plethora of less heinous (yet still important) things to avoid doing it. Kind of like how you used to tidy your desk to avoid studying? So, in avoiding something you really don't want to do, you will accomplish many other things. In the end, it's a good trade-off.

You really must read the article (and the rest of his site), but yes, it does address the obvious question, " but what about the dreaded task you put off in order to do everything else?" He says for this method to work effectively the ideal avoidance tasks would:
" have two characteristics, First, they seem to have clear deadlines (but really don't). Second, they seem awfully important (but really aren't). Luckily, life abounds with such tasks."

He goes on to give an example from academia since he works in a university. Let's look at this from the standpoint of a SAHM mom. Let's pick for want of a better dreaded task: dun..dun...dun....laundry. And..... take it away, procrastinator jane:

I must, must,
must do the laundry today or my kid will have no clean clothes for his soccer game!

But first! I must clean the kitchen so that I can clear off the counter next to the washer, so I have somewhere to fold the clean laundry. Then, I need to go grocery shopping, because I am out of the stain booster I use and I will need that for the laundry, while I am out, I may as well mail that package that's been sitting at the front door, but
before I mail the package I need to make a card to put with the gift.

So check it out: by avoiding the laundry you have accomplished:
A clean kitchen, a clear counter-top, a grocery trip, making a card and mailing a gift. That's 5 really productive tasks at the expense of one. Is it a fair trade? Well let's see. The Avoidance job was? Laundry.

Let's see a couple of case scenarios which may emerge if you follow structured procrastination method:

1. You have just enough time to wash the laundry but you must toss just the soccer uniform in the dryer so it will dry in time. Not ideal for sure, a bit of a waste of energy and a bit stressful, but is it worth having 5 other jobs done? I'd say yes. You now have a full fridge, a clean kitchen and a happy friend, plus you worked in some time spent on a creative outlet too.

2. Worst case scenario-your kid wears dirty socks to his game. So? And then who died? Not exactly the end of the world, they'd be sweaty within moments anyway. When was the last time you scrutinized the uniform of a kid other then your own prior to them getting onto the field and muddied all up?

SO! How does this change your life? Here's how, it changes the way you think about yourself. You tend to live up to your self-image. So put yourself in a positive light.

Stop labeling yourself as a procrastinator, stop feeling guilty and bad about how you get things done. In the end you get things done. Doing the most unpleasant job first isn't necessarily virtuous. the most unpleasant task may not even be necessary to do in the end. Now that you know the secret about procrastinators: "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."

you can:

"(shape) the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact. The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done."

I don't believe there are any truly lazy people, only unmotivated people and disorganized people. This is a form of organization that works with the way you are best motivated. And that works for me.

I'm reading: Making Procrastination Work For YouTweet this!


Brianna @ Heart(h) Management said...

*Ahem* I think I may have perfected this.

Dave @ Home School Dad said...

I have been meaning to read his article for some time now. I just keep putting it off :) Seriously, great post!

{ L } said...

This is hilarious and genius! Thank you for posting.

Mrs. M said...

Hee hee hee-I can see this working for me these days. Right now my strategy is to only do exactly what I feel like doing or MUST be done until after the baby is born...this leads to a non-toxic but really not great looking house.

Normally in an un (or even just less) pregnant state I make chores a part of my official schedule because I know I am paranoid about it, and even if I hate doing chores I'll stick it through just so that I don't mess with the Force (schedule).

Maria D. said...

This struck a chord. Really.
-- From Someone Who Is Currently Leaving You a Comment in Order to Put Off Washing the Dishes

Lisa said...

Now, this explains a lot! I love it. I'm all for adapting this new perspective that builds confidence and takes away the guilt. yay!

Sadiebug and her Mom said...

Thanks for stopping by! That did help my day! The job is great, the commute is a royal pain. I think I'll attempt this "structured procrastination". It seems like a very federal government kind of thing to do.

Oh, and totally random, I saw President Obama and his caravan drive by on my way to lunch yesterday. My job is pretty awesome.

Anonymous said...

This is so liberating! Now I just have to make a list. There are so many things I don't want to do that it is a bit of a struggle to find out which is most heineous! (Wish we had spell check here). I will definitely read the article. Your blog is great!

Mrs. Petrie said...

Such a thoughtful post! My least favorite task is working on my yard. I find I do better if I do a little bit every day. So yesterday, I pruned 1 bush. Not a lot, but I know if I do one a day for a couple of weeks, eventually it will be done. I think the task of working on the entire yard at once is too overwhelming for me.

momstheword said...

What a great post! I do have a "moment or two" of procrastination, lol!

Usually I like to get the thing done that I'm dreading just to get it over with. But lesser things, I will absolutely put off if I can.

Thank you for your sweet compliment about my son!

Kate said...

Very interesting... I'm a master procrastinator, so if I could use my powers for good instead of evil... Wow. =)

"Which Proverbs 14:1 Woman?"

Amanda @ Mommy's Idea Book said...

This was a fun post to read. Who would have thought a post about doing laundry and other chores could be so interesting. Good job!

I'd be afraid by the time I got all the other stuff done, I wouldn't have time to do the laundry and my kid would still go to his soccer game with dirty socks. :-)

Bahama Shores Mama said...

I work well under pressure. That's what I tell myself. It's actually my cloak in which I hide my unlimitless procrastination tendecies. I may just have to change my ways, thanks to your post. said...

Think this is a fab way of looking at things, thanks.


Amy Ellen said...

Hi Kirsty!

Thanks for visiting my today... I'm glad to have found your blog. I even read the eighty something facts about you. I was born and grew up in East Africa. I have four kids and we also went through a jobless time.

Nice to meet you!
Amy Ellen

Susan said...

Love this perspective :) He's right - while procrastinating, I DO accomplish a lot. Thanks for making me feel better!

DarcyLee said...

I used to procrastinate cleaning the bathroom-alot!- yet getting so much else done before actually doing it when my children were younger. Now, I try to get it out of the way a.s.a.p. probably because there really isn't anyone home enough anymore to do it for me! Hopefully, I'm just older and wiser-lol.
Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you try the Greek yogurt, and if you do, please let me know how it turned out.

sunnymama said...

What a superb post! I can certainly relate :) I'm off to read the article now. Thanks!

Angie said...

What a fabulous idea! I do this all the time, but now I'll look at it in a whole different way. LOL

Southern Belle said...

ROFL!! This is *exactly* how I work!! So glad to see it put into a positive light - that article gives me permission to let go and be proud that I accomplish so much... even if it isnt what I really needed to do ;-)

Tooj said...

For you to believe there are no lazy people, you are so much better than me. I...on the other hand....well.....I do believe. :)

Home School Dad said...

I really liked this post. So much so that I included it in a top 10 list in my recent WFMW post. You were #4. Way To Go!!!!