The Art of Procrastination

Sometimes, procrastination isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe it’s something you need to explore…

By Lisa Lawmaster Hess

I just finished reading a great little book — one that was part of my last book splurge at my local Christian indy bookstore. Entitled The Art of Procrastination, it’s a fun little read 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, 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.”

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.

Lisa Lawmaster Hess is an adjunct professor of psychology at York College of Pennsylvania and a former elementary school counselor.