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October 28, 2010 1:31 AM   Subscribe

Procrastination is fueled by weakness in the face of impulse and a failure to think about thinking.
posted by Christ, what an asshole (59 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
tl:dr - the psychology of procrastination is why Adam Sandler has a career and you're fat and poor.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:39 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


(I'll write a joke about getting to this later in a minute, I just wanna finish this round of solitaire).
posted by From Bklyn at 1:45 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reading that hurt. It took the image I have of myself and beat it mercilessly.
posted by snwod at 2:14 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Procrastination is the flip side of delaying gratification. It's not about poor impulse control, it's about too much impulse control. Often it's an effective strategy, since there are a lot of problems that will go away if you ignore them. The problem is distinguishing between the ones that will grow and the ones that will evaporate.

And I'm always kind of appalled by how many people there are who are dumber than a bag of rocks but succeed at life just because they actually do things. Even though the things they do are stupid. Bastards.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:31 AM on October 28, 2010 [18 favorites]


I have a few issues with this arti— SQUIRREL!
posted by killdevil at 2:31 AM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Unfortunately, people can also procrastinate by thinking about thinking too much, and ending up in an introspective loop of inaction. So we all seem a bit screwed either way.
posted by stelas at 2:32 AM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


The Netflix queue as an example hit home for me, but only because I have caught quite a bit of grief from my friends for not watching movies because I'm always working on things.

Not important things, or great things, but things that cut into my slacking-off, movie watching time.

They ask me 'Did you get around to watching _____ yet?"

And usually I haven't.

Movie watching in general is so decadent it seems like a bad example. Isn't watching a movie a kind of procrastination?

I'm still confounded by the question of whether I am really bad at procrastination or really, exceptionally good at it.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:20 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


The article's author may be onto something.

I have accumulated a few hundred books on my iPad. Old stuff, mainly from google books. They are all interesting to me and I intended to read them all.

I realized that my book accumulation to digestion ratio was unsustainable. Self-control kicked in, I deleted half of them after skimming, and have proceeded to devour one per day at least since then.

I may get them all, someday, but I realized that being realistic is a virtue.
posted by Sukiari at 3:27 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


This article made me watch "Schindler's List". Have you ever seen this film? It's really depressing. Most of the main characters are Nazis, and they do really horrible things to the other characters. That's why I was happy that the article gave alternatives. "Sleepless in Seattle" was cool. And "Speed" was cool. I like these films that don't involve horrible Nazis doing horrible things to people.

You might think I'm shallow just because I'd rather delay watching films about Nazis doing horrible things. But have you ever really seen "Speed"? It's pretty damn horrible. And I watched it. So there.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:39 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


From the movie study referenced, together with 'highbrowness rating':

Lowbrow movies
The Breakfast Club (1985; 2.3)
Clear and Present Danger (1994; 2.8)
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1993; 3.1)
Groundhog Day (1993; 2.4)
I Love Trouble (1994; 2.0)
In the Line of Fire (1993; 3.0)
Indecent Proposal (1994; 2.9)
The Mask (1994; 1.6)
Mrs Doubtfire (1993; 2.9)
My Cousin Vinny (1992; 3.0)
Sleepless in Seattle (1993; 2.5)
So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993; 2.3)
The Specialist (1994; 2.1)
Speed (1994; 2.5)

Highbrow movies
Blue (1993; 5.1) (subtitled)
Blue Sky (1994; 3.8) (Oscar winner)
Dear Diary (1994; 3.1) (subtitled)
Hoop Dreams (1993; 3.3) (documentary)
Like Water for Chocolate (1993; 4.5) (subtitled)
Naked (1993; 4.0)
Raise the Red Lantern (1991; 3.7) (subtitled)
Schindler's List (1993; 6.8) (Oscar winner)
The Piano (1993; 5.7) (Oscar winner)
The Scent of Green Papaya (1993; 3.8) (subtitled)


I find this a little problematic.
posted by robself at 4:27 AM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'll read this later, thanks.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 5:02 AM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


...caliginous...

Huh. New word.
posted by felix betachat at 5:16 AM on October 28, 2010


I was literally wearing running gear and drinking coffee and looking out the window at darkness when I clicked on the link.

Thanks for making me feel like a loser.
posted by jimmythefish at 5:20 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


also.
posted by availablelight at 5:21 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sometimes when I procrastinate while physically standing next to the thing I intend to work on, I'll get bored and work on it. Because it's convenient.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:23 AM on October 28, 2010


I'm procrastinating at work right now because text editors are so hard to open first thing in the morning.

:(
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:32 AM on October 28, 2010


The article doesn't take into consideration that the cake is a lie.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:41 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm reading this article instead of grading papers, and now I want to hang myself. Good post.
posted by absalom at 6:14 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I once returned a book on how to stop procrastinating late to the library. I couldn't help smiling, but the clerk didn't see the irony and I eventually stopped smiling and just felt depressed.
posted by orme at 6:14 AM on October 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'll read this later, thanks.

Every post about procrastination has some variant of this in the comments.

Also, I've just spent the last 4 hours thinking, "Imma gonna get started on this essay now." And then, "Hey, I'll just read this little thing first." I haven't gotten started on the essay yet.
posted by WalterMitty at 6:26 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Y'know there are some movies on that "highbow" list that I'd rather not watch at all. Maybe "delay at any opportunity in hopes that I will never actually have to watch it" is a totally rational strategy.

Even the "one treat now vs two treats later" is not as clear as "can I control my impulses now to get greater happiness later?" One can easily reframe that test as "They want me to endure the active unpleasantness of sitting here hungry with food in front of me so that I can get more empty calories I shouldn't eat anyway down the road."
posted by tyllwin at 6:29 AM on October 28, 2010


Sometimes when I procrastinate while physically standing next to the thing I intend to work on, I'll get bored and work on it. Because it's convenient.

Ever procrastinate to the extent that what you're supposed to be doing regains the sheen of novelty?

That's fun. For awhile.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:45 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


As much as I agree with the things said in the article, here's a little counterpoint. Right now, my life right now is FUCKING INSANE from the amount of work I have to do, and overall, I've been pretty diligent in keeping up with the workload. But I goofed off and played Minecraft for a couple of hours on Sunday, and for a couple of hours again last night. Rather than see that as procrastination (which you could certainly characterize it as), I see it as some important mental downtime to refresh and recharge before I go completely insane. There comes a time when you have to do the mental calculus between "Work and get ahead" versus "take a break and preserve your sanity".
posted by LN at 7:09 AM on October 28, 2010


And when you procrastinate on writing for your web site, you end up plagiarizing the whole thing from The New Yorker. Come on, even the paragraph structure is the same.
posted by miyabo at 7:11 AM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


I call my procrastination self-care.
posted by janelikes at 7:20 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thinking about this in the NaNoWriMo context (good timing for the post), I’m not sure any of the explanations on offer really explain procrastination. Pleasant diversions are certainly dangerous, but does a weakness to impulse suggest that a person would rather clean their house than complete a session of writing? Does laziness? I admit that when something more energy-consuming and complicated comes along, writing can revert to its former status as desirable treat (which would seem to favour a laziness explanation) but I think the new task needn’t be something that’s more work for this to happen. The issue seems to be that whatever is mandatory becomes the least desirable option, regardless of other factors. I suspect you could take the same limited range of choices and by altering only what it is that you are supposed to be doing, change the desirability of those options.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:42 AM on October 28, 2010


The article doesn't take into consideration that the cake is a lie.

Not to mention that you left it out in the rain.
posted by Billiken at 7:47 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I visualized myself sitting in the therapist's office. He patiently explains this idea about procrastination, and doing things now, and not putting them off until later.

I point out to him that the end table needs to be dusted. And the old magazines need to be thrown away. Does he have a bin for recycling magazines? He needs to get one. I need to make a phone call. My finances this month need to be done. Bills need to be paid. Now. Right fucking now. RIGHT NOW DO IT DO IT WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? DO IT DO IT DO IT

There is a reason we don't do things now.

No, in all seriousness, the idea that future you cannot be trusted is a good one. You are already future you; are you doing the things today you put off yesterday?

The flip side of that is that maybe as human beings we are better off living in a world where things don't have to be done now.
posted by Xoebe at 7:57 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nice article.

There's a psychologist, Timothy A. Pychyl, who has a good blog (Don't Delay) and podcast (iProcrastinate) dealing with procrastination.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:06 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Procrastination is fueled by weakness in the face of impulse and a failure to think about thinking.

Well, that and pizza.
posted by procrastination at 8:08 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


"When they ran the experiment again but told subjects they had to watch all three selections back-to-back, “Schindler’s List” was 13 times less likely to be chosen at all."

The movie is over 3 hours long. Of course few people would want to watch that AND two other movies in a single sitting. There are so many reasons other than highbrow/lowbrow that could factor into this study.
posted by naju at 8:11 AM on October 28, 2010


This article is wrong, and I will tell you why. Procrastination is an art form, and here is my history and theory of procrastination. And-- yes-- before you ask, I am procrastinating studying for an exam *right now.*

I was homeschooled through high-school. While that doesn't work for many people, it worked for me... but it didn't work in the way you probably think of homeschooling working. Both of my parents were employed full-time or more, so they would give me a stack of books and computer math programs and foreign language CDs and say, "Here, do this," and then leave for the next ten hours. I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen. Of course I didn't do all of my work-- I did some of it, but the rest I put off. "I'll do it tomorrow," I kept thinking, and then: "I'll make a start on being a real, self-motivated student next week."

In retrospect, this was kind of an unfair position for my parents to put a fourteen year old girl in. When you're that age, you're not very good at imposing structure on your own life yet. You need a few years of someone teaching you how to create a sensible timetable and deal with schedules before you jump off the cliff of productivity and start setting your own goals. But I'm glad things worked out the way they did, because I learned. I procrastinated constantly, but-- and here's the key-- I procrastinated with things I really enjoyed, not things I thought I should be doing. I procrastinated with Metafilter, with books about the history and concepts of math and science, with ancient history and novels and Joseph Campbell and with Spencer's The Faerie Queen, because even though it wasn't on my reading list for high school I wanted to be able to say I'd read it. I made it all the way through, with the help of several well-written critiques and commentaries, and it taught me way more about writing than any textbook. I may not have learned algebra, but I learned how to think and grasp concepts-- so even though my math scores on the ACT were dismal, I zoomed through collegiate statistics at the top of my class, because of all that time I spent procrastinating, and learning to visualize complex things.

Because here is the truth of procrastination: life is a never-ending pile of crap, an endless cyclical list of shit that seems like it urgently needs to be completed. The difference between time management and procrastination, for a person with drive and ambition (like me), is this: if you schedule your time and complete things in an orderly way, there will *always* and *forever* be another thing on that list that you just have to do right now. But if you procrastinate, if you lie to yourself and say, "Oh, I'll do it in a minute," you open up the procrastination time for the things that are TRULY importatnt to you, not what you tell yourself SHOULD be important. Procrastination built my ability to research. Procrastination has brought me a stable, fun, fulfilling relationship-- because I spend time with my significant other that I should be spending buried in textbooks, and it lends a delicious, forbidden flavor to our adventures. Time spent reading instead of memorizing formulas has taught me that there is very little in life I have to learn by rote, but there's a whole hell of a lot of information I will need to learn how to find.

The trick is to know how much you can procrastinate-- for instance, after this, I *will* study for my exam. But I've been meaning to study for this exam for most of the week now, and I have already put it off in favor of meeting up with friends, reading books, having mind-bending sex, being outside, tutoring other students and comforting a friend who just found out she has cancer. I will still do well on my exam-- I am lucky enough to do insanely well in school without having to try too hard. And part of that success is the ability to think, and 'manage' my time without actually managing my time, that I learned from years of careful procrastination.

Procrastination is the savior of my sanity, my intelligence, and my interests. Life without procrastination is flavorless indeed.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:12 AM on October 28, 2010 [26 favorites]


This is an awesome article and thank you for posting it. But I have to take issue with his statement that, "This is why when you are a kid you wonder why adults don’t own more toys."

The answer to that question is that adults DO own toys, they just don't LOOK like toys to a little kid.

Of course, I just typed all that out and then sat here thinking about some items to list (computer, smartphone, digital camera, really nice fountain pen). And then I realized that all of those items are things when you would caution a child "That's not a toy!"

Which means that obviously even a child can see that they are toys. There's no need to tell a child "That's not a toy!" when she picks up something boring and stupid.

And now I am really really confused, and feeling like I need to "lie down for a little while until I can sort this through."

Which is to say... "procrastinate."
posted by ErikaB at 8:18 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Okay, having finished that article, and the New Yorker article that available light linked, now I'm a little puzzled. A lot of psychologists have spent a lot of time cogitating over... why people put off doing unpleasant tasks.

Is it really so hard to understand?
posted by ErikaB at 8:36 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


“Once Mischel began analyzing the results, he noticed that low delayers, the children who rang the bell quickly, seemed more likely to have behavioral problems, both in school and at home. They got lower S.A.T. scores. They struggled in stressful situations, often had trouble paying attention, and found it difficult to maintain friendships. The child who could wait fifteen minutes had an S.A.T. score that was, on average, two hundred and ten points higher than that of the kid who could wait only thirty seconds.”

- Jonah Lehrer from his piece in the New Yorker, “Don’t”


This is in direct contradiction to my two kids--anecdotal, I know. My oldest CANNOT procrastinate. He is a worrier, and will worry until the task is done. However, he is fine about delaying gratification. He could wait all day to get that second treat, and would be fine with it.

My youngest would take that treat in a heartbeat. Life is too short. He also puts tasks off like you wouldn't believe. We have to remind him to do his chores all the time, and it usually takes several reminders before he actually gets up and gets things done.

And yet (and this breaks my heart) the hard-working older brother doesn't do as well on the FCAT, and just took the SAT again because he wants his score to be higher, while the younger breezes through those tests without a problem. The younger--the immediate gratification child--also is a social butterfly. He knows everyone, makes friends easily, and he doesn't struggle in stressful situations as much as his hard-working older brother.

Now, the older brother, by virtue of his diligence and hard work, did make better grades this first nine weeks than his younger brother. And we are very proud of him. But it really isn't a given that delayed gratification pays off, or even that procrastination costs you in the end.

Charisma and charm and a sense of humor have taken his more extroverted, procrastinating younger brother a long way as well.
posted by misha at 8:40 AM on October 28, 2010


I don't watch movies with the intent of being productive. I usually watch movies after a long, hard day of avoiding procrastination and wearing my adult hat. If after all that I were to come home and slog through an "intellectually stimulating" marathon of Italian cinema that mainly consists of attractive people smoking and having relationship fights I would probably go nuts.
That probably doesn't apply to everyone. I think your job is a huge factor in your Netflix choices. If I'm not being stimulated at work, I may need to find dramatic or educational films to scratch that itch. But if I spend all day feeling overstimulated in every capacity, how likely is it that I'm going to want to come home and commit to the two-hour kick in the balls that is Schindler's List over an episode of Futurama?
While movies and television can be a great medium for documentaries and dramatic epics, they are also a great way to decompress. American television, for example, is an especially passive way to spend downtime. Yeah, it's banal and crass, but do I really need to spend every waking minute of my life improving myself? Maybe instead of focusing on the poor quality of our leisure-activity choices, we should be focusing on what it is about our daily routine that sends millions of people running to such poor quality leisure activities night after night.
posted by Demogorgon at 9:19 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm procrastinating right now.
posted by ostranenie at 9:34 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't reading about procrastination just another way to procrastinate?
posted by empatterson at 9:38 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was told there would be a giant marshmallow.
posted by briank at 9:50 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ha, I can't count the number of times I've thanked past-me for realizing that present-me might need a spare band-aid, a reminder email two days beforehand and so on. There's perhaps not enough of fear-driven motivation in this relationship, as I tend to think of future-me fondly as doddering, absent-minded - and the resulting gratitude for past-me tends to culminate in self-congratulatory acts of absorption.

Of course, one can always find not-so-kosher ways to help out future-you. I regularly try to prepare for future-me by 'clearing out' (ie. reading) all the really interesting items in my news feeds right now, so that there won't be anything left for her in the morning. Then she can do work distraction-free!
posted by popsciolist at 9:52 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's why deadlines sometimes are our friends. If Netflix really wants us to see more movies from their streaming queue, they should offer them with limited availability -- much like how libraries allow us to check out books for only three weeks a time. (We should be allowed to put things back on our queue of course...)

What's this "psychonauts" that suddenly popped up at the end of the article? It does have a nice ring to it...
posted by of strange foe at 10:23 AM on October 28, 2010


Procrastination is my weapon against the fetishization of "productivity" that we have in our culture.

"Being productive" is not, in itself, a worthwhile goal.
posted by emjaybee at 10:36 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was hoping that there would be no comments on this post for several days.
posted by maxwelton at 10:40 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


This linked article is pretty good. They break up procrastination into three types, based on what you do while procrastinating. Because you are, in fact, doing something while putting another thing off... Here are the listed types:
Type A: You procrastinate by doing nothing. (I think video games count.)
Type B: You put off big things to keep up with the small shit that needs to be done.
Type C: You put off the small shit to work on the big things.

We can all probably agree that Type A procrastination is to be avoided. Type B procrastinators are the mid-level bureaucrats of the world, who never accomplish anything and go a long way towards keeping anyone else from accomplishing anything, either. Type C is where you want to be as a scientist, and goes a long way towards explaining the cliche of the absentminded professor.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:43 AM on October 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


Thanks, kaibutsu, I was going to point out that article, too. I like it because it takes a high-level approach to the strategy of doing things.

Whenever I hear the productivity catchphrase "Done is the engine of more" I always think, "More what?"

It is possible to fill up an entire life with doing nothing but meaningless errands. Just ask anyone who works from home.
posted by ErikaB at 10:53 AM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Widget Alley, it sounds like you had an unusual childhood (or teenage hood) and are very bright. I would argue though that this article wasn't meant for people like you. I think there is a difference between what I would call "productive procrastination" and "unproductive procrastination."

I would classify you (and some of the other responders) as "productive procrastinators," particularly when you were describing the years that you were home schooled. In many of your examples, you are substituting a task that requires equal or greater intellectual rigor for the one that you are choosing to put off. Or you are going out and doing something that has great emotional value (connecting with friends and lovers). These things feed into your self-worth and feelings of accomplishment just as much as the tasks that you have temporarily put off.

I think the article was written for people like me whom I would classify as "unproductive procrastinators." Using myself as an example, if I have a writing project or a job application to work on (or insert whichever task I am finding onerous or too overwhelming to start), I will not only substitute doing something completely mindless (such as watching TV), but won't let myself do anything else whether it's another equally important task or realizing that I'm not in the mood and going out with friends. It's like I have a giant TO DO list in my head and if I can't do it out of order. This happens more often when I am feeling overwhelmed and getting started is the hardest part. I'm sure to someone who doesn't experience this, it is difficult to understand. I know that I just need to start and that I'll feel better and my life will be better if I do task X, but at the time I feel powerless to anything but read, sleep, or watch TV. I like that this article is somewhat pessimistic in that it recognizes that unproductive procrastinators are unlikely to have some "eureka" moment where they change their ways and instead tries to provide some realistic strategies to keep the imp of the perverse from always winning the day.
posted by kaybdc at 12:36 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Because here is the truth of procrastination: life is a never-ending pile of crap, an endless cyclical list of shit that seems like it urgently needs to be completed. The difference between time management and procrastination, for a person with drive and ambition (like me), is this: if you schedule your time and complete things in an orderly way, there will *always* and *forever* be another thing on that list that you just have to do right now. But if you procrastinate, if you lie to yourself and say, "Oh, I'll do it in a minute," you open up the procrastination time for the things that are TRULY importatnt to you, not what you tell yourself SHOULD be important.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:12 AM on October 28
if i could favorite this a million times i would but with one caveat: WidgetAlley, you didn't procrastinate as much as you (un-oxymoronically) learned how to unschool.

homeschoolers & unschoolers FTMFW :)
posted by liza at 2:22 PM on October 28, 2010


I am pretty the following three folder anti procrastination filling system was described by Jorge Ibargüengoitia, but it could have been one of his contemporaries. I paraphrase:

Get three folders. Green for 'ok', yellow for 'warning' and red for 'urgent!!!!'. Whenener you get a bill, letter, invitation to speak at writer's conference, request for an autograph or anything that requires action, put it in the green folder.

When the green folder is so full you can not add another piece of paper, take everything from the green folder and put it in the yellow folder. Continue placing all incoming items into the now empty green folder.

When the green folder is full again, move yellow to red and green to yellow. Continue adding to the green folder.

When all three folders are full, go through every paper in the red folder, tear it in half and put it in the trash without reading it, because surely by now it is too late to do anything about it. Then move yellow to red and green to yellow.
posted by Dr. Curare at 2:29 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Unwatched Netflix DVD Stares At Area Man With Single Unblinking Eye
posted by Rhaomi at 3:42 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


How's this for procrastination:

I have four Netflix dvds sitting on top of my dresser right now, which were shipped and received in February of 2007. They've all been watched, I just haven't returned them yet and I still maintain my Netflix subscription. Maybe I'll return them tomorrow...
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:14 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


People tend to consider me very productive. I'm currently writing from home pretty much daily for TIME.com and co-writing a book, which will be my sixth. I think the reason I've managed to avoid problems with procrastinating is the simple fact that I am much more anxious about the results of not getting things done than I am about doing them. I am not sure how I managed to have anxiety that is correctly tuned this way.

Also, I recognize the need for taking breaks and do not consider that procrastination but rather it's what allows me to be highly productive when necessary. I almost always refuse to work on weekends— this prevents my life from becoming a structureless mess. I think I might develop a bad procrastination problem if I *didn't* let myself take enough breaks.
posted by Maias at 5:24 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I came in to make te same point as miyabo: that this article is a shameless (and unacknowledged) rip-off of that New Yorker article from a couple weeks ago.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:08 PM on October 28, 2010


people can also procrastinate by thinking about thinking too much

My girlfriend used to manage a bunch of programmers who were like that. They'd plan every project in excruciating detail before ever starting to code, and usually would not be done with the planning when the deadline arrived...but of course every project is late, we planned for that. Sometimes it seemed they wanted to plan out how many breaths they were going to take before lunch. They had a really awesome algorithm for a spam filter back when it was first becoming a problem, but by the time they got it into test mode, the market was already saturated.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:25 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]



People tend to consider me very productive. I'm currently writing from home pretty much daily for TIME.com and co-writing a book, which will be my sixth. I think the reason I've managed to avoid problems with procrastinating is the simple fact that I am much more anxious about the results of not getting things done than I am about doing them. I am not sure how I managed to have anxiety that is correctly tuned this way.


Maias--were you consistently like this BEFORE you started getting paid for your writing? If you did, that is actually pretty remarkable.

It seems once-formerly lazy writers, once paid, will actually start producing stuff due to the monetary pressure. That's what several of them tell me, anyways.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 11:57 PM on October 28, 2010


Procrastination has some pretty good payoffs. It can be an excuse for not doing a brilliant job, because obviously if you'd had more time and weren't so busy reading the internet and cleaning the grout you would have done better. It can be a way of preventing people from piling even more work on top of your existing stack. Sometimes if you procrastinate long enough the problem goes away and you don't have to do anything at all.

It's really a very useful tool. The problem is that you don't know exactly when it's going to be useful, and when it's just going to make your life more difficult. It's easier to wait and see...
posted by harriet vane at 12:41 AM on October 29, 2010


I'm just going to toss in this site, which gave me a new way to think about procrastination: Structured Procrastination - "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"
posted by epersonae at 11:02 AM on October 29, 2010


The__of Justice, I've actually unbelievably made a living as a writer for most of my adult life. And yes, the reality of not eating if you don't produce does tend to concentrate the mind. But even as a kid writing papers or as a freelancer who wanted to have a career in writing and was just starting out, I've always been more scared of not meeting the deadline than of producing something lousy. That doesn't mean I've never cut it close or never been nervous about quality, but my anxiety has generally been centered on fear of not doing, rather than fear of doing when it comes to writing. Socializing, OTOH, is a completely different story..
posted by Maias at 1:00 PM on November 1, 2010


Seriously, I'm just doing this other thing but once I'm done I'll RtFA.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:22 AM on November 2, 2010


I haven't forgotten.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:07 PM on November 10, 2010


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