I was reading a charming essay today about what the author calls “structured procrastination.” That means, basically, admitting that one is a procrastinator, has been for years, keeps trying to change, hasn’t managed yet, and making that work for oneself. His main point is that the kinds of things we do while procrastinating aren’t actually useless – they’re simply not the thing that we believe we most need to get done at that moment. His solution is to do things while procrastinating that he probably ought to be doing anyway, and loading on the procrastinator’s guilt about something that seems urgent and essential, but isn’t really. Yes, it’s a self-imposed form of psychological trickery. But his mental landscape is amusingly like mine, and he finds it useful, so perhaps I might as well.
Of course, it won’t work in all cases. Some things are important enough to be worth the struggle. But not everything – or even most things. For instance, having a regular prayer time is worth going to great lengths to achieve. keeping a sketchbook for a half hour every day is not – at least for me. It’s not actually that much worse that I’m reading a book about how to build a stone house by hand instead.
As it happens, I was reading this article as I was procrastinating from doing teacher work. I usually blog when I’m procrastinating, and read up on things I wouldn’t otherwise be interested in. That’s how I got to looking into distributism, and why I’m thinking about planting gardens, and living poetry. It’s because I only have a couple of things I really ought to do, and am trying to avoid doing them. Most often, though, I read books. I read Dante while procrastinating from doing Child Evangelism Fellowship work, and The Abolition of Man while not writing lesson plans in college. I think I was trying to avoid something while I read The Brothers Karamazov as well, but I can’t remember what.
So this is totally something I’ll try to use: have something that’s weighing on me, and that I’ll get done eventually, and in the meantime have a bunch of slightly productive things to do that I understand and don’t hate. Hmm… I shall give this more thought (while procrastinating from turning grades in)