The fact that I procrastinate and still get the job done on time is the reason I still procrastinate.
Procrastination is part of my process. While you call it lazy, I call it contemplative. While you call it a lack of time management skills, I call it a creative process.
Before you start preaching to me about the best way to get things done is to be organized, have a structured schedule, and do small bits at a time, hear me out.
Procrastination works for me. John Perry, a philosophy professor at Harvard University explains that Structured Procrastination is an “amazing strategy that converts procrastinators into effective human beings, respected and admired for all that they can accomplish.” It really is an art form.
The trick is to strategically avoid doing the most important thing on your list and fill your time doing the lower items. By avoiding what really needs to be done, you accomplish so much more. Eventually, something more important will come along to top the list, and viola you finally do that important thing in avoidance of doing the now-most-important-thing.
Procrastination works for me. But deadlines help. I always say that I don’t know what the first 10 hours are for because I only ever use the 11th one. I use the first 10 hours to clear my mind of all the junk, so I can finally focus. I need that adrenaline rush to get my heart beating. Then it suddenly becomes a challenge. I do my best work when I’m challenged.
The quality of my work is better when I’ve done it last minute. I went back to university in 2013 and I remember in the first semester, one prof made us do bits of the assignment every week and report our progress. He told me I WOULD NOT be successful unless I was procedurally organized. Did I mention I like a challenge? Game on, Mr. Prof, game on.
The weekend before it was due, I decided my topic was boring and the paper was mediocre at best. So, I started a new paper from scratch, research and all, Saturday morning and submitted it before the Sunday midnight deadline. I was graded in the 90’s. Don’t tell me I don’t know my own process, Mr. Prof.
My other contention with rules and routine is that creativity rarely happens inside the lines of rigidly structured organization. The 4-Step Creative Process works well for me: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification. In other words, I do the research, I gather information then I think about it. Then I put it aside to do other procrastinate-y avoidance stuff. This incubation period is often misunderstood as procrastination because I’m actively avoiding working on this particular project, until such time as the perfect idea comes to me, and that ONLY happens when I’m not thinking about it! Then I do it. It’s how I wrote essays, it’s how I create workshops, write stories, and prepare presentations.
I know some of you think I’m just rationalizing my use of procrastination to cover up for the fact that I’m lazy. That’s okay. Think what you want. All I ask is that you stop preaching to me and to your kids and to everyone else who isn’t rigidly structured in their work habits, that we are doing it wrong. I know you think your way is better, and it might be for YOU, but it isn’t for me, so please stop trying to fix me because you think I’m lazy and wrong. Everyone has their own process, and if it works, it isn’t broken.
One more time a little louder for the people in the back:
Stop trying to fix me! Everyone has their own process, and if it works, it isn’t broken.
To read John Perry’s essay on structured procrastination, go to: www.structuredprocrastination.com