Book review: The Art of Procrastination

Emma De Vita reviews the new book by professor of philosophy John Perry

The Art of Procrastination
The Art of Procrastination

It's the book all guilty feeling procrastinators have been waiting for: John Perry, a professor of philosophy at Stanford University in the US, argues that "structured procrastination" is a good thing. "All procrastinators put off things they have to do," he writes. "Structured procrastination is the art of making this negative trait work for you.

The procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult and timely tasks, as long as these are a way of not doing something more important."

Perry offers strategies to help entrenched procrastinators get things done. One is the defensive to-do list, which involves a rethink of the standard to-do list. For example, put something daunting at the top, such as learning Chinese. Second on the list could be to install a new kitchen. Then take pride in doing the third item on your list, which might be to prepare a staff member's appraisal.

Another approach is to write a detailed daily to-do list that might include: get out of bed, drink coffee, eat breakfast, pour another cup of coffee and so on. By the time you're ready to get dressed, you've already ticked off lots of actions, tricking you into thinking you've got lots done. What are you waiting for?

Emma De Vita is books editor of Management Today

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