…..Structured procrastination…..I find it annoying!

Interesting email from Neil Murray.  Comments?  JP


My wife, a procrastinator, sent me a link to your essay on structured procrastination. She finds in amusing. I find it annoying. Perhaps it provides an effective way to deal with procrastination. But it does not explain the phenomenon, nor does it speculate on why it is far more common in the groves of academe than elsewhere. As a college teacher myself, I have noticed that many of my colleagues sit on essays for weeks, foul up the grade reporting process with late submissions, and drive the book store batty with delays of weeks and even months. Why? I suspect part of the reason is the spirit of perversity that Dostoyevsky described in Notes from Underground–an impulse to engage in self-harmful behavior simply to prove that one is not a machine. But I think the main cause is academic arrogance, the belief that ordinary rules do not apply to the great thinkers, even if flouting those rules results in harm to others. So I think your essay is neither humorous nor helpful but a symptom of one of the major problems in higher education.


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17 Responses to …..Structured procrastination…..I find it annoying!

  1. Aaron Breckenridge

    Be proud you’re getting hate mail!

    I’ve found professors to have about the same level of arrogance as your average small business owner or entrepreneur. Not playing by the “rules” just comes with the territory.

  2. And why do people sometimes not use the crosswalks? And why do they say the party is at 7, and no one shows up until 8? And why is it that most people drive over the “maximum” speed limit? Why do girls say they like nice guys, but they never date them? Why do people say one thing and do another? Why can’t everybody just follow the ordinary rules?

    Zoom out some. It will all be over soon enough. Sun go boom.

  3. Dmitry

    I have not seen the relevant statistics, but I think the suicide rate in academia is also pretty low.
    These people just tend to know what is good for them as opposed to the general population.
    In my opinion, procrastination is an excellent coping mechanism which might improve a life which otherwise might seem meaningless *and* difficult,
    in a constructive way.

  4. John Perry

    Well I wouldn’t call it hate mail. I’d call it intelligent skepticism from a non-procrastinator. j

  5. John Perry

    “Zoom out some. It will all be over soon enough. Sun go boom.”

    I like thst. JP

  6. Milan Mancel

    Maybe reason why the procrastination is more frequent in academia is that in corporate/private sector you have more real deadlines where missing them will have grave consequences – higher probability to get fired or non-promoted than in academia or public sector, so pressure to get things done is higher.
    Excellent explanation of procrastination and dealing with it is in The Now Habit by Neil Fiore and also the War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Maybe the books will not help you to deal with the procrastination but at least you can make reading the books as the “top-urgent” goal in your list that you will try to avoid and will be able to more other work 🙂

  7. Congrats, GPa, you’re a major problem of academia

  8. JJJ

    This comment from Mr. Neil Murray shows that neither he is a procrastinator nor he understands people like that. Actually I do admire him. However, I believe few procrastinators procrastinate on purpose, not to mention using it as a tool of breaking common rules. We SUFFERED from procrastination. I understand Prof. Perry’s article as a “half-way” solution. It is better doing something less important than doing nothing. This article is to some degree helpful and comforting to us as well as to the auther Prof. Perry himself, I think, thought it does not vanish our problems. Mr. Murray, it might be interesting to understand the painfulness of some human beings which may sound ridiculous or amusing to you. Well, we try to laugh while struggling to rescue ourselves. Isn’t it moving ^_^?

  9. I am not an academic and I procrastinate.

    In fact, I know plenty of non-academics who procrastinate.

  10. I am not an academic and I procrastinate. It’s rather a family trait, as my father (he is a retired aero-space engineer) before me is a procrastinator. Well, let me re-phrase…. those around us call us procrastinators but dad and I feel more that we just have our own criteria for prioritization and we each tend to re-order those priorities on our way to the next one. It’s why I’m 10-15 minutes late to work everyday, neglect my blog, don’t get the bills paid on time, haven’t written that next book and am amazed that weeks can go by and I haven’t cleaned the bathroom, yet. But…. I’m okay with that and so is dad.

  11. Guest

    Yeah, but, Janice, you should really clean your bathroom more often!
    (This comes from somebody with one of the cleanest bathrooms around, because, you know, I like to clean in order to, well, avoid writing the next article and/or my dissertation…)

    Prof. Perry, I will certainly try your “structured procrastination” approach and as a matter of fact, having lived and “worked” based on similar thoughts for the past years is probably what earned me my reputation as somebody who’s in control of all her tasks and projects. (When really I’ve been struggling getting this goddamn dissertation done for 6 years now…)

  12. Wendy

    Loved the essay on structured procrastination!

    This is the best!

    I am definitely one and had being using the structured approach in an ad hoc way.

    Well get at it for today’s proposal…after I put the turkey in!

    Thanks so much!

  13. JJ

    I am a structured procrastinator. Get alot of work done, always busy, but am always late. I have come to hate my life so much that I constantly think about letting everything go and just not doing anything. Of course right now I am procrastinating by not doing my overdue work and instead reading about my problem.

    I appreciate John Perry’s essay because it a least gives me the idea of what is really happening and how I can avoid it. I would always say “why am I always working, but I am always late? All these important stuff I need to do.” I did realize that it wasn’t procrastination because I wasnt sitting around. The first step in solving a problem is understanding the problem. I think John Perry gave me the understanding to my problem. Now its on me to solve it.

  14. haili

    i passed the test! my middle child and me are the worst procrastinators (and she is fixing to be a lawyer, not a procrastinator friendly line of work). my theory is that only smart people procrastinate. my children and myself are very smart. i used to complete all my summer work (yes, they gave summer homework in china) in the last day of the 40 days summer vacation, hence ruining the entire summer for me. not one single day i could play lighthearted. only if i had known how to constructively procrastinate! i’m still procrastinating by reading beguiling essay on how to procrastinate, sigh …

  15. I think that academic arrogance applies to anybody who sees himself as a great thinker (goes beyond academic). I also think it’s unfair to call your essay annoying when it wasn’t really about explaining the concept of procrastination, but how structured procrastination can be applied.

  16. Laura Jonas

    I think an important point is also that procrastination can be very good for you. For example, you are very creative if you let your mind wander, you come together with others and you take time for yourself in a time when usually your entire life is ruled my MUSTs and HAVE TOs. We even wrote a small series about pro-procrastination here: http://procrastinators-united.tumblr.com/post/75573164345/pro-procrastination-3-procrastination-saves-time#notes

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