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Good and Bad Procrastination

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the massive-shuffle-of-geeks-sending-this-to-their-mothers dept.

Editorial 158

dtolton writes "Paul Graham has written an interesting article on Procrastination. He presents three different types of procrastination and one type of procrastination is even good! He also suggests that some types of "getting things done" are actually weak forms of procrastination. The only downside to this article is now you'll have to look at your procrastination with an analytical eye too!" Perhaps next year's Christmas shopping can benefit from the writeup?

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Has to be said... (5, Funny)

Kickboy12 (913888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337253)

Procrastination is like masturbation; you're only fucking yourself.

Re:Has to be said... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337300)

What if you're working in a group or someone else is otherwise depending on you?

Hate to break the (mostly very good) analogy, but it isn't always true.

Re:Has to be said... (5, Funny)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337393)

And yet, they both feel so good.

Re:Has to be said... (2, Funny)

thc69 (98798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337758)

See my tagline...

Re:Has to be said... (4, Interesting)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 7 years ago | (#14337414)

Yeah, but it still feels good.

I've become more of a procrastinator over the years. For one, I see less of things being important, because they never are. Health issues are something I'm pretty aggressive about, but I put off stuff all the time. I didn't buy a computer beyond a P1 until recently because they were not good enough. I regret my haste, because then Apple came out with the 4 core PowerMac which should be more adequate than the cheaper iMac G5 that I opted for.

Also, if I put stuff off (since nothing is that important in the first place) I've found that many problems fix themselves or just go away, or something more "important" comes up.

Another thing to take into account is basic psychology. No organism really does anything before the time of reinforcement. People don't go to the bus stop much before the bus arrives. Most people don't do all of their Christmas shopping much before Chistmas. Most people don't file their taxes before April 15th. There are other variables though. I file my taxes right after Jan 1st when I get all of my documents together. I can always use the money, and I'd rather have the cash than the government keep it interest free until April. If I wasn't getting anything back, I'd wait until April 15th like most people.

So everybody, go ahead and fuck yourself. Its OK.

Re:Has to be said... (4, Informative)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337552)

I'm right with you on the taxes. I file early and pay on April 15th. Is disappointing to see how many people that have the perception that 'you get money when you file for taxes' for the regular wage slaves.
It took me a while to 'get it' too but I see the light and I've been a crusader for my friends by constantly asking them how much tax they paid come the first quarter of the year.
It started off with "I didn't have to pay, I got money back" type of comment and even then, they still didn't get it. People care more about the cash they get BACK that could have always been theirs, even if it was theirs in the first place.
People just don't like to save and like to run up credit cards.

People who say "I got money back", I then ask them if I can borrow a thousand dollars for 6 months and show the comparison between interest free vs a money market savings account.
They also don't understand why I choose to pay taxes vs withholding.

The only debt I have is a mortgage - tax deductible interest, and all my cars are paid off and they're less than 5 years old.

Re:Has to be said... (5, Informative)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337702)

Is disappointing to see how many people that have the perception that 'you get money when you file for taxes' for the regular wage slaves.

The more accurate perception is that:

You cannot manage your money well, the government has a plan that always works in their favor. See, they will take about 30% of your pay for "free" every month without you having to think about it. If fact, they will take a little extra, just to make sure you pay "enough" by the end of the year. They will hold it for free for you until the end of the year. The will then continue holding it until you ask for it back, for free!

Unfortunately, I have had the government blindly take my money every time I get paid since I was 15 years old, that I was conditioned not to think much about it until recently. People often say that their housing is the most expensive thing they pay for, then their car. The are wrong and off by one. Taxes are #1, house typically #2, car typically #3. Aside from gas and regular maintenance, I spend more on food and beverages (mostly alcoholic, and taxed out the wazoo) than I spend on car payments. I currently pay $20 a month interest on my car, and it will be paid off in a while. I've never paid more than $2,500 for a car before, but I wanted a better one so I splurged with a $7k car after the police took my last one. Oh, well.

I'm curious. How do you estimate your taxes, and what do you do with your money until they ask for it? I'm not that experienced with financial stuff because I'm apathetic towards it, but I'm very interested in putting more $$$ in my pocket and not the government's. By my rough estimates, I would only make about $200 to $300 at a 3% interest (I'm basing this on a 30% tax of about $50k income) if I didn't do any withholdings. I don't make much money, but to me I would actually prefer to have the government manage my debt to them and get a little extra back in one chunk at the end of the year for the extra couple of bucks. So I guess I'm in the "I cannot manage my money well department", but if there was more incentive for me to do so, I could be more interested in spending more time with this. But right now, I only deduct student loan interest and mortgage interest because I don't know if any extra investment in effort and time would be more profitable than getting a side job which I'm not interested in doing either.

I am grateful that I don't have to pay taxes on medications, but I'm ungrateful that I have to spend extra tax over top of the "regular" tax to eat. But I can shit for free.

Re:Has to be said... (1)

njh (24312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337898)

How did you make your mortgage tax deductable? A shell company?

Re:Has to be said... (1)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 8 years ago | (#14338032)

The Interest is tax deductible.

The only debt I have is a mortgage - tax deductible interest,

Re:Has to be said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337442)

> Procrastination is like masturbation; you're only fucking yourself.

And getting work done is like dating and marriage; people fucking each other - but it's all really about who gets the money when it's over.

Either way, you get fucked, but procrastination and bachelorhood are a lot cheaper than their respective alternatives.

Re:Has to be said... (1)

ClearlyPennsylvania (918245) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337460)

You totally botched that. It's supposed to be: "Procrastination is like masturbation: It feels good at first, but in the end, you're just fucking yourself."

Re:Has to be said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337572)

Don't you guys have anything better to do on Christmas day? Oh wait...

Re:Has to be said... (4, Funny)

coolmadsi (823103) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337610)

Isn't that Procrastibation?

Looks interesting... (5, Funny)

ForumTroll (900233) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337261)

I'll read it later.

Re:Looks interesting... (3, Funny)

khedron the jester (888418) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337295)

Ah, a Type-C procrastinator: giving up reading TFA to post about it.

Re:Looks interesting... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337311)

The server also procrastinates now... Meh...

Re:Looks interesting... (3, Funny)

c_forq (924234) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337443)

I think this is what is meant by good procrastination. The type that saves his server.

Re:Looks interesting... (1)

almostgenuis (929990) | more than 8 years ago | (#14338118)

ha ha! funny comment! i will think of something funny and comment on this later! do watch this space! ;)

procrastinating worked for me... (5, Interesting)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337265)

I used to work for someone who was impossibly manic about things he wanted to do, which always meant things he asked "us" to do. I considered him visionary, but sometimes it was just too much.

My methodology was to mentally file away any requests (and there were many), and take no action other than to sketch mentally what the work would entail. The indicator whether or not it was real work I ever need do was if he came back to me in the next few days or so to see what progress I'd made for "task X".

Fortunately I was able to intuitively cull things that looked important from those that were simply "what ifs", and it was mostly a synergistic relationship -- I always had plenty to do from his bounty of ideas, but was able to be more productive by exercising a "procrastination policy".

Re:procrastinating worked for me... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337356)

Manics can also be procrastinators. I did RTFA from Digg yesterday and while I found it interesting I thought it showed a misunderstanding of procrasination. One thing it is not is lazyness, often extrememly active people procrastinate. Another thing it is not is disorganisation, or lack of coherent thought as you describe above. Sometimes people with fine strategic minds are also terrible procrastinators. We all know the pop psychology of the 'completer/finisher' too, the ability to go for the kill in the final stages of a venture. Many who have this ability to deliver on target are still victims of procrastination.

So what is it? Well, notice I use the word 'victim'. You don't choose to procrastinate. Subtle but true, you have to choose not to Procrastination is either a fear of success or failure, actually the outcome is unimportant. Or better still a fear of change and progress. Perhaps with a programming problem you are secretly worrying where the next contract will come from once you finish this one, which you could so easily do if you just let yourself. In relationships it is the fear that it might "actually work", thus robbing one of the circumstances that excuse or explain a neurosis. This subtle and often unwilling holding back can be explained by the fact the mind enjoys struggle, we are most alive during struggle. Myself I've spotted procrastination because I am enjoying a difficult problem so much I don't want to commit to solving it and 'trivialising' my efforts. What is undone is full of potential, yet what is done and dusted is consigned to the ordinary.

A coder who considers 10 different solutions for weeks on end is not procrastinating, not if, as is usually the case with intelligent circumspect thinkers, they engage the problem with full gusto once they've decided upon the preferred line of attack. Rather, a procrastinator would be someone who, confident in their vision, still finds a reason to hold back. TFA describes nothing more than prioritisation and tasking. Procrastination is a subtle and devilish thing to defeat, often requiring you to look deep behind the facade of your behaviour to discover why you're really doing it.
The cure, imho, is often to embrace a more carefree attitude.

Re:procrastinating worked for me... (1)

thc69 (98798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337818)

I did RTFA from Digg yesterday and while I found it interesting I thought it showed a misunderstanding of procrasination. One thing it is not is lazyness, often extrememly active people procrastinate.
Maybe you should have procrastinated, and RTFA just before posting here. What I read in TFA was exactly what you say -- not lazyness, active folks procrastinate.

Personally, I'm not bothered by the "type B" and "type C" procrastination described in TFA, where one chooses to do one thing instead of another. I've never called that "procrastination"; I call it "prioritization". The procrastination I do would be the "type A" -- I do nothing when something needs to be done; or at least, I feel like I'm doing nothing.

Maybe resting, playing a game, and reading slashdot count as doing something, in so far as I'm making me happy. Meanwhile, however, I've got the thank you letters which were mentioned in TFA (I recently got married), I've got shower doors that I bought in June but haven't yet installed (as well as a million other home improvements), I've got bits of "Just Married" still painted on the back window of my truck, I've got cleaning to do everywhere, or it could be the work day and I'm slacking here on slashdot when I should be accomplishing something.

I've got a fog light to repair that has been like that for three out of the four years I've had the truck. The new one is in the back seat, and has been since a couple months after I broke the existing one (I didn't procrastinate about buying it on ebay, I guess). Maybe I should just remove the remaining one for symmetry's sake.

I've got Cat5 to run all over my house. I've got a stereo that I gave a mere five minute effort into hooking up, not even properly connected to the tv, computer, vcr, dvd player, and a bunch of speakers. I've got to practice my C++ before I completely forget everything I learned about it. I've got to fix the port forwarding on my firewall.

I've got piles of junk waiting for me to hack them into useful stuff. I've got gigabytes of mp3s that need to be sorted and tagged.

And you know what? Just thinking about it makes me so tired. It's 9:18pm, past my usual bed time, so I'd be tired anyway, but no matter what time I think of this stuff, I get tired. It's too bad, because once I feel inspired, I go to it, and I have fun doing all of those things.

Well, nobody here cares anyway.

Re:procrastinating worked for me... (1)

shawb (16347) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337958)

As the article says, having things piled up is not necesarilly bad, if they are things that you truly believe are not important. Does it really cosmically matter if you don't send out those thank you cards? Do you remember getting thank you cards from people who's wedding you attended? Did you actually feel happy that they took the time to send them? You may have Cat5 that isn't run yet, but obviously you've got some sort of internet connection.

And although it probably isn't all that important, I can help you out with the gigs of mp3s problem. I remember manually going through my music days and days on end, retyping file names, then opening them to make sure it's actually the right one, then playing with the id3 tags, etc. Once I got over about 2gigs of mp3s, this was no longer really feasable. A slight rearranging of my naming scheme or whatever was pretty much impossible. Enter musicbrainz tagger. [] It automates a lot of the tagging and renaming by essentially taking a hash of the file and comparing it to what other people have done. It then names, sorts in directories, and fills in ID3 tags according to paramaters you set. Granted, it's not perfect and there are some falso positives, but it makes the job a whole lot easier. One technique which really helps find the errors is having three directories: Source, Sort and Store (you can call them whatever you want.) Source is where you rip to, download to (legally, or course) or whatever. Sort is where Musicbrainz puts the files after it identifies them. After looking through them and making sure there are no bands that are completely wrong (biggest tip off of a mismatched song is having a band you never heard of or wouldn't dream of listening to), you move them into Store (which is where you play from, etc. Probably wouldn't actually be called Store, but I thought that just made for some nice alliteration for this post.) And setting up Musicbrainz the first time can be kinda wierd as you pretty much have to manailly set most of the settings, IIRC. So give it about ano hour or so just to tinker around and find out how the program works and what it does.

One interesting thing about running Musicbrainz is that you occasionally find that some files you had for a long time and have grown to know and love were actually mislabeled and are a completely different artist, or the title is just wrong such as when the file is named after the word/phrase used most predominately in the refrain: Bush's "Machinehead" would have been labeled "Breathe in breathe out" or something like that. Another extremely common errot to find is virtually every comedy sketch or parody you find is attributed to Wierd Al.)

Re:procrastinating worked for me... (2, Insightful)

ramone1234 (588375) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337985)

This is a bit off-topic, because I agree TFA article is more about prioritization than procrastination, but I've got to disagree with the notion that some procrastination is good. What Hamming is really saying is that we shouldn't feel to guilty about the stuff we don't do as a result of prioritization, as long as that prioritization leads us to better results. Sure... that makes sense, but THAT's not really procrastination.

There really isn't a type of procrastination that is good, because as the parent said, it's almost always rooted in some fear. Sometimes you don't realize the fear that is the driving force ("Fear of success" is a weird motivator, because why would you be afraid of success??? "Fear of failure" is a weird motivator, because through procrastination, you actually make failure more probable). Usually though, if you think it out, you notice that you're afraid of completion of the task for some reason.

For instance, I used to be late for stuff all the time, and I realized it was my way of asserting my control over a situation (late to hand in an assignment at school, or late to pick up a girl for a date). Even when I wasn't late to hand in an assignment, I always put it off to the last minute so I could be sure to have that security blanket of "oh I didn't really try" in case I did poorly on it. It's not that I've totally obliterated procrastination from my life, but actually noting the REAL reason I procrastinate (if you can figure it out) helps a hell of a lot. I look at those reasons and realize that I'm actually being a ball-less passive aggressive coward, or I'm being a big baby that's afraid of life. When you realize that you're acting like THAT, it's a lot more natural to correct the behaviour. If you think procrastinators are just lazy and just need self-discipline, you're misunderstanding the problem entirely.

Anyway... sorry to get all "Dr. Phil", but I know there are a lot of other people out there who are routinely paralysed by procrastination and haven't got a clue how to start fixing it. Self-discipline is a very finite and temporary resource, and shouldn't be relied upon...

I have a boss like that. (2, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337368)

I don't regard him as "visionary". I regard him as "A.D.D". Whatever the latest thing that catches his eye has to be assigned ... then forgotten. But a new shiney idea has to be assigned.

He's a bad manager because he cannot prioritize the items he is supposed to be managing (time, money and resources) to accomplish the goals he is supposed to be setting.

Example, we recently ordered 4 new servers for one of these projects ... but one of our sites had an old server without mirrored hard drives.

To me, procrastination comes down to understanding the big picture and your place in getting there. If you don't agree with the big picture or you don't have a big picture or you don't like you place ... you'll procrastinate. You'll get distracted by other tasks that are less important at the moment.

When that is the case, you need to adjust your picture or your place.

Re:procrastinating worked for me... (3, Insightful)

g2devi (898503) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337387)

It's sounds like you're basically using a variation of the old Important/Urgent prioritization: es/first.asp [] []

Basically, a task can either be important and urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, or unimportant and not urgent. Instead of dealing with all tasks as urgent whether they're time wasters or not and running around like a chicken without a head, you're taking the time to sort out what's important and what's not before doing anything. That's not procrastination. That's just good time management.

Ob procrastination quote:
"One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say."
-- Will Durant

Re:procrastinating worked for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337728)

There are also those of us who are manic, particularly rapid-cycling bipolars. When I first got out of college, my boss would ask, "what time did you come i?" "8 am". Eventually, he learned the correct question: "What day did you come in/

As far as how this fits within the dimension of procrastination is in school. Procrastination creates challenges. Which aren't necessarily available elsewhere? I know people make claims it produces more free time, but the issue is still the underlying challenge

Re:procrastinating worked for me... (1)

6800 (643075) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337826)

I find in tackeling complex tasks envolving the new and untried that doing work on it in phases with settle or cogitate time is productive.

Take it from me, I know about procrastination (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337266)

I meant to get first post

Re:Take it from me, I know about procrastination (1)

EEBaum (520514) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337639)

You know nothing. This IS the first post.

Always wanted to join Procrastinator's Anonymous.. (0, Redundant)

ChrisZermatt (892665) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337267)

...but I've just never quite gotten around to it.

Don't bother reading the article... (0, Flamebait)

leprkan (641220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337268)

It was horribly obvious, and boring. Slashdot - I know news is out there, I know you can do it better job finding it. What's with the decline of articles that are relevant or interesting at all?

Re:Don't bother reading the article... (4, Informative)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337332)

Usually Paul Graham's social writings are quite good. Try his "why nerds are unpopular" or "What you'll wish you had known"

Re:Don't bother reading the article... (0, Offtopic)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 7 years ago | (#14337419)

Can anyone reccomend the best place to sell off Magic cards?

Local game shop. I know someone years ago that sold all of his cards for about his initial investment or possibly profit and made his DeBeers donation to convince his future wife he was serious about the situation. He also kept a deck to do some casual playing, but had wifey things to do so could not play as much. Do people still play Magic?

Why nerds are unpopular is excellent. I've never read what you'll wish you had known, I never knew about it :)

Re:Don't bother reading the article... (0, Offtopic)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337497)

I sure hope people still play magic...otherwise nobody will buy my cards.

I have found several places online that will buy cards but I havnt been willing to spend the time needed to make a list of the cards I own. I may try to find a game shop around here that buys (either in the minneapolis or chicago areas) and just drag in my cards and see what they say

Re:Don't bother reading the article... (1)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337902)

I did read "what you wish you had known", it was good as well.

Dude, if you are too lazy or procrastinate too much to sell your cards, then what do you want? I'll buy them if you have in excess of 1,000 for the price of the sum of the top 5 or 10 depending if you have good ones there.

Its been 10 years since I've played, but from what I remember there were "premium" cards (Black Lotus was the top), and "damn good" cards, and most were just cards (there may be a "good" card level too, don't remember). In a week, I would imagine that you could sort them out in those three or four piles with very little effort while you watch TV or whatever you do to relax that does not take much attention. The regular cards are only worth a few cents a piece, so sell them as at a bulk whatever price. Sell the highest ones first, and go down, or take the time to inventory the higher ones, and go down or whatever.

Nobody, unless they know you, will buy a bunch of cards without knowing what they are unless they are sold at the lowest common denominator price, and you will most likely get ripped off unless you just need beer money or something. Nobody is going to sort through the cards for you like a change machine either.

Re:Don't bother reading the article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14338064)

The reason this one was good as the backbone of it was Hamming's essay. Without that it would be been okay.

He does get bonus points for not mentioning he sold Viaweb to Yahoo or that you should just hire LISP programmers.

Re:Don't bother reading the article... (2, Interesting)

c_forq (924234) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337456)

I don't know where you are, but here in America (where most Slashdot staff and users are) today is a federal holiday. Federal holidays mean slow news, since almost everything is shut down (nobody wants to work Christmas day). In my town, there is one Chinese restaurant and a few gas stations open, EVERYTHING else is shut down.

Re:Don't bother reading the article... (1)

cheesy9999 (750203) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337581)

Hah, like in "A Christmas Story" when the dogs eat their turkey and they go out to get food, the only place open in the Chinese restaurant. And they sing Deck the Halls .... "Rah rah rah rah rah, rah rah rah rah!" Sorry, I just watched it on TBS, they' played it for 24 straight hours ;-)

Re:Don't bother reading the article... (2, Interesting)

Headcase88 (828620) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337580)

"you could work on...something more important. That...I'd argue, is good procrastination."

Working on something more important is a good thing? I'm sure this guy is going to face a lot of detractors that say that working on something less important is better. I hate it when essays have filler [] like that.

oh damn (2, Funny)

jjeffries (17675) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337269)

This is very similar to my article on procrastination... well, it would be if I'd ever gotten around to writing it... oh well, guess I don't need to now...

Interesting (-1, Redundant)

tritone (189506) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337270)

Sounds like an interesting article. I think I'll read it tomorrow.

Obligatory (4, Funny)

WTBF (893340) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337279)

In soviet Russia... no

Imagine a beowulf cluster... no

In South Korea only old people... no

Oh well, I will get around to it later.

Re:Obligatory (1)

griffjon (14945) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337461)

In Soviet Russia, procrastination doesn't get around to YOU!

Imagine a beowulf cluster of procrastinators... it'd be the "Deep Blue" of the foosball circuit!

I'll get back to the Korea one later.

roflcopter (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337283)

LOL hay guys guess what i'm so much of a procrastinator i will not even read the artical until latar !!11

Score +5 Funny/Insightful

Re:roflcopter (0, Offtopic)

Headcase88 (828620) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337548)

Yeah I'll mod you... later...

A better piece on the topic (5, Interesting)

wahgnube (557787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337288)

This is a far more eloquent and humorous piece [] on the topic.

Re:A better piece on the topic (2, Interesting)

darkov (261309) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337611)

I have to agree with John Perry, it's a somewhat valid strategy for dealing with procrastination. But I use a different structure. You might call his hierarchical procrastination, where tasks at the bottom tend to get done more often, while those at the top get tend not to get done.

You would probably call my system cyclical procrastination. The key is to be doing more than one thing at a time. To get started you pick the thing that is least anxiety producing and tell yourself that you can leave it at any time with the proviso that you have to pick up something else, with maybe a short stint reading Slashdot or a newspaper online in between. You then do a little of the task, essentially until you get to a point where something is difficult or you generally want to avoid it more than the second least anxiety producing task. So then you move to that one, since it has become more relaxing to do.

One of the reasons why this works is because after a long enough period, you have had time to think about the harder task and work out how to do it easier or legitimately avoid it, so you can eventually return to it. You also have to find fairly mundane bits of difficult tasks that then let you get drawn further into the task.

If getting anything done at all is highly anxiety producing then the best thing is to change very quickly between many tasks, then it won't feel like you're doing anything at all, when in actuality you are.

I'll read the dupe on Wednesday (5, Funny)

Polarism (736984) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337292)

You know it'll be there.

Re:I'll read the dupe on Wednesday (3, Funny)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337315)

Unless they procrastinate and the dupe doesn't show up until they do spring cleaning.

Go do the laundry you lazy bum! (4, Funny)

Chaffar (670874) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337294)

I'm not a lazy bum... I'm a type-C procrastinator you insensitive clod!

moDF up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337305)

Prioritizing procrastination (2, Funny)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337308)

What a novel concept! No, really...


Re:Prioritizing procrastination (1)

RedLaggedTeut (216304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337813)

Now that I've read this article, I'll try to prioritize my procrastination as soon as I get around to it.

zerg (2, Interesting)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337317)

The article links to Hamming's "You and Your Research [] ". The submitter clearly fails for not including it in the writeup, since it's much more interesting.

Hamming's article mentions that the people w/ the open doors get more done then the people w/ the closed doors, yet isn't Graham's point that interruptions prevent serious work? Doesn't that disprove Graham's claim?

The Worst form of procrastination (0, Troll)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337330)

must be prayer.

Asking a mythical super being to do something for you that you are to friggen lazy to do yourself isn't going to work very well, but it is amazing how many millions of people do just that.

I don't think this (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337338)

Perhaps next year's Christmas shopping can benefit from the writeup?

could have missed the point of the article more.

Paul Graham inspired me to learn Lisp with his articles and I enjoyed seeing a whole different view of programming (what Python/Ruby is moving towards) than the C/C++ variants.

I read most of his essays and enjoyed this article too. It helped me finally understand what I knew for years - why those Mead 5-star organizers (and later PDAs) don't work for me and why they can be such a waste of time (except the contact list.)

Re:I don't think this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337474)

For me, the good thing about PDAs and todo lists is how they allow me to get all the little things off my mind so that I have more free mental cycles for getting the big things done. If there's a couple of hundred small issues swirling around in my mind I tend to get overwhelmed and stressed out. I became better at avoiding panic mode when I began doing a brain dump onto my PDA every now and then.

Procrastination is ... (0, Redundant)

peterscorner (809668) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337346)

a lot like masturbation, both feel good when you are doing them. But in the end you are just fu*cking yourself.

You lazy slob... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337361)

You didn't even glance at the very first post, did you.

Damn! (1, Funny)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337367)

I was going to do some research into this! I just never could seem to find the time...

I use it (3, Insightful)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337385)

I procrastinate to develop stress. I use the stress as motivation. It's called eustress ( [] ). It's like free coffee.

In the interim I purposely don't think about whatever it is. That often results in an answer, if not the answer, popping out of my intuition with far less work than it would have taken otherwise.

I call it being constructively lazy.

90% of everything is done in 10% of the time alloted. Why not just go ahead and accept it? All that other time you spent worrying could go to something a lot more fun.

Re:I use it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#14337429)

Agreed, sometimes the self-imposed stress of a last-minute deadline is a positive thing

Re:I use it (2, Insightful)

g0_p (613849) | more than 8 years ago | (#14338076)

I also practice the same type of procrastination. However, the problem is that there are some problems that really are easy enough that they can be solved in 10% of the time. Just because it looks difficult you tend to procrastinate till the point that you have only 10% of the time to finish it. And then you do finish it quite easily.. But it means that you have wasted the 90% of the time doing nothing. If the procrastination can lead to an interesting solution to a problem, then thats truly being constructively lazy...

So yeah, sometimes you are constructive, but many a times you have wasted 10 times the amount the time it would have taken to solve the problem.

"Procrastination"..? Try "prioritization".. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337397)

Just because you're not working on something doesn't mean you're a "procrastinator".

Personally the only thing I call procrastination is when I'm supposed to be working on something important, and I'm working on something less important.

Putting off unimportant tasks isn't procrastination, it's just being smart.

Doing nothing is also smart (when done in moderation). This includes reading slashdot, the most unproductive task EVER ;-)...

Heck, even putting off something important can be smart, if it turns out you didn't need it (ever worked for someone that thought *everything* was super-important, top priority?)

The summary mentions "getting things done".. I don't know if that's a reference to the Allen's Getting Things Done system, but that's a good system for organizing your tasks.. sometimes just having everything written down is enough to allow you to kick back for 10 minutes and do nothing, yet appear super-productive to your peers. Organized people should read that book and get some ideas (disorganized people shouldn't bother, it won't help you, even Allen himself acknowledges this).

Christmas day (1)

Skiron (735617) | more than 7 years ago | (#14337409)

I was going to submit this article, but I had other important beer things to do...

Time management... (3, Interesting)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 7 years ago | (#14337412)

That's all it seems he's talking about.
TFA mentions:
The reason it pays to put off even those errands is that real work needs two things errands don't: big chunks of time, and the right mood. If you get inspired by some project, it can be a net win to blow off everything you were supposed to do for the next few days to work on it. Yes, those errands may cost you more time when you finally get around to them. But if you get a lot done during those few days, you will be net more productive.
In fact, it may not be a difference in degree, but a difference in kind. There may be types of work that can only be done in long, uninterrupted stretches, when inspiration hits, rather than dutifully in scheduled little slices. Empirically it seems to be so. When I think of the people I know who've done great things, I don't imagine them dutifully crossing items off to-do lists. I imagine them sneaking off to work on some new idea.

He's saying that an approach that does tasks when they should be done that results in a net productivity increase is procrastination, specifically type-C procrastination.
Really though, it just seems like effective time manangement. The true intent of the article seems to lie in DEFINING time management - that is, not "Crossing items off of a list" but rather doing things when they should be done, or "sneaking off to work on some new idea"

Not so fast (4, Insightful)

lheal (86013) | more than 7 years ago | (#14337418)

Good procrastination is avoiding errands to do real work.

As an inveterate procrastinator, I have to say that while I mostly agree with TFA's premise, it suffers from the usual oversimplification it decries.

Putting off little things can end in crushing defeat. Failing to do basic maintenance on one's body, one's vehicles, or other property, often will result in catastophic surprises, and usually at the last minute.

For years, I've regularly gotten my oil changed (or done it myself) in my vehicles. This past week I discovered the hard way what happens when you put off getting your coolant flushed. A blown head gasket meant I had to buy a new car. Merry Christmas to you, too.

Similarly, failure to do the little maintenance things at work (changing backup tapes, daily paperwork, etc.) can result in blowups of a more career-threatening sort. Every job has those details, and you ignore them at your peril.

How many people have great ideas while brushing their teeth or do their best thinking in the shower? Handled correctly (as habits), the mundane details don't interfere with higher purposes. Handled incorrectly, they put the higher purposes hopelessly out of reach.

Re:Not so fast (1, Interesting)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337476)

Coolant flush doesn't necessarily stop a car from blowing a head gasket. A decent mechanic can resurface your head (if that's not available then you can get a replacement from a junk yard) and place a new gasket for a lot less than a new car. I've had it happen on 2 different cars and my mechanic said I have a knack for picking poorly engineered cars. He said both my cars that had this problem was enevitable since almost everyone he knows to own one of these models (first run on new car) had the same problem around the same mileage.

Sometimes you just get unlucky. BTW on my more recent blown head gasket I got a new (used) header and better engineered gasket set and have gone an additional 60k miles without any problems! My break even analysis for if it was worth it was at 24k miles, also I did it when gas was at $1.25!!! Lol, I guess GWBush did help me one way, break even came sooner! POS '95 Plymouth Neon is my daily travel car (140-210 miles a day I drive, love being self employed). My other was a 64 1/2 Mustang. Hopefully I can get a Shelby Cobra this summer!!! 450 Horses!!!

Re:Not so fast (0, Offtopic)

lheal (86013) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337561)

I glossed a lot of detail. The car (a '97 Eagle Vision) has 190Km, and needs new CV joints and struts, front and rear. The paint is beginning to go, and the "check engine" light is constantly on due to intermittent misfires (despite new plugs and wires). It gets about 25mpg. All told, the price in parts for the fixes it needs exceed its fair market value. I still own it, because with three teenagers I figure one of them will step up and do the work.

I bought an '03 VW Jetta turbodiesel, which is rated at 49mpg highway. Like you, I drive about 700 miles/week, almost all on the interstate. I feel a lot better about the fuel economy.

My first car was a '69 pony. 0 to 60 in ... well, about a block :-).

Re:Not so fast (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14338111)

I bought an '03 VW Jetta turbodiesel, which is rated at 49mpg highway.

I'm sorry, your mechanic is right about you - Jettas are notorious for weird electrical problems. It's a bit late, but most Japanese cars do well for reliability.

/owns an 89 jetta - total cost $1500

Re:Not so fast (1)

drbill28 (748405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337756)

I'm sure he doesn't mean it this way in the article. But as an introvert, these sort of ideas I don't like. It means while the project is going on I'm spending so little time recharging that it'll turn into a disaster for me. His ideas don't take into account life happens, there should always be time for some of the little things.

Department? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#14337422)

> from the massive-shuffle-of-geeks-sending-this-to-their-mot hers dept.

I'll send it ...

Procrastinators of the World, Unite! (2, Funny)

lord_nimula (839676) | more than 7 years ago | (#14337426)


--Lord Nimula

Yeah, but what the fuck is that ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#14337428)

And why would I give a damn of that procastration thing anyway ?

Uh... (1)

Sr. Pato (900333) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337471)

I was gonna post something as soon as this story showed up, but I was too busy chatting on MSN. Hm, I'd say something funny right now, but I feel like playing some Quake. Anyways, Uh... I'll think of something later.

See Also: Another Paul (4, Interesting)

dr.badass (25287) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337478)

Paul Graham's thoughts on procrastination overlap well with Paul Ford's thoughts on distractions, Followup/Distraction [] , and Are there "good" distractions? [] .

I think the way to "solve" the problem of procrastination is to let delight pull you instead of making a to-do list push you.

The most productive times in my life are the ones where I'm just doing my own thing, focused, and trying to solve some problem that I find interesting-when I'm narrowly distracted.

Same idea, different angle.

Protestant Laziness Ethic (1)

The Famous Brett Wat (12688) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337499)

Slow news day, huh? Not surprising. Well, if this sort of thing interests you, you may also like my short article on the Protestant Laziness Ethic [] .

Never put off until tomorrow... (1)

MrCreosote (34188) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337503)

that which you can put off until the day after tomorrow.

Eventually... (1)

abscissa (136568) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337504)

I am such a procrastinator... I didn't get my birthmark until I was 8...

I intend to post a more serious reply to this thread in a couple of days...

Dupe... (1)

dummyname12 (886454) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337506)

This article is a dupe. Zonk is just procrastinating posting the original.

./ters : biggest group of type-B procrastinators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337514)

am I wrong or slashdotters is one of the biggest group of type-B procrastinators ?
(well, you know : first post, polls, waiting for the next headline, moderation, karma and so on...)

there has to be some more important projects out there !

Re:./ters : biggest group of type-B procrastinator (1)

EEBaum (520514) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337656)

am I wrong or slashdotters is one of the biggest group of type-B procrastinators ? (well, you know : first post, polls, waiting for the next headline, moderation, karma and so on...)

While moderation could arguably be Type-B, I'd call that stuff Type-A.

When I see the phrase 'Getting Things Done' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337528)

...I can't help thinking of Deloris Herbig on 'Dead Like Me' [] . Makes me want to cringe.

It's like there's a whole new geek subclass that seems to get their jollies over attempting to get "five 9's" uptime for their to-do list like computer geeks used to do back when uptime was an issue of skill rather than just throwing massive amounts of cheap redundant hardware at the problem.

If the fictional Herbig is what 'GTD' looks like, then please dear FSM let me party with the pasta procrastinators.

Good news and Bad news (2, Funny)

texaport (600120) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337567)

three different types of procrastination and one type of procrastination is even good

I'm going to read about the good kind first, then get to the others real soon now.

Overcoming Procrastination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337585)

If you have realy problems with procrastination or think you might, find yourself a copy of Neil A. Fiore's Overcoming Procrastination. This book has been around since 1989 but has gone under the wire as a typical self-help book. This one, however will get you results. Self-help books are usually aweful because they give advice and methods that ignore the science of the problem. For instance, I've seen health and fitness books that give nutritional advice that any high school student should be able to refute!

In the case of this book, you're shown the scientific explanations for procrastination and the author helps you understand if you have them and why you might. You're then shown intuitive ways to get yourself around the problem. What I found to be surprising is that the reverse psychology tricks worked very well for me. I didn't know reverse psychology could work if you know you're being played :)

The ISBN is 1567315569

It's like I always say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337622)

Why put off 'till tomorrow what you can put off 'till someone else does it for you.

So... (1)

ScaryFroMan (901163) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337645)

What real work didn't get done so someone could write this article?

No WAY! (0, Redundant)

calculadoru (760076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337673)

They mean to say there is BAD procrastination????

A wise man... (2, Interesting)

DaZZl3R (703655) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337703)

I wise man once said: "Never do today what you can't put off 'til tomorrow." Half the time the things that you are procrastinating are not really that important. Hence you would have wasted time getting them done when you could have done something else.

the conclusion (3, Funny)

slpz (937929) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337718)

that maybe it's a bit ironic to be wasting time reading an article about procrastination?

Good or Bad Procrastination? You decide... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14337781)

Right now I'm about to play some Battlefield 2 Special Forces, when I should really be getting my last Christmas present finished...

Once I'm bored with that (or in aching pain from the hours of mostly stillness), I'll head off to for hot lovin #4 for today... (this will cause the pain to become much worse).

Then, after this most vigorous physical activity, I will find that I desperately need the one meal a day which I usually have... so I will ring up my local Pizza joint.

After eating Pizza to excess and drinking way too much Coke, I'll continue onto my usual 24-30 hours awake : 10 hours asleep, completely out-of-whack-with-life body clock, on to another day of gaming, squirting, eating, sleeping and getting nothing of substance done.

Unfortunately for people who could make their lives much better, sometimes technology allows us to avoid or put aside reality to enjoy some fake virtual reality, which is perhaps for some seems like a better option than real life. It certainly seems to have some strong addictive qualities.

Somehow, I've held a girlfriend for almost 10 years and I treat my cat much better than I treat myself (3 meals per day, fresh water, attention between maps, allowed to warm my lap during fragging, etc).

Steven Covey? (5, Interesting)

nanopolitan (937120) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337814)

I don't know who came up with this idea first, but I read it in Covey's
'First things first'. He suggests classifying tasks into four quadrants formed by (urgent, not urgent) and (important, not important), and asks you to get yourself more and more into the (important, not urgent) quadrant. If this requires you to say 'no' to a whole bunch of other things, why, it's all the better! To me, what Paul Graham says is quite similar "say no to other junk, make time for important stuff -- stuff that will give you the thrill of fulfillment not immediately, not tomorrow, but many days (weeks, months) later."

Now, if only I can figure out my life's mission ...

I liked the article (3, Interesting)

ilfak (935134) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337821)

While there are many controversial points in the article, I liked the following paragraph a lot:
If you want to work on big things, you seem to have to trick yourself into doing it. You have to work on small things that could grow into big things, or work on successively larger things, or split the moral load with collaborators. It's not a sign of weakness to depend on such tricks. The very best work has been done this way.
I can only confirm that these methods really work since I used them during the development of IDA Pro. You start with something small and grow it. It takes time, patience, energy, but the result is more than simple sum of small parts - the whole is bigger than its elements.

Now I'm working on decompilation (more generally binary program analysis) and hope that the same methods will work...

News for Nerds? (1)

d3cr33p (629445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337842)

And next week on Slashdot: Dr. Phil on how to be a better you!

My fault, I am sure, but I guess I was under the impression /. was techie sort of news site. Oh well, live and learn.

Re:News for Nerds? (1)

d3cr33p (629445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337851)

Oops, sorry. Just noticed the author. Since he is a techie maybe that makes the dif. I was just going on the summery.

Procrastination Can Be Good... (1)

ASCIIMan (47627) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337888)

Yes, it is very possible that procrastination will allow you to get stuff done faster. Not other stuff, but the thing you are procrastinating about. See The Effects of Moore's Law and Slacking [] for the details...

Kids.... (2, Insightful)

pedantic bore (740196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337891)

My thought after reading this article was "Either this guy has no kids (and maybe no S.O.) or else he's in for a rude awakening one day soon!"

I used to do the "code-til-you-drop, then sleep until you can do it again" thing and I was incredibly productive. Now I have kids... and I'm still productive, but my life has a lot more structure. Interrupts are not necessarily a bad thing. If you're working on something important/interesting/compelling, then it's still going to be important/interesting/whatever after you change your two-year-old's poopy diaper. And if my code is so disorganized that I can't remember what I was doing ten minutes later, well, it probably wasn't going to work anyway!

Wait Wait Wait (1)

iambudwin (788271) | more than 8 years ago | (#14337972)

it's always best in cs classes to wait until *after* the kinks of the homework have been done and caught by the fools who start early

Typical (1)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14338136)

As usual, we have a procrastinator(I'm one too, hell, we all are to an extent) attempting to justify procrastination by assigning to it positive traits. What if I avoided doing the laundry to do something great? Oh boy! Type-C procrastination baby!

What if you never do the laundry? Oh no!

Seriously, mundane tasks need to be done. Someone who repeatedly perform mundane tasks while deliberately avoiding matters of a grander scale could either be thought of as extremely dull or obsessive-compulsive. However, I have noticed that those who are neat, tidy, organized, and could be classified as "workaholics" always seem to make enough time for important stuff as anyone else(myself included). I don't think anyone who wrote a great novel or came up with a wonderful new invention put off doing something of the "useful but mundane" category to complete the task. I find that works of genius are often completed during time otherwise spent on truly useless AND mundane tasks, such as playing mediocre video games or watching bad television when there's "nothing better on right now".

There's quite a lot of idleness and boredom in everyone's life. All you have to do to accomplish something great is to figure out what it is you're going to do and then do it in the time you normally spend doing pointless, useless crap. It's quite a cop-out to claim that you're avoiding washing the dishes, cleaning the floors, doing the laundry, brushing your teeth, or performing some other essential task because you've embarked on some quest of great importance. Some stuff just has to be done, repeatedly, no matter how much you hate doing it. What do you do after you've finished eating? Wash your bowl.
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