Good and Bad Procrastination (Part 1 of 2) Tue, Feb 21, 2017
I recently came across this essay by Paul Graham that I thought was a fascinating perspective on procrastination and how some forms of procrastination can actually be a good thing and ultimately help you reach higher aspirations.
He makes an interesting point that most people write about how to cure procrastination but in fact, it’s impossible to do as there is an infinite amount of things you could be doing. No matter what you work on, you’re not working on everything else. This leads to the question of not how to avoid procrastination but how to procrastinate well.
He outlines three types of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. The author argues that the last option is good procrastination.
His example of the type-C procrastinator is the “absent-minded professor” who forgets to shave, or eat, or even look where he’s going while he’s thinking about some interesting question. The type-C procrastinators put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff. Small stuff is essentially anything that might be called an errand or a temporarily inconsequential task like doing your laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning the house (I’m a bit of a neat freak so I struggle with putting this one off), mowing the lawn, etc.
Despite potentially annoying the people who want you to do the errands, the reason it may pay off is that real work needs two things errands don’t: long stretches of time and the right mood. If you suddenly get inspired by a project or big idea, it can be a net win to disregard everything you were supposed to do for the next couple days to work on it. Those errands may ultimately take more time when you finally get around to them but if you accomplish a lot during those few days, you will net more productivity in the end.