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Good and Bad Procrastination 158

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the massive-shuffle-of-geeks-sending-this-to-their-mothers dept.
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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Good and Bad Procrastination

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  • by Kickboy12 (913888) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @06:57PM (#14337253) Homepage
    Procrastination is like masturbation; you're only fucking yourself.
    • Re:Has to be said... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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.
    • by Ruff_ilb (769396) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:44PM (#14337393) Homepage
      And yet, they both feel so good.
    • Re:Has to be said... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hackstraw (262471) * on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:52PM (#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... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ucklak (755284) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @08:46PM (#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... (Score:5, Informative)

          by hackstraw (262471) * on Sunday December 25, 2005 @09:38PM (#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... (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            How do you estimate your taxes, and what do you do with your money until they ask for it?

            The short answer for you is: see an accountant. I'm not trying to be snide or rude, but.... You seriously have no understanding of your financial situation and the taxes you should / should not be paying. The accountant will probably seem expensive to you -- he's going to set you back somewhere between $100 and $250 for a session. Fortunately your situation sounds relatively simple (ie: you're not helping to manage t

          • How does that happen? Care to share details?
          • Well, one thing the whole USA has been procrastinating about for decades is fixing the tax system. [fairtax.org]

            -jcr
        • How did you make your mortgage tax deductable? A shell company?
    • 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."
    • by coolmadsi (823103) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @09:06PM (#14337610) Homepage Journal
      Isn't that Procrastibation?
  • by ForumTroll (900233) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @06:58PM (#14337261)
    I'll read it later.
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Sunday December 25, 2005 @06:59PM (#14337265) Journal

    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".

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:28PM (#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.
      • 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

        • 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
          • Now if I just knew how to rename mp3 filenames and run a program or script that would update my iTunes database with the adjusted filename. Yes I prefer to not let iTunes organize my files because I have a non-iPod mp3 player and the files are more useful in folders based on their genre.
          • Thanks, musicbrainz sounds like just what I need...and you're right about the thank you cards.
            • The thank you cards is more from a guys perspective, so that may mean prioritize. Send to your buddies last. Not to mention they'd find it funny to get one a year later, your wife's friends won't (some sexual prejudice going on here, but...)
      • 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 s
    • by khasim (1285)
      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, procrast
      • by Jeremi (14640) on Monday December 26, 2005 @03:56AM (#14338757) Homepage
        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


        How to handle people like that: write each task you are planning to do on a separate piece of paper. Stack the papers on your desk in the order that you plan to do them, with the next task on top and the last task on the bottom. When ADD-man comes in to tell you about the big new thing, tell him to write it down on a slip of paper and insert it into the proper position on the stack. Tell him that when you finish your current task, you will take the next slip of paper from the top of the stack and do what it says, and repeat until the stack is empty.


        This way he can come with as many bright ideas as he wants without interrupting your work, and he will be forced to prioritize the new tasks relative to the existing tasks, instead of expecting you to somehow magically complete them all first.

    • by g2devi (898503) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:43PM (#14337387)
      It's sounds like you're basically using a variation of the old Important/Urgent prioritization:
      https://studentloan.citibank.com/s/faaonln/resourc es/first.asp [citibank.com]
      http://www.brefigroup.co.uk/acrobat/quadrnts.pdf [brefigroup.co.uk]

      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
      • What is urgent and not important? Give me some examples because I can't think of any.
        • The idea is to look to the long term. So something may be urgent right now but ultimately irrelevant to your long term goal.

          The one cited often is telephone or email. If you are working on something important, or talking to someone about something important and the phone rings. Now a ringing phone is very urgent so a lot of people tend to answer the phone and interrupt their important work for it. In a lot of cases, the phone is totally irrelevant. So it's far better to ignore the phone and concentrate o

    • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 25, 2005 @06:59PM (#14337266)
    I meant to get first post
    • You know nothing. This IS the first post.
    • Dude, I feel for you. I was totally gonna write an article about procratination, but then my electricity got turned off cause I didn't pay my bill. And even after that, by the time my electricity was back on, my internet access was down cause my phone bill was overdue!! But knowing me, I never would have got around to even posting my article to slashdot cause I procrastinate. The worst thing about procrastination is, even if you know you have it, you never get around to doing anything about it!!!!
  • oh damn (Score:3, Funny)

    by jjeffries (17675) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:00PM (#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...

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by WTBF (893340) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:03PM (#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.
    • 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.
  • by wahgnube (557787) <slashtrash@wahgnube.org> on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:06PM (#14337288) Homepage Journal
    This is a far more eloquent and humorous piece [stanford.edu] on the topic.
    • 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 ti
  • by Polarism (736984) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:07PM (#14337292)
    You know it'll be there.
  • by Chaffar (670874) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:07PM (#14337294)
    I'm not a lazy bum... I'm a type-C procrastinator you insensitive clod!
  • by shadowbearer (554144) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:12PM (#14337308) Homepage Journal
    What a novel concept! No, really...

    SB
  • zerg (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Omlette (124579) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:14PM (#14337317) Homepage
    The article links to Hamming's "You and Your Research [paulgraham.com]". 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?
    • by dodobh (65811)
      It depends on your work. If the work involves lots of concentration for long bursts of time (creative implementation work), then closed doors are better. If you work on short interrupt cycles like a typical manager has to (creative work consisting of generating ideas, but not implementations), then the open door policy allows for more work done.

      The article you referenced speaks about open doors allowing information to pass in. We call it the Internet around here.
  • 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 tim

  • Damn! (Score:2, Funny)

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

  • I use it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) * on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:41PM (#14337385) Journal
    I procrastinate to develop stress. I use the stress as motivation. It's called eustress (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Selye [wikipedia.org]). 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 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by g0_p (613849)
      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 construct
      • "But it means that you have wasted the 90% of the time doing nothing."

        "a lot more fun" =! "nothing"

        In fact, by procrastinating one thing in this manner, I have time to do another thing, plus have time to myself.
    • 90% of everything is done in 10% of the time alloted. Why not just go ahead and accept it?

      Because I've never heard it, nor do I believe it is true.

      I firmly believe in the 90/10, 80/20, 99/1, 99.9/0.1 rules, but those are about quantities, not about time.

      Meetings last as long as they are alloted for. Statistical anomalies are sometimes longer, even more rarely shorter. Almost every time deadline is met within +- 5% of the time of reinforcement, usually skewed slightly on the longer timeframe, rarely before
      • Now 90% of the work is done by 10% of the people, I'll believe and accept that.

        That was reversed.

        10% of the people make 90% of the people do the work.

        Sorry, its late.


      • Meetings last as long as they are alloted for.

        This is one of my personal bugbears. I will set a time for a meeting indicating the maximum time that I expect it to possibly run for, and I am never afraid of adjourning a meeting early if the meeting requirements have been met - even if it's not me running the meeting!

        -- Pete.

    • This is where tools like project management, to do lists and calendars are helpful for me. If everything is done in 10% of the alloted time, then you're alloting far too much time to a task -- probably because you're used to procrastinating, and therefore spending too much time over a task.

      I agree 100% that we don't have to be productive all the time, and that it's good to be lazy (see "The Importance of Living", by Lin Yutang, on this topic and related ones). But, if we take care not to mix our ideas o

  • I was going to submit this article, but I had other important beer things to do...
  • Time management... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ruff_ilb (769396) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:51PM (#14337412) Homepage
    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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lheal (86013) <lheal1999@yahoo . c om> on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:56PM (#14337418) Journal
    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 (Score:2, Interesting)

      by BoomerSooner (308737)
      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 proble
      • Re:Not so fast (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by lheal (86013)
        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
        • 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

    • 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.
  • Tomorrow.

    --Lord Nimula
  • 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.
  • by dr.badass (25287) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @08:22PM (#14337478) Homepage
    Paul Graham's thoughts on procrastination overlap well with Paul Ford's thoughts on distractions, Followup/Distraction [ftrain.com], and Are there "good" distractions? [43folders.com].

    Graham:
    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.

    Ford:
    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.
  • 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 [nutters.org] .
  • that which you can put off until the day after tomorrow.
  • 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...
  • This article is a dupe. Zonk is just procrastinating posting the original.
  • 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.

  • What real work didn't get done so someone could write this article?
  • A wise man... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DaZZl3R (703655)
    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.
  • by slpz (937929) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @09:44PM (#14337718)
    that maybe it's a bit ironic to be wasting time reading an article about procrastination?
  • Steven Covey? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nanopolitan (937120) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @10:21PM (#14337814) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ilfak (935134) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @10:24PM (#14337821) Homepage
    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...

  • 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 [gil-barad.net] for the details...
  • Kids.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pedantic bore (740196) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @10:46PM (#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!

    • If anything, having a SO makes you cherish the time you're not doing stupid chores even more and makes you more productive because you don't have much time to do them.
  • Let me point out that this quote:

    But the trouble with big problems can't be just that they promise no immediate reward and might cause you to waste a lot of time. If that were all, they'd be no worse than going to visit your in-laws. There's more to it than that. Big problems are terrifying. There's an almost physical pain in facing them. It's like having a vacuum cleaner hooked up to your imagination. All your initial ideas get sucked out immediately, and you don't have any more, and yet the vacuum cleaner
  • zerg (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord Omlette (124579) on Monday December 26, 2005 @01:14AM (#14338337) Homepage
    Man, I need to post to this story again, because it pisses me off so much. If I don't shave, then eventually the fuzz on my face won't come out w/out massive damage to your razor. If I don't shower, then I smell terrible. If I don't clean the sink/kitchen or take out the garbage, then I wind up w/ roaches. If I don't vacuum or dust, then dust and dirt and dander will just pile up and I'll have an asthma attack. Man, fuck Paul Graham, because this essay was like one long explanation about why I'll never amount to anything. What the hell?
    • Just a comment on the shaving problem, The solution to this is in the type of razor you use. most modern razors use two or more blades with a small gap between them single blade razors also keep the same small gap.
      This design is prone to clogging if the whiskers are much more than 24 hours growth.

      The solution is the old fashioned safty razor. This has a double edged blade the design of these razors uses a castleated edge with the blade sandwidged between two curved plates

      you don't get the clogging effect i
  • say procrastinating for a few decades by not learning any other language other than LISP is a good good form of procrastination?
  • by Dr. Mu (603661) on Monday December 26, 2005 @02:27AM (#14338535)
    I've always considered procrastination to be a virtue. If you start too soon on a project/job/chore, you'll likely spend way too much time finishing it. Waiting until the last minute forces you to strip the dreaded work to its essentials and eliminate the fluff. Plus, you minimize the opportunity for time-sucking avoidance behavior (which the author incorrectly labels as "type B procrastination").
  • If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done.
  • "Hard work often pays off after time,
      but laziness always pays off now."
    http://www.despair.com/proc24x30pri.html [despair.com]
  • Well, I actually read Paul Grahms article...the whole thing. I think his points are spot on, but I think he is repackaging time management by calling it "good procrastination". At least time management as defined by Alan Lakien, one of the founders of time management (ISBN: 0451167724). Grahm describes "good procrastination" as putting off small, low reward tasks to do important big tasks. That concept is as old as the hills in time management where it is called "setting priorities". It isn't a revela
  • I actually read Graham's article . In a nutshell, I agree with Graham.

    He isn't saying anything time management authors have not been saying for decades.

    Instead of calling it "setting priorities" he renames it "good procrastination".

    The big secret still left unanswered and what everyone wants to know is how to get over "bad procrastination", no matter how you decide to rename it.

    I heard a comment recently that struck me as being insightful. That people procrastinate out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of s
  • I almost yelled "YES!" out loud when Graham theorized that startups got more done in the same amount of time for lack of interruptions.

    I have worked for companies that just did not get ( or care ) that doing programming is a bit like doing math homework. It requires sustained attention and being allowed to sink into the problem. Being interrupted and forced to switch tasks loses that valuable momentum.

    It sucks for productivity and quality and it also stresses the person trying to do the work.

    On the other

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