There are people in this world who, upon determining that they have a job to do, go ahead and do it. One of my most earnest regrets in life is that I am not one of those people; my method of doing things has degenerated to the point where even my displacement activities have displacement activities of their own.
One solution would of course be for me to clean up my act, stop mucking about and go and do whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing and be done with it. This rarely works. The alternative (other than just sit and hope for the elves to come around) is a system known to many of my kind. We usually evolve it to some degree on our own, but professor John Perry of Stanford University has given it the proper treatment and called it “Structured Procrastination”. Briefly: if one needs to do something and doesn’t want to, one needs another thing, ideally more important and urgent, that one wants to do even less. That will drive him or her to do the first thing as a means of procrastination. Such a stack of tasks gets done, but not from the most important to the least, but more or less the other way around. Simple and, in its own way, effective. The trick of course is to have a looming deadline (and they have to be real, since fooling oneself in these matters never works) that will not, when you inevitably miss it, cause you to lose your job, spouse, limbs, or excessive amounts of money. A tenured university professor is ideally positioned to maintain such setups without doing himself too much harm, but unfortunately for the rest of us it is often somewhat more difficult.
What I have in mind is the logical development of this system, which I shall tentatively call Circular Procrastination. In this method, one carefully positions one’s commitments in such a way that each task gives the practitioner the motivation to do a different task, but instead of stacking them one under the other in order of importance and urgency, have them arranged in a circle so that one moves – fully charged with motivation – from one task to the other, accomplishing them all eventually and fitting new ones in their slots as they appear. Initial calculations show me that although two tasks (roughly equivalent in importanceXurgency) are the logical minimum, three or four tasks give a much more stable configuration. The system begins to destabilise again somewhere around seven tasks, so that’s apporahing the outer limit.
This setup would require some fine-tuning of tasks and timetables but I think that with the proper calibrations I can have this up and running by…well….say three weeks. A month tops. Any engineering tips would be helpful.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a report to avoid writing.
Workplace tip #47 – for managers:
Organise a company-wide computer solitaire competition. Give out prizes to the top three places. Then fire them.