If you’re the type who stalls, delays, drags your feet or becomes paralyzed at the thought of turning in sub-standard work and, consequently, has been shamed into being called a procrastinator, take heart. You’ve been redeemed. John Perry, in his book, The Art of Procrastination, A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing has cast a positive light on the subject. Perry promotes the theory that procrastinators actually accomplish many tasks and has subtitled the book: Or, Getting Things Done by Putting Them Off.
This is a book which should appeal to all of us within the legal profession. Our calling is comprised of proficient procrastinators. This isn’t to say that we’re lazy; rather we’re perfectionists and strategists who are adept at juggling shifting priorities. Litigators are the prime example. A litigator will diligently prepare a case for trial, yet simultaneously plan a thoughtful settlement agreement. Sometimes this works and at other times it leads to late hours, additional staff and much coffee consumption. In an environment where litigators find themselves facing each on a regular basis, preparation becomes a well-calculated game of chicken.
Trial preparation aside, our profession is also comprised of individuals who are such perfectionists that they are reluctant to start any project, especially a project with a “fuzzy” deadline because they don’t want to start anything that doesn’t represent their best efforts. As we fret, worry and deny “that” project, we set about accomplishing many other projects, most which have firm deadlines, are routine but necessary, or which don’t so intimidate us that we become incapacitated. Perry explains how avoiding the big “to do” task encourages us, through avoidance, to accomplish countless other tasks. In fact, procrastination is both an art and a science.
I first heard about The Art of Procrastination when I attended a library conference in early 2012. I was captivated as the speaker discussed Perry’s book. As he ticked off a litany of topics (i.e., making lists, structured procrastination, perfectionism, etc.), I felt as if he was reading my mind. I could barely wait to order Perry’s book and had it rushed to me. I dove right into it and managed to work into many conversations that I was reading this book and that I would recommend it to anyone. I went to the CSL librarian who coordinates this blog and told her that I wanted to write about this book and how so many could identify with the subject.
As I said, that was over two years ago and I am still on page 32 of a 92 page book. My librarian colleague has stopped asking me when I will have the procrastination article finished and has, instead, praised me for the other blog articles I’ve written, the research guides I’ve created and the other collaborations we have completed. Never-the-less, I can only dodge my commitments for so long. Besides, I want others who may share the shame of procrastination to understand that it is no longer something of which to be embarrassed.
I encourage you to read the book. But don’t expect me to ask if you have read it. Sorry. I’ve already heard it: ”I meant to, but I haven’t gotten around to it.”