Last week temperatures rose to the nineties. Wildfire smoke from northern Quebec made outdoor air unsafe to breathe. My car was in the shop. Our phones were on the fritz. It would be a good week to stay in and clean. Not that I wanted to. Housework wasn’t mandatory, but it beat composing a sensitive email that would be difficult to write. I cleared out a filing cabinet of obsolete papers and made a start on sweeping the garage.
I’m puzzled when people list procrastination among their character defects. So long as a paper or project is finished by its due date, who cares whether it was completed at the last minute or well in advance? True, some obligations feel increasingly heavy the longer I delay. On the other hand, a few grow clearer or melt away of their own accord. Too bad I can’t tell in advance which is which.
Perhaps the best thing about putting off the dreaded email was that it motivated me to other useful tasks for the purpose of avoidance. I wrote a few years ago about Stanford philosopher John Perry’s procrastination strategy. The top-priority activity will get done when it must, and meanwhile several lower-priority jobs get done that would never have happened otherwise.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.