John Perry’s insights and laugh-out-loud humor bring to mind Thurber, Wodehouse, and Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit. This charming and accessible audio educates, entertains, and illuminates a universal subject. Procrastinators will be relieved to learn that you can actually accomplish quite a lot while procrastinating. In fact, the book itself is the result of Perry avoiding grading papers, refereeing academic proposals, and reviewing dissertation drafts. It also has a practical side, offering up advice that listeners can put to use. Who knew that placing "Learn Chinese" at the top of your to-do list would inspire you to get the less monumental tasks below it done? Witty, wise, and beautifully written, The Art of Procrastination will make the perfect gift for the untold number of lollygaggers out there.
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I think many of us are sometimes either encouraged to purchase or dissuaded from reading a book by a publisher’s summary. I know that I can be influenced by them. Like most things in life we are trying to decide about, we search for support of our position to do something that we are leaning toward such as purchasing a book. We use these summaries as well as the reviews of others to give us that little extra nudge to hit that “Add to Cart” button. In deciding to purchase The Art of Procrastination..., I believe that I was totally misled by the summary and in disagreement with most of the reviewers. This book was one of the smallest wastes of time I can imagine.
The book was one of the smallest wastes of time only because it was so short. I finished it in one round trip drive to and from a work assignment. Thank goodness I didn’t waste that time doing something that required my full attention... or... maybe I did. There’s continuing debate about whether we can safely multitask while driving. Though the book certainly was not so profound as to draw my attention away from the road. It was not so laugh-out-loud funny as to cause my eyes to tear up and obstruct my vision of the road. It was not so wise as to cause me to ponder and plumb its depths and unconsciously and dangerously change lanes. Not once did I think of Thurber, Wodehouse, or Harry Frankfurt’s *On Bullshit* though there was plenty of dung to conjure those thoughts and be analogous to the contents of this book along the country roads of my drive. The book was not for me at all insightful, charming or witty. It did not entertain, educate or illuminate.
I can only conclude that the author is, as he claims to be, the consummate procrastinator: Anything else the author might have had to do and that he put off doing, had to be more important than writing this book. If you are looking to procrastinate, justify and avoid doing something else more important then read or listen to this book. But I can promise you that almost anything else that you do instead will be more rewarding. If your wish is to discontinue your procrastinating, you will find no insights here: avoid it.
- Robert "Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books."
Great read for a time-management nerd like me.
Lighthearted, but actually dispensing real and good advice on time management, Perry lays out a method for getting stuff done while procrastinating (“structured procrastination”). For $1.95, a real bargain and not bloated in the way an actual self-improvement book, presumably written by a non-academic philosopher, would be. There’s some great insights here. E.g., a short to-do list is a bad idea for the procrastinator; with so few options to put off, the procrastinator ends up doing nothing. But with a thick and detailed to do list, the procrastinator has the option of putting off the first few items in order to accomplish other items on the list.
Self-improvement books about time management are one of my guilty pleasures. I also have a background (long ago) in academic philosophy. Probably not a surprise, then, that I was really tickled by Perry's short book. This is a great starter on the topic and not much of a time commitment.
Some quick thoughts about other treatises on this topic:
*Tony Robbin’s Awaken the Inner Giant. Clearly, if you’re going to read this, you’ll need to hide that fact from your friends and family and strangers on the bus. This book ought to be made with a fake War and Peace cover. While you keep telling yourself that you’re only reading it ironically, you’ll quietly be admitting that there’s fantastic advice. Robbins is probably the best on techniques to transform the procrastinator’s proclivity for avoiding the top of the to-do list (whereas Perry simply concedes that procrastination may be a fact of your nature). Having said that, I’m not admitting I’ve ever read any Tony Robbins.
*David Allen’s Getting Things Done. It’s probably the best with an ultra-detailed information, task, and time-management system. Unlike Perry, Allen is a bit soup-nazi-esque.
*Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, etc etc. This book often appears on Amazon or Audible as recommended if you like David Allen. It’s really junk. Short little essays and, for the bigger names, Q and As, that all are little more than advertisements for other books, blogs, and the like.
*How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day. Written like a hundred years ago, but you wouldn’t realize that from just reading it. And you can read it in an hour.
*Josh Kaufman’s the First Twenty Hours. Kaufman and Perry, though from different angles, show you how the desire for perfection can lead to procrastination. If you want your output to be perfect, it can paralyze you from ever starting the project. But Kaufman’s thesis is that it only takes 10 – 20 hours of deliberate practice to become enjoyably competent at a new skill. By the way, I really do not recommend Kaufman’s book.
*The Spirit of Kaizen. Perry references this one. I don’t recommend it because its 180 pages that repeat the same core idea. But, that core idea is helpful – small changes can have huge effects; make the smallest possible change that will improve a process. Then repeat.