I’ll Get Right On That … In a Minute

Shea Anderson / August 17, 2012

By Heidi Happonen

As PR professionals, we appreciate the ability to turn a handicap into an attribute. We talk a great deal about this when we look at messaging, especially around crisis communications.

Which is why an essay in the Wall Street Journal this week challenging our ideas about procrastination is so interesting.

Procrastination has gotten a bad rap. People liken procrastination to being lazy, disorganized, unfocused and inconsiderate.

According to the essay’s author, Dr. John Perry of Stanford University, the opposite may be true. In fact, we may be best served to ignore the advice of well-meaning people who aim to help us procrastinators when they say: “Keep your commitments to a minimum, so you won’t be distracted.”

But Perry writes that such advice may well be the best recipe for creating “a couch potato, not an effective human being.”

Most procrastinators, Dr. Perry noted, are what he calls “structured procrastinators.”

“This means that although they may be putting off something deemed important, their way of not doing the important thing is to do something else.”

Procrastinators are often creative thinkers with diverse interests. In other words, the good that comes out of a procrastinator’s approach by way of the new information and ideas that emerge may exceed the bad that results in frustrating those non-procrastinators amongst us (you know, the people who get their taxes done in January).

We can be selective about procrastination. The art of procrastination is determining which items to tackle when. There is also an art to managing the people around us and their expectations for when they may receive whatever it is they expect from us.

The problem of the procrastinator is really a PR problem. After all, one man’s procrastination is just another man’s selective prioritization.

So, to my high school Spanish teacher, the reason I never managed to learn the subjunctive tense had nothing to do with procrastination…it was just because I had to selectively prioritize my many commitments. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get that message to you, señora. But I’m sure you understand.