Bob Goldman

If you want to know what's doing in the world of business, it's not doing anything.

That's right! Today's hot topic is procrastination, and not from the point of view of trying to conquer it. The new intelligence on procrastination is all about how to celebrate it.

According to John Tierney of The New York Times, scientists who have been studying the condition we deride as "foot dragging" or "dawdling" are now seeing the benefits of what they call "structured procrastination" (John Perry of Stanford), or "productive procrastination" (Piers Steel of the University of Calgary).

The basic idea is to leverage the time you spend procrastinating to actually get some serious work done. And if you find yourself procrastinating over your ability to procrastinate, the least you can do is appreciate the positive benefits of procrastination.

This is also the message in The Procrastination Boost: Doing Less to Get More Done, an article written by Jenna Goudreau on Forbes.com.

So, why should you not be put off by your tendency to put off your work? For one thing, your failure to get started may be a clue to the fact that the work in question really shouldn't be started. Ever. Or at least not by you. As Goudreau writes, "Consider why you are avoiding the task like the plague. Is it out of alignment with your skills, personal goals or the goals of the company? Do you have the tools to tackle it properly? Is it just a time-suck with limited pay-off?"

Putting aside the possibility that if you are in the medical profession, the task you are avoiding like the plague may indeed be the plague, in which case may I sincerely suggest that you stop lollygagging and get on with it, the argument makes sense.

Anything less critical than a worldwide outbreak of Ebola could warrant a careful and lengthy analysis. For example, since you have few skills and no goals, there is almost no assignment that will not be "out of alignment" with you. Except, maybe, planning the department's next outing to the Hotsy-Totsy Club.

Your procrastination can also be a major benefit to your co-workers. The emails you don't answer proposing projects you have no interest in doing will, eventually, be passed on to someone less picky and more ambitious. If this happens once or twice you can generally count on being considered unresponsive, which is a lot better than actually trying to do the work and showing management you are incompetent.


Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

Be the first to read Bob Goldman's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.