I've just been rereading Thomas H. Benton's piece in the Chronicle (Oct. 14, 2005) on Productive Procrastination.
He makes the point that you can get a lot done on other useful tasks when you're procrastinating. I've been putting this tenet to good use. While preparing for a talk (November 17) to the dissertation group at Brown, I've written articles on other subjects, written my newsletter, visited my son at college, chatted with my daughter who's in graduate school, and picked up autumn leaves.
Benton offers reassuring advice for those who feel excessively guilty about their procrastinating ways:
But fret not. The best advice I ever heard is that life is what we do when we are avoiding something else. There are already too many books chasing too few readers, and, perhaps, the best thing for most us to do is take some time to play with our kids, talk with our students and colleagues, cultivate our gardens, and live well. Inevitably, our best books will be the ones we never finish.
What I've noticed is that the talk that I should have been diligently working on is getting prepared almost on its own. I really have so much to say it's just a matter of getting my priorities straight; thinking about what I most want to emphasize in this short period of time. Somehow everything I've been working on as I procrastinate has seemed incredibly related to this talk. I think that if I had sat down every day and tried to work on it for 8 hours a day I would have gotten less accomplished. And it wouldn't have been as fun!