The Day of Virtuous Procrastination

I am fixing my bed post. There’s an array of tools on my bed: a screwdriver, two kinds of hammer, I think there’s something called a wedge lardener. Until eight minutes ago, I was not aware that I owned some of these tools. There’s a thing that looks like it should be used to cause discomfort in a proctologist’s office. For all I know, it is.

After fixing the post (without using any of the tools), I head into the kitchen and fidget. Nothing bemoans imminent attention, so I wander into my living room, roll up a towel, and place it on the floor. I take a few deep breaths and then remember that I can’t even remember the last time I cleaned my oven. I make a beeline for the appliance in question and open it. Sure enough, it looks like an oven that hasn’t been cleaned in a long time, and what kind of domestic manager would I be if I just left it black and sooty? What if I need to use it tonight?

After finding the oven cleaner (which I didn’t know I had) in the back of a closet I haven’t been inside in three years, I begin the process of cleaning the oven. I’ve just barely embarked upon this task when I remember that I don’t really know how to clean an oven. I suppose that I know the theory behind it (soap plus water on a rag equals cleaner stuff) but there have got to be some handy tips out there on the Internet.

After watching four tutorials on cleaning ovens on Youtube, I change into gym shorts. I clean the oven for a half an hour, dispose of the now ruined towels, and bring out the trash. Then I come back up and look at the list of exercises I have to do today. Three 7 minute sessions of various exercises that I have been tweaking for two years or so. I run my finger down the list and take the stop watch from my bookshelf.

But first, tomorrow’s lesson needs to be planned! What was I thinking!? I break out the book and realize with disappointment that I planned it on Friday afternoon. What a weenie. I go on the prowl; something must need to be planned, cleaned, fixed, or written.

Nothing needs to be done more urgently than when I am supposed to work out. Projects and ideas that have been on the back burner for a week take on an extreme urgency. I wash 80% of the dishes in my kitchen sink while wearing gym shorts. The benefit of this tendency is that things get done: my flat is clean, things get fixed, lessons get planned, and books get written. But often my productivity is due to the fact that I am avoiding doing something else.

Professor Eric Hayot calls this kind of procrastination “virtuous procrastination.” The idea is that procrastination doesn’t always take the form of lounging in front of the TV or scrolling through Facebook. Sometimes it’s the accomplishment of very reasonable and necessary tasks that we can definitely rationalize. Writing reports for work is certainly a reasonable (and virtuous) excuse for not getting to your unfinished short story, spending the day on Facebook – not so much.

Perhaps Professor Hayot would have a good laugh at a guy writing a novel in order to avoid doing some crunches and pushups. I finally decide to get to the workout, except first I realize that his whole phenomenon is a great idea for a blog post, so I sit down to write. 599 words later, here I am in my gym shorts writing meta humor.

I’m going to do my work out now. Once I make that decision I leap on it like a puma.

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