Structured Distraction

John Perry has this well-known amusing essay called Structured Procrastination in which he half-seriously advocates getting things done by using the things one needs to do as procrastination in lieu of the things one more urgently needs to do. It’s quite a lot of fun.

But I’d like to offer him a supplemental notion, Structured Distraction. Structured Distraction is achieved by engaging in distracting activities rather than real work, but choosing distractions that a) have built-in wait time, and b) make it impossible to do anything else, other than work, during that wait time. For those who work well on planes (that is, not me) travel requiring plane flight is possibly the purest form of structured distraction, as one is forced to sit around for hours on end with nothing to do except turn to the missing work.

I stumbled onto this world-changing idea today, after getting nothing done all day by way of progress on what I’ve taken to calling “the doomed paper.”* Giving in, I wandered off to an evening blitz chess group (you know the type, old guys that whop your ass and seem to have nothing else going on) that tends to gather on Thursday night at a coffeeshop. (I basically spend my whole life in coffeeshops for one reason or another, it seems.) There was only one board and five people, with little good conversation in between games. I brought a notebook. The waiting time between my ass-kickings (receiving, in the vast majority of cases, not delivering) was spent making part of the argument in the doomed paper make sense. Actual progress was made.

(Now all I must do is transform my scrawl into a useful form, and then I may go to sleep.)

In totally unrelated news, there seems to exist a paper by an actual good philosopher called Epistemic Viciousness in the Martial Arts. What an odd choice of topic.

* Though really it ought to be called “doomed paper number” followed by something with lots of digits. Or, for ease of accounting, “one of the doomed papers.” Or, equivalently, “one of the papers.”


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