by Jane B. Burka and Lenora M.Yuen
Da Capo Press, 1983
Review by A. P. Bober on May 14th 2005
This book reveals the following assets:
straightforward language absent of jargon, cinema-verité vignettes from lives
of workshop participants, logical organization including summary points and
typical dialogues, small-chunk behavioral suggestions for change,
social-reinforcement (support) techniques, practical checklists of situations,
motivations, excuses, and (unhelpful) styles among other tactics. A simple
index would have been a boon. As must be so with any self-help book, the
typified conditioning factors producing and suggested techniques for
transcending procrastination ("P" hereafter), reflecting the two
major parts of the book, constitute an extensive buffet from which the reader
may select the elements that apply.
The choice of this book for review
arose from the real-life reality of a family Scion ("S" hereafter).
My existential experience of his "P" in completing a course finished
a year earlier showed me which of the book's buttons "S" found in him
pushed. I present this real person's foibles at risk of disownment by my clan:
"I'm doing everything but. . . ." (p. 8); "I can't enjoy
anything." (p. 9; guilt prevents full enjoyment); "I hope no one
finds out" (p. 9; the "Stonewall-Jackson incommunicado
technique" [my term]); the final choices (of four "Do or Don't
do's," p. 10), "I can't wait any longer." and "This isn't
so bad. Why didn't I start sooner?," a realization not I alone have made
just before the Ides of April. Of the elements of the P-er's Code (p. 16) he
activates the following: I must be perfect. Everything I do should go easily
and without effort. I should have no limitations. If I do well this time, I
must always do well. IF IT'S NOT DONE RIGHT, IT'S NOT WORTH DOING AT
ALL. FOLLOWING SOMEONE ELSE'S RULES MEANS I'M GIVING IN AND I'M NOT IN CONTROL.
These last two pass on in our family by observation and inculcation. I observed
him as a child interacting with his father on opposite sides of the Battleship
game. "No. That's wrong! Follow the rules!" or something of that ilk
was the father's imposing reaction. I suggested life is a process of
"successive approximation" like "horseshoes and hand
grenades." But he overruled me, not being in accord with
"Mary's" (p. 86) response when her boss pointed out a mistake,
"Oh good. Tell me about it." Finally, "S" combines the
"all or nothing" put-off with the "thrill" of deadline
pressure and the drive for independence from an authoritarian father that
allowed the young "S" little more than the delay and deception that
passive resistance could afford, oddly combined with a "Jack-of-all-trades"
Renaissance Man (p. 110) identity.
Central for the authors is the litany of troubles "P"
produces whenever it moves from "comfortable" to
"troublesome" (p. 5), producing a clearly not exhaustive list of 28
external (interpersonal) and internal (intrapsychic) consequences that
systematic reflection would enable any of us to produce. The authors devote
chapters describing delay as a strategy of protection against anxieties around
the "five" fears of: failure, success, being controlled, becoming too
separate and also being too attached to people. The key solution is the
"un-schedule" (pp. 148-58), a chart of all your "committed"
activities of any kind from serious to silly likely to occur in the coming
week. Blocks of time are darkened for your free use as rewards for productive
behavior (rather than for vague, unrealistic "plans"). Those who
remember Werner Erhard's est recall that you cannot "try" to
do something; you do it or don't. (I used to tell my social-science students
that "trying" is tantamount to a statement that you are not
going to do "it.") The authors propose many other practical
aids, including the recognition of stress and techniques for its reduction.
By now it has become clear that
this book offers a wide ranging analysis of what leads up to and what leads out
of the learned habit of procrastination. And it presents its cogent case in a
form that will easily reach general audiences with effect.
© 2005 A. P. Bober
A. P. Bober has studied a
psychology spanning Skinner and a humanistic-clinical view based on existential
phenomenology and had been a PhD candidate in a substantive yet philosophic
European-based sociology including the "critical" view. His
teaching augmented courses in group theory/"small-group developmental
dynamics" (lab) while introducing "sociology of knowledge" and
"issues in biological anthropology," with publications in the first
two fields. Currently he is writing a book on mystical experience as
metaphorically tied to neurophysiology.