Lighthearted, but actually dispensing real and good advice on time management, Perry lays out a method for getting stuff done while procrastinating (“structured procrastination”). For $1.95, a real bargain and not bloated in the way an actual self-improvement book, presumably written by a non-academic philosopher, would be. There’s some great insights here. E.g., a short to-do list is a bad idea for the procrastinator; with so few options to put off, the procrastinator ends up doing nothing. But with a thick and detailed to do list, the procrastinator has the option of putting off the first few items in order to accomplish other items on the list.
Self-improvement books about time management are one of my guilty pleasures. I also have a background (long ago) in academic philosophy. Probably not a surprise, then, that I was really tickled by Perry's short book. This is a great starter on the topic and not much of a time commitment.
Some quick thoughts about other treatises on this topic:
*Tony Robbin’s Awaken the Inner Giant. Clearly, if you’re going to read this, you’ll need to hide that fact from your friends and family and strangers on the bus. This book ought to be made with a fake War and Peace cover. While you keep telling yourself that you’re only reading it ironically, you’ll quietly be admitting that there’s fantastic advice. Robbins is probably the best on techniques to transform the procrastinator’s proclivity for avoiding the top of the to-do list (whereas Perry simply concedes that procrastination may be a fact of your nature). Having said that, I’m not admitting I’ve ever read any Tony Robbins.
*David Allen’s Getting Things Done. It’s probably the best with an ultra-detailed information, task, and time-management system. Unlike Perry, Allen is a bit soup-nazi-esque.
*Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, etc etc. This book often appears on Amazon or Audible as recommended if you like David Allen. It’s really junk. Short little essays and, for the bigger names, Q and As, that all are little more than advertisements for other books, blogs, and the like.
*How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day. Written like a hundred years ago, but you wouldn’t realize that from just reading it. And you can read it in an hour.
*Josh Kaufman’s the First Twenty Hours. Kaufman and Perry, though from different angles, show you how the desire for perfection can lead to procrastination. If you want your output to be perfect, it can paralyze you from ever starting the project. But Kaufman’s thesis is that it only takes 10 – 20 hours of deliberate practice to become enjoyably competent at a new skill. By the way, I really do not recommend Kaufman’s book.
*The Spirit of Kaizen. Perry references this one. I don’t recommend it because its 180 pages that repeat the same core idea. But, that core idea is helpful – small changes can have huge effects; make the smallest possible change that will improve a process. Then repeat.
The book begins with a quote that says “you can’t do much carpentry with bare hands and you can’t do much thinking with your bare brain.” The first chapter catalogues some “tools” of philosophy designed to help thinking such as reductio ad absurdum, Occam’s Razor, and other useful ones that Dennett and his colleagues have invented more recently. These tools may have originated with philosophers, but they have application outside the world of philosophy and are generally helpful “tools” for critical thinking.
But after this short introduction, Dennett primarily focuses on debates native to academic philosophy. He does so using “intuition pumps,” i.e., thought experiments. Just a fair warning: these are tools for thinking about specific puzzles in academic philosophy. Unlike a concept such as reductio ad absurdum, these intuition pumps really aren’t transportable outside of the specific philosophical puzzles they are designed to explore. So, the book’s title, “Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking,” should have a subtitle: “…about Certain Problems in Academic Philosophy.”
Topics explored include: meaning, evolution, the nature of consciousness/materialism (including extensive discussion of the Chinese room and Mary in the black and white room); and free will. Dennett seems to presume some familiarity with these topics. And, it’s hard to imagine that a reader would really enjoy the discussion without some prior interest or background. As an undergraduate and graduate student (years ago), I read many of the papers Dennett discusses.
This is dense and challenging listening, but well worth the reward -- if it's your thing. I usually have a few audible books going at one time, and I found myself choosing to listen to this one over the others. I did make a conscious effort to avoid listening when distracted or tired because it is more demanding than other audiobooks.
In the wrong hands, I fear this narration could have been trouble, but I cannot say enough good things about this heroic narrator, Jeff Crawford. His voice crackles with intelligence, clarity, and playfulness too. While a lot of that is Dennett shining through, Crawford must share the credit. This is dense stuff, but Crawford never sounds weighted down. When I finished this book, the first thing I did was to look up the other books Crawford has narrated. I'm sad to see he has only narrated a handful of others and nothing else like this.
My brother once said, "Did you ever notice how everything is more interesting when you have homework looming? Even bad TV?" Well this short book discusses why that is. It will get you thinking about your procrastinating and when you are likely to do it.
You know better. Still you persist.
I found this discussion of putting-things-off humorous, honest and real. It does not make lists of helpful tools so you can cure your bad habit. Instead the author just assumes that you procrastinate and will continue to do so. And the discussion goes from there. For some reason that works for changing my habits more than those hokey "you should" books. This book is as long as a movie. Once started, I didn't procrastinate. I listened to the entire book in one evening. It was fun and thought provoking and I think helpful.