Have you ever considered the possibility that there could be benefits to procrastination? Procrastination is generally thought of as a negative – that behavior that keeps intelligent, hard-working people from being productive. But are there times it’s appropriate… or even desirable?
I recently watched a TED Talk by Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His presentation, titled The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers, included making the case for why there could be benefits to procrastination for creatives and what Grant terms “originals.”
From a productivity perspective, we usually think of procrastination as throwing a wrench in our ability to operate efficiently, get things done, and make money. The behavior often comes from a place of overwhelm when you’re faced with a project or task that either seems too big to tackle, you don’t feel equipped to tackle it, or you just dread doing it. (I’ve written about breaking free from procrastination based on overwhelm or dread before.) That type of procrastination usually revolves around fear – fear your work won’t be perfect, fear of failure, or even fear of success and self-doubt.
Grant frames creative procrastination as different. It’s part of why creatives and originals often come up with innovative approaches to problems or pieces of work that might not have come to light without taking some time to access possibilities in the mind that exist below the surface. He talks about how procrastination gives the mind time to “consider divergent ideas, think in nonlinear ways, and make unexpected leaps.”
Grant also points out that creatives who procrastinate may still have the same doubts or fears as others who procrastinate, but they’re not doing it to put off or avoid a project. They tend to understand that allowing ideas to “simmer” can lead to an even greater result. It’s like procrastination with a purpose.
I found the case Grant was making very interesting, and it shifted my thinking a little. As a person who values processes and efficiency, Grant’s perspective had never occurred to me the way he presented it.
What really struck me as I was watching the video was that this type of procrastination could actually be seen as a process for some – a creative process that might be how creatives and “originals” work best.
Intrigued, I dug a little deeper and came across a Psychology Today article, titled “6 Reasons Why Procrastination Can Be Good For You… but not if you’re just sitting on the couch.” Susanna Halonen, a life coach and writer based in London, also asserts there can be benefits to procrastination – not only in terms of creativity, but also in terms of decision making, prioritizing, and even making apologies when we’ve hurt someone and need to make amends.
Again, the idea is that you’re giving yourself time to reflect and let the mind bring clarity that might not have come if immediate action was taken.
Interesting. But is this really a different way of looking at our traditional definition of procrastination?
For me, it all comes down to this…
It’s important to know who we are, how we best process things, and learn to work in a way that helps us be the best we can be – in life and in business.
Sometimes, intentionally putting something off makes sense. In those cases, there can be benefits to procrastination.
Basically, we all have a Natural Productivity Style, which affects how we make decisions, process information, communicate, manage our time, and get things done. The more we understand that productivity style and honor it, as opposed to fighting it or beating ourselves up because we do things differently, the more we make it work for us.
For example, you might be someone who needs more time and information to feel comfortable making decisions. That’s not wrong, it’s just who you are. The problem comes in when you have a partner who likes to make decisions more quickly, or when you allow analysis paralysis to take hold.
You might be the creative type or an “original” who needs to allow a project or idea to simmer, and that’s okay too.
Though some might criticize and see that as avoiding or procrastinating, you can embrace your process and who you are.
Procrastination isn’t always a negative thing. It’s important to know who we are and be who we are. If pausing to give yourself some time to “consider divergent ideas, think in nonlinear ways, and make unexpected leaps” helps you in your life or work, do it. It makes sense to think outside the box and acknowledge there could be benefits to procrastination – under certain circumstances. Just do a little soul searching to be sure you’re not confusing fear or avoidance with intentional, purposeful “simmering.”
Do you know and understand your Natural Productivity Style and how to make it work for you? A quick assessment is all it takes to determine how you work best. Just contact me for a consultation or take the assessment now to get started!