It’s the thief of your best work. The vampire that drains your productivity. The mere mention of the word sends ripples of dread down a teacher’s spine. It’s the bane of creatives and managers everywhere: procrastination. But what if I told you that procrastination can be good for you; would you believe me? The key is all in how to procrastinate.
Scads of productive and awesome creators agree that procrastination doesn’t have to be the bad guy.
Designer Jessica Hische coined the term “procrastiworking” and famously said, “The work you do when you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.” (She even made a beautiful poster of this quote…while procrastinating on her book.)
Best-selling author and psychologist Adam Grant said, “Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, to make unexpected leaps.”
Why You Should Procrastinate
An article in Psychology Today makes a strong case for procrastination, including
- better decision making
- heightened creativity
- clarity in work and relationships (!)
In creative projects, I’ve noticed procrastination can be my subconscious in disguise. Is there a reason I’d rather scrub the top of my kitchen cabinets than write that penultimate scene? Maybe it’s got a critical plot hole, or it’s simply not right for the book! You’ve probably noticed the same subtle guidance from your brain’s back-burner. When you find yourself painting the living room the night before Thanksgiving, perhaps you’re really dreading Aunt Matilda’s visit, and need to assess the reasons why. Sneaky, sneaky subconscious!
How to Procrastinate Effectively
The secret, it seems, is to place critical limits on procrastination. Super-productive author, Jerry Jenkins, advises writers to allow time in their ritual for procrastination. He begins each work session by sharpening all the pencils in his office…even though he never uses pencils!
Adam Grant’s study found that there is a “sweet spot” for procrastination. Too little and you don’t have enough time to simmer ideas; too much and you waste time with no additional benefits. His participants experienced their best results at five minutes of playing Minesweeper; there was no improvement at ten minutes. You can experiment to fine-tune and find your sweet spot.
Another crucial point is to start working early enough for your brain to have time to generate improved ideas. If you’re up against the wire, then your first draft has to be the final draft. I see this often with school assignments. Actually, I don’t see it, since my teenaged students find out the hard way that I’m really not joking about the printer running out of ink on deadline days. (Thank you, Google Docs!)
Plan Your Procrastination
If you’ve got a bad case of burn-out, consider using procrastination for a little self-care. The Busy Budgeter blogger, Rosemarie Groner, says that if she has something on her to-do list that she’s avoiding, she allows herself to put on mindless tv or Netflix. She sets up office on the couch, and takes a work break. What a luxurious productivity hack!
Instead of fighting procrastination, take it on as your partner. Be a “procrastiworker“. Also, check out my post on using creative rest to procrastinate your way to renewed energy, creativity, and inspiration.
What’s your favorite way to procrastinate? Leave me a comment; I can’t wait to hear your ideas!
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I think I might already be doing this. I’ll rough draft a blog post or column, let it sit a few days, and then shine the heck out of it right before I hit publish or send it to my editor. Does that qualify as procrastination?
That sounds like Adam Grant’s “pre-crastination”! Love it 🙂