Procrastination. A ubiquitous term permeated our everyday lives so deeply that each of us can relate to a habit of putting off things until the last moment. Interestingly enough, that long before people became obsessed with efficiency and productivity ancient Egyptians had two different verbs for denoting procrastination: one for laziness; the other for waiting for the right time. Almost poetic, isn’t it?
Well, it could be. If people weren’t prone to think of it as the root of all-evil. Not that it is completely untrue; but Adam Grant (2016) in his book titled “Originals” debunks the common assumption and assures that even though procrastination can be “a vice for productivity” it can serve as “a resource for creativity” (p. 95).
As it turns out, there are three types of people in this world. First, are pre-crastinators, the ones who rush in and cannot live without finishing everything in advance. Then, there are chronic yet moderate or “strategic” procrastinators. Ideally, this is the type you would want to be. And, as you may have already guessed the third ones just wait til the very last moment and miss the benefits of procrastination that it has to offer if it’s done right.
Speaking of which, procrastination makes you more creative and leaves room for improvisation and spontaneity (Grant, 2016). To prove the theory, Grant, who finished his thesis four months [FOUR MONTHS] before the deadline and is a vivid example of pre-crastinator, with his procrastinator student have run a series of surveys and experiments.
So, what they did is they accessed several companies and conducted a survey among employees about their procrastination experiences. After, the employers were asked to rate their employees’ level of creativity. Surprisingly, procrastinators got higher scores. However, they did not stop there and designed an experiment where people were asked to generate business ideas. They had two control groups: the first group had to start immediately; second were given 5 minutes to play a computer game, i.e. to procrastinate. Again, the ideas of procrastinators were rated 28 % more original and creative.
The key point here is that people were more creative only if they knew about the task before they started to procrastinate. Thus, it is only when we start thinking about the problem and then procrastinate on its solution we open the door for the diversity of ideas. Because even if we are not directly involved in doing the task, it is still active somewhere in the “palaces of our mind”. So, when we actually start working on the problem our subconscious allows us to think in creative and non-linear ways.
Moreover, it “keeps us open to improvisation” (p. 100). Usually, we tend to plan our steps and try to stick to it, otherwise why plan in the first place, right? Studies of numerous successful executives have shown that the habit of procrastination made them more strategically flexible. Of course, as a great procrastinator you still need to plan, at least make a plan for your procrastination and “test and refine different possibilities” as they cross your mind (p.102). And do not wait until the last night before the X day. Just don’t.
If you’re not convinced and feel like it got out of control, check these guides on how to deal with procrastination and how to avoid our common frenemy. It won’t hurt for sure. However, if you think that you’ve already lost the battle don’t stress out either. Instead, learn how to make it work for your benefit. In other words, learn how to procrastinate wisely.
And don’t forget to remember “they call it procrastination, we call it thinking” (Sorkin, 2002).
Grant, A. (2016). Originals: How Non-conformists Move the World. New York: Viking
Couric, K. (2002, May, 22). Interview with Aaron Sorkin. Retrieved from http://www.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/flatview?cuecard=2090