Creativity, Motivation, Personal Development, Strategic planning

Procrastination

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can put off till the day after tomorrow.” Mark Twain

I have a little green notebook that I keep in the bag I carry with me to and from work. In that green notebook I write down ideas, thoughts and quotes I pick up from things I read, hear or observe. Right now, one of the books I’m reading is Originals by Adam Grant. Two quotes jumped out at me today.

Quote 1 (actually this is a quote of a quote as Grant quotes historian William Pannapacker who refers to Leonardo Da Vinci’s propensity to postpone and procrastinate) – “Productive mediocrity requires discipline of an ordinary kind. It is safe and threatens no one. Nothing will be changed by mediocrity… But genius is uncontrolled and uncontrollable. You cannot produce a work of genius according to a schedule or outline.”

Quote 2 – “Great originals are great procrastinators…”

If you know me well you’ll know why these two quotes appeal to me. I am a world class procrastinator J. Deadlines and schedules make me nervous. My best work comes from spontaneity, intuition and flexibility. Now I have it in black and white, from a professor of organizational psychology (Grant has been voted as one of the top 25 most influential management thinkers in the world today) that my, “put it off till later,” approach to challenges is not only valid, but may also be conducive to finding some of the most creative and best solutions.

Here are some of the benefits of procrastination:

  • Incubation time – it allows time for ideas to mature and develop, often in unexpected ways. Grant mentions the Zeigarnik effect (named after the Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik) which demonstrates that people remember tasks they have not completed better than those they have completed.
  • Helps stave off premature conclusions.
  • Encourages creativity and flexibility – While ideas are incubating other thoughts, ideas and impulses may disrupt some of our initial thoughts and cause us to re-evaluate and adjust. Working internationally, and often with diplomats and politicians, I’ve found that being flexible and able to find new solutions has been an invaluable skill.
  • Breeds openness for new approaches. Procrastination helps us to not get caught in the trap of choosing only one solution at the cost of other equally good, if not better, solutions that fit the timing or context best.

 

All my life I’ve equated procrastination with laziness. Perhaps I need to re-evaluate my presumption on this issue and embrace more of the positive aspects of procrastination. Grant points out that ancient Egyptians had two words for procrastination; the first meant to be lazy, but the other had to do with waiting for the right time.

 

Nevertheless, very few rules or theories are without exceptions or modifications. I find that balance in life is an important virtue. Quote 2 above is only half of the quote in Grant’s book. The full quote is – “Great originals are great procrastinators, but they don’t skip planning altogether.” So before I go overboard on expounding on the virtues of procrastination, I should contemplate the benefits and uses of down to earth, methodical, planned out work, as well.

 

I think I’ll put that contemplation off till tomorrow or the next day :-).

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7 thoughts on “Procrastination

  1. Enjoyed your post: evaluation: you are on artist, very good artist and I can’t say great artist because I haven’t met them all.
    By artist I mean you paint with words, you know the colors of the words in this case you use them as weight, therefore by the time you have finished saying what ever you want the reader gets to see a perfect picture.
    In my understanding of procrastination, I have different reality what is. Not all mental image pictures have destiny- future and meant to become a solid object… to become visible all to see and collect agreement that yes: It exists! Or to be said, it has been done, I did it!
    It would be a disaster if all what we want to do would become reality: imbedded, enshrined in solid matter.[ as you know there is no such a thing as solidity ].
    PS: thanks for the acknowledgement of my presence here.
    Posting your inner thoughts-feelings is like hanging out your laundry on the line, or walking naked down on main street where everybody can see you that takes courage unless that main street is in the nudist camp.
    By the way so far you only hanged out the most visible garment you own: your outer cape! And little old me, well… I am naked… simply because I have learned in 5 years… what ever is said about my post, what I am writing, what I believe in will not bring alteration into my universe., top of that none has value including my own beliefs.
    I believe in Karma, there are no coincidents, so if something did not happen- was not done it never meant to happen: because if something meant to happen nothing but nothing can stop it to happen.
    tomorrow have a grand day !

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  2. PS:
    there is no such a thing as procrastination when there is understanding that we only can experience the moment of now, what ever is on the mind that is that: the experience of the moment.

    If there is regret… than that is the experienced moment…

    Example; if one listen put full attention to the harmony of the sound than there is only now… tomorrow haven’t arrive since and yesterday never happened ,,,there is no time..time is only a consideration, agreed upon but not tangible, so the moment of now is what?

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