Procrastination: The word alone delivers a twinge of guilt. (especially if you’re reading this in order to procrastinate on something else)
But fear not! Procrastination can be a powerful creative tool, if it’s used correctly.
In his TED Talk, organizational psychologist Adam Grant discusses the magic of original thinkers and a common trait they share: they, too, are procrastinators.
His theory proposes a delicate balance for creativity: pre-crastinators finish so early that they never consider alternate ideas, and those who procrastinate too long are so crunched at the deadline, that they run out of time before they can deliver.
But in the middle lies a sweet spot, where “moderate” procrastinators dawdle long enough to consider divergent ideas, think in nonlinear ways, and make unexpected leaps. This group tends to be the most creative, but only if they procrastinate moderately.
This theory corresponds with the Four Stages of Creativity, where the process is broken down into four steps:
- Preparation: Research, planning, and mentally preparing
- Incubation: a lull (think Writer’s Block)
- Illumination: “Aha! This could work…”
- Verification: Confirming the idea and implementing it
Procrastination lives in the “Incubation” stage. Here’s a few ways to make the most of that time:
1. Get inspired
Look to your muses: music, pictures of tiny animals, your favorite podcast, a lovely cup of tea. This little break and the positive emotions that come with each experience will serve as a little refresher.
2. Check out the competition
Grant talks about how many original thinkers weren’t the first movers, they were improvers. This gave them the opportunity to see where others fell short – what they weren’t doing well, or missing entirely. Look to projects similar to yours, get inspired and make yours better.
3. Work on another project
There are probably a few other things you are avoiding, engaging in another activity can result in a different way of thinking and give you new perspective.
If you feel overwhelmed or your brain feels too cluttered, clear your mind of the task completely. At your desk or in your car, sit in silence and relax. Then slowly begin to consider singular aspects of the project.
5. Go outside
Take a walk to the local coffee shop, maybe call a friend along the way, whatever it takes to truly enjoy the walk. Then return to your work a changed person.
Like anything in life, moderation is key. Open yourself to new ideas and embrace procrastination. Now, isn’t there something important you should be getting back to?