Is Procrastination Your Dirty Little Secret?

productive procrastination
"You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. What mood is that? Last-minute panic." -Bill Watterson

I have a confession to make: sometimes I procrastinate like a MF, and I love it.

I recently got hooked on a silly game on my boyfriend’s iPad. It’s a numerical puzzle game and is the equivalent of crack for my dopamine centers.

I love being productive and derive quite a bit of pleasure from crossing items off of my to-do list and GSD (getting stuff done). I’m also acutely aware of time sucking activities that derail my productivity.

After all, I’m the girl who looks forward to setting a timer, shutting off my phone’s ringer, and working in batches of uninterrupted time.

Yet, I found myself very intentionally pulling out the iPad and allowing half an hour to evaporate into number-swiping bliss.

Counterintuitive as it may sound, intentional procrastination is part of my formula for getting more done.

Say what? That doesn’t even make sense. Isn’t procrastination the enemy?

Yes and no.

Procrastination that stems from a lack of clarity, uncertainty, fear, insecurity, or perfectionism will block us from moving forward. This sort of procrastination is the evil stepmother to our progress.

But I also believe there is what I like to call productive procrastination.

Before you get it twisted, this isn’t a get-of-doing-work-for-free card! Productive procrastination is intentional distraction we use to our advantage.

Our brains love to solve problems. Give our brain a problem or open-ended issue and our brain is on it!

Left some work unfinished? Our mind tends to continue to problem solve to put the pieces together long after we’ve walked away.

Dubbed the “incubation period”, our subconscious mind will continue to work on a problem we’ve been slaving away at all day, even after we’ve called it quits.

This is why we’ll often find solutions or have great a-ha's when we’re washing the dishes, on a run, or in the shower. It’s why we remember the name of our co-worker's spouse on the way home from the party.

In Orginals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant speaks at length about the power behind this sort of procrastination. He gives multiple examples of people we consider creative geniuses who created their masterpieces through protracted and intentional procrastination.

As tempting as it is to decide, "I will spin creative gold for the next couple of hours," it doesn’t always work this way. 

As Grant so poignantly says, “You can’t create a work of genius on a schedule.”

He goes on to say, “Procrastination may be particularly conducive to creativity when it leaves us solving problems at moments when we’re unfocused…Procrastination turns out to be a common habit of creative thinkers and great problem solvers.”

So, procrastinators, rejoice: you can stop feeling guilty!

When we utilize procrastination, it can actually work for us. Apparently, it was good enough for Michelangelo and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so it's good enough for me.

What about deadlines? What about getting work done? And how do we know when we’re procrastinating in productive ways, instead of you know, the self-sabotaging, excuse-ridden ways?

Deadlines can actually work in our favor. Parkinson’s Law is the idea that we expand the amount of time it takes to do something to the amount of time we have available.

To get procrastination working for you, start by giving yourself a deadline.

Productive procrastination is also intentional. Meaning, we start with a creative problem we want to solve or finish and have it in mind, unfinished, before we let our minds out for recess. This ensures our subconscious has something to play with. 

I have a friend who intentionally goes for a walk or watches a movie before sitting down to write. This is productive procrastination.

Still not sure about all this? Have a little faith and trust your mind is far more active than you're aware of. Remind yourself you set a deadline for a good reason.

I like to set a timer or schedule a time when I will get back to my work. Otherwise, my productive procrastination just becomes getting nothing done. There’s a fine line ;). 

So go on, get distracted, let your mind wander, and procrastinate a little bit…

Wishing you your version of success,

productive procrastination

P.S. Are you a productive procrastinator? Let me know in the comments below!

P.P.S. Know someone else who might like this blog? I'd be ever so grateful if you shared it with them!