In an effort to write my first blog entry ever titled “Creative Procrastination” I needed to set my own deadline, since there was none. So, today, a Sunday on the day of my imagined deadline I started to ease into my writing by going online and avoiding writing altogether by taking a test to assess my procrastination.
This was the result:
You can grade your own procrastination tendency here: https://procrastinus.com/procrastination/measure-my-procrastination-3/
While there, make sure to look around the website. They offer interesting information and links for further reading, since you are probably already procrastinating by reading this article.
And this was the advice that followed:
But fear not! If you turn out to be a procrastinator like myself, that does not have to be a bad thing at all. In fact, I have already known this about myself and with time I have discovered that it is a key part of my creative process, and If you work in the creative industries as well, this trait might be the best one to have for success.
Let’s take this step by step.
First, what is procrastination and what types can we differentiate?
The word comes from latin: procrastinare, pro– meaning ‘forward’, with –crastinus meaning ’till next day’ from cras meaning ‘tomorrow’.
Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished by a certain deadline. It could be further stated as a habitual or intentional delay of starting or finishing a task despite knowing it might have negative consequences, as described by Wikipedia – the first definition that appears in the results of the word online. So, most often it is taken into and presented in a negative connotation. But, when we look at the types differentiated by Steel and Klingsieck we can see that not all are negative and all can be turned into positive ones by introducing some new habits. Here they are:
- The Thrill Seekers
- The Avoiders
- The Undecided
- The Impulsive
These four types were based on research and data in academic procrastination. There are many different studies out there which classify procrastination types differently. Adam Grant, for example, likes to classify people in general, as such:
⦁ Extreme Procrastinators
Procrastinators are described as being the panic monsters finishing tasks months in advance. Extreme Procrastinators as the epitome of the word, and referring to Originals as the ones reaching the sweet spots on the curve of procrastination. The good kind. See exactly why he calls them the originals here: https://youtu.be/fxbCHn6gE3U In other words, they are people doing active procrastination, also known as structured or positive procrastination, if you read Chu and Choi, John Perry, or Piers Steel, respectively.
Name aside, these terms encompass the positive benefits of procrastination behaviors. Before we continue, let’s take a look a this poll where I also cast my vote:
48.47% of voters think that their procrastination is really harmful. I, on the other hand, belong to the 2.55% that think my procrastination is a helpful habit. To be fair, it is very VERY annoying too. It can be helpful for you as well, if managed and structured correctly, let’s see how.
Creative Procrastination. What does it mean and how do we achieve it?
If not a procrastinator yourself, you might think that my workday/workweek looks a bit like this:
But this would only apply in liner view of time with ONLY ONE task due to be completed. In reality, at work and outside of it, we manage multiple tasks with different starting positions/dates and different deadlines. Hence, the graph below would be a more accurate depiction of an active procrastinator.
Creative procrastination is generally defined as putting things off until the last-minute, but with a twist – putting things off until the best time. Why?
Studies have shown that creative procrastinators do this on purpose, consciously or unconsciously. They rarely do absolutely nothing and while they are actively avoiding a task, they finish other less challenging tasks allowing space for the more challenging task to mature. This is based on the principles of behavioral psychology. It allows the brain to process the information multiple times, make unorthodox links and generate original ideas. Some even enjoy the adrenaline rush of racing with time, which makes them come up with unexpected solutions to a problem. So,
How to be a better creative procrastinator?
When confronted with a problem that you may, or may not find interesting, ALWAYS get all the information needed to complete the task first. This allows you to process the information subconsciously while you work or do something else in the meantime.
For the thrill-seekers. Always have a deadline. If you do not have a deadline, choose one yourself. This will allow you to have those stress levels up as you wanted, bursting with creativity.
Trick yourself. Make a to-do list. Put some very important-sounding difficult tasks at the top and your real tasks at the bottom. This will make you skip the “impossible” tasks at the top and you will start with the bottom of the list first. “Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list,” says Dr. Perry.
For the perfectionists. Don’t doubt yourself, doubt the idea. Doubts are welcomed. They encourage multiple answers to a problem. Try to lead your idea from imperfect to perfect. Not yourself.
Nonprocrastinators and/or procrastinations, this is for you. Try to understand that everyone has a different workflow and work habits. In fact, a whole different world view. Introduce them with yours, not influence them, it just might not work.
And last, some famous creative procrastinators for your future excuses:
- Leonardo da Vinci – artist and inventor
- Douglas Adams – writer
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge – poet
- Mozart – composer
- Franz Kafka – writer
- Steve Jobs – co-founder of Apple Inc
- Samuel Johnson – writer
- Gene Fowler – screenplay writer
- Margaret Atwood – writer
- Gerhard Richter – artist
- Frank Lloyd Wright – architect
- Herman Melville – writer
- Victor Hugo – poet and novelist