Sunday, January 17, 2016

Procrastination: not the thief of time but the generator of creativity

At the New York Times, Adam Grant suggests not being a "pre-crastinator" but a procrastinator. He used to write everything weeks or months in advance but was convinced by a study that procrastination can actually help your creativity.

The short version: if you know you have to do something but put it off for a bit (but don't wait until the last minute), the ideas that emerge are likely to be more creative.

And some epic procrastinators are in this boat with you:
Steve Jobs procrastinated constantly, several of his collaborators have told me. Bill Clinton has been described as a “chronic procrastinator” who waits until the last minute to revise his speeches. Frank Lloyd Wright spent almost a year procrastinating on a commission, to the point that his patron drove out and insisted that he produce a drawing on the spot. It became Fallingwater, his masterpiece. Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter behind “Steve Jobs” and “The West Wing,” is known to put off writing until the last minute. When Katie Couric asked him about it, he replied, “You call it procrastination, I call it thinking.”
I'm hoping this works, since I've been taking care of a family member all week and haven't touched email or writing, despite deadlines. Time to face the music and dig in--but here's hoping that today, when I do, the ideas will be all the better for it. 


gwinne said...

Interesting. I always have many projects going on, so it's easy to avoid one by working on another.

Bardiac said...

My guess is that procrastination is complex, and some leads to greater creativity because the person has the basic knowledge to think about the issues/problems in the background while they're doing something else. But if the person (say a student in an intro course) doesn't have the basic knowledge, they just get more desperate and do less good work.

profacero said...

Well, it leads to greater creativity in the generation of ideas, perhaps, but then there is the follow-through; the Wright house still had to be built.

Anonymous said...

I will put it like this: play is good, even during work time. But you still need the work time. What I do sometimes with structured work time is define play out of it, which is wrong. You really have to allow play ... but you also need to work most every day, touch your project most every day.

undine said...

gwinne--That's the creative way to procrastinate, and you still get stuff done.

Bardiac--That's a good point. It only works if you have the knowledge to begin with or maybe a desire to think about it in the back of your mind. Students have a lot of other things going on (we do, too, but ours are different).

profacero--True that. Also, with Wright, I've always wondered how much of his dogma (No closets!) was ideology and how much was that he didn't have time for afterthoughts.

I have been too far away from my project and am just getting back to it.