Procrastination can be a good thing. Are you surprised?

Last week, we brought you “Procrastination and the Three Bears.” Procrastination is the art of putting things off, and usually viewed as negative. We looked at the opposite, a phenomenon we could call “pre-crastination.” It’s the equally troublesome practice of diving in without the information needed to do a good job.

It’s like the time your high school English teacher assigned the term paper and you jumped in the first day had the whole paper written over the weekend. Then Monday, the teacher comes back with additional requirements.  You might have found yourself doing more work than needed. You might find yourself having to do some things over. There is such a things as doing something too soon.

Like most things in life, there’s a happy medium. “Creative Procrastination” is all about finding that sweet spot.

  1. Creative Procrastination helps you focus. Decide to put off all those tasks clamoring for your attention. Now you can give your undivided attention to the one at hand. The result is a job that’s finished quicker and with better quality. You can then move on to the next task and do the same. People who truly “multitask” well are as common as unicorns. Doing two things at once is a recipe for doing two things poorly.
  2. Creative Procrastination lets you “batch” related items. A baker doesn’t make one cookie at a time. He knows making a whole batch takes only a few more minutes and yields far greater results. “Batch” your tasks. Instead of getting in the car when you think of an errand, procrastinate. When you have half-a-dozen errands, knock them out in one trip. When you think of something to tell a co-worker, procrastinate. Put it on a list. That list will grow and you can let one interaction take the place of eight.
  3. Creative Procrastination lets your ideas mature. Your brain has something called the “reticular activating system.” It acts like a filter to keep you from being overwhelmed with all that’s happening around you. The same system helps call your attention to things that are important to you. Thinking about learning to play chess? All the sudden, every magazine you pick up has some article about chess. Every advertisement includes pictures of chess pieces. Every newspaper alerts readers to an upcoming chess tournament. It’s the same with that big project on which you are procrastinating. Use Creative Procrastination, and the world will conspire to bring you more ideas on how to do it well.

How to make “Creative Procrastination” work

First, you need a place to trap ideas. If you use a paper planner, devote a page in the back to each project. As ideas occur, flip to the appropriate page and write them down. If you plan digitally, create a new task for the thing on which you are procrastinating. When you have something to add, search for the task and add the details in the note section of that task.

You can also use a tool such as Evernote. Create a note for project. Return to that note each time you have something to add. But to need to have a trigger that’s going to cause you to take action at the right time. So, link the note to a task list. Every note in Evernote has its own internal link. Copy it. Create the task. Give the task a date. Paste the Evernote link into that task. Now you can forget about it. When that day arrives, you see the task and you see the link that takes you to the supporting information.

Second, don’t let promising ideas slip away. Throw them in your system as soon as they occur to you. Don’t write them down so you won’t forget. Write them down so you can forget. Let that planner or smartphone handle the mechanics of remembering and reminding. Leave your brain free to think, plan, and create.

Finally, know when the time is right. When the project has percolated and you have enough information, use Creative Procrastination on everything else. Go “full speed ahead” on the one in front of you.

“Creative Procrastination” in action

Let’s return to the post on “Procrastination and the Three Bears.” The basic idea occurred to me well over a year before I acted on writing the article. I thought I could take the theme, two extremes and a happy medium, and use it to illustrate a time-management concept. I procrastinated. When I noticed there was a “Fight Procrastination Day” on a list of upcoming national celebrations, the time seemed right to turn the idea into a post. I wrote the article and published it to coincide with that event.

Some people do things too late. Some people do things to soon. With “Creative Procrastination,” you can be the one who does things just right.

Think of a time when you felt like you were procrastinating, but the timing turned out to be just right. Let me know about it in the comments.

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