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Procrastinate Later: The Upside of Procrastination

Jul 25 2016

Procrastinate later – The Upside of Procrastination

For many of us its easy to put off stuff that we don’t enjoy, or stuff that has little value to us, or the hard stuff, or the important-but-not-screaming-urgent stuff, or the stuff we do want to do but think it will take too long, or when we are not sure where to start, or if we don’t want to ask for help or, because its Thursday. There are lots of good reasons and we each may have experienced all of these different types of procrastination at some point.

Let’s explore the different types of procrastination

- There is justified procrastination, otherwise known as hindsight. When we waited to act and that turned out to be the best outcome. You waited and got a better deal, you received new information that could have made your first attempt irrelevant or in extreme cases (and action movies) – you were late and missed your flight and it ended up crashing – good thing you weren’t on time (again).

- And then there is behavioural procrastination otherwise known as putting stuff off you don’t like. This is where you will find my taxes, how we handle cleaning out our basement (unless I’m doing that instead of doing my taxes) or that difficult conversation with your direct report, boss or uncle. This is extremely common and what we typically think of when we think about procrastination, Fast Company actually lists 5 different types of this type of Procrastinator.

- But then there is strategic procrastination when we are putting something off until later because it will be better if we wait. We may need more information, more inspiration or more insight before we can give it our best effort. The creative ideas may need incubation, time to develop, and we could benefit from not going first.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the justified and behavioural procrastination. These are the ones we are always looking to fix, the ones that make us feel guilty, the ones we don’t like to admit but we all know we do it.

We make excuses for our procrastination like:
- I’m not ready
- It’s not perfect
- I have to clean out the basement first

Here are a few (required if you’re writing about procrastination) quotes to inspire you as you are combatting justified and behavioural procrastination:
- If we wait until we are ready it will be too late
- Sometimes good enough is good enough
- It is more important to do something than nothing
- Do something, try and if it fails learn from it and try again
- Change is a process not an event, take the first step
- Edison famously said that he did not fail, he invented 1000 ways not to make a light bulb

Strategic Procrastination is probably the most intriguing though. Adam Grant in his most recent TED Talk on Original Thinkers talks about the benefits of procrastination, I named it “Strategic” because then it feels important and I like to do important stuff (and I like to procrastinate).

Here are two benefits of Strategic Procrastination:

- Incubation – procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to make unexpected connections and to think about things – differently. Instead of rushing in to make a quick decision you can take time to consider alternatives and make the right decision.

- Second-Mover Advantage – second movers are those that are not first out with a new product, service or idea or, as Adam Grant calls them, “Improvers”. The First-Mover does have the ability to create the market, but that is also costly and risky. The Improvers however, are able to watch and observe, plan and think and introduce something different and better. Adam sites a study that found that First-Movers had a failure rate of 47% vs. Improvers at 8%. For an example, Blackberry would be considered the First-Mover and Apple, the Improver.

“You call it procrastination. I call it thinking.” – Aaron Sorkin

But remember:
- If you want to start a business you have to start
- If you want to become a speaker you have to speak
- If you want to become a writer you have to write
- If you want to become an artist you have to create
- The Wright brothers did not have a pilots license

If it's important we should start... Later  ;)

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