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Procrastinators Rejoice Your Biggest Vice is Actually a Virtue

According to science, procrastination has some pretty huge benefits. Find out how to procrastinate better and improve your performance.

Kiran Wicksteed


1 Jul 2016

Feet up and relaxing

Ask me one word to describe the feeling in me induced by procrastination and I’d say shame. It’s that crippling guilt when you know you have something important to do, but that crazy cat video is just too damn funny. It doesn’t even have to be a particularly entertaining clip. Sometimes my choice of procrastination material is actually more boring than what I’m meant to be doing. I’ll have this great blog post to write. But, somehow I’ll end up putting it off to read up on accounting or something equally boring.

Imagine my relief when science revealed that I need not feel any guilt at all. Professor Adam Grant, who holds his Ph.D. in organisation psychology and is recognised as 1 of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers (thinkers50.com), has conducted studies proving the benefits of procrastination on Creative Problem Solving and Divergent thinking. Hurrah, procrastinators rejoice!

There is even a term for those sorry souls who don’t procrastinate: “pre-crastinators” Yuck! These people finish stuff months in advance, and have never felt the sheer panic of knowing you left something important too late. Grant himself is a self-confessed pre-crastinator. The study finds that starting too early leads to basic concepts and inferior ideas.

There’s also bad news for the worst procrastinators among us: Grant’s study found that waiting until the very last minute will not make your ideas better. Leaving it too late, often means you go with the easiest idea and don’t really have the time to flesh-it-out either. There is a sweet spot, somewhere between obsessively pre-crastinating, and playing Pokemon GO until 20-minutes before your deadline.

relaxing with a view

This optimal zone is where the magic happens. To achieve procrastination mastery, you must first make yourself fully cognizant of the task at hand. Make sure you absorb the brief. And then… Nada. You procrastinate. Unbeknown to you, your subconscious will already be hard at work, making new weird and wonderful synaptic connections, while you watch Youtube Videos of teacup piglets in tutus. At this point you need not feel ashamed. Rest assured the cogs are turning and the seeded task is ruminating. The dark recesses of your lizard brain are creating divergent associations, and fresh new ideas. So when you do decide to execute, your concepts will be better.

Grant goes on to explain iconic moments in history that were made possible by the miracles of procrastination. From Leonardo da Vinci – one of the most original thinkers of all time — playing Candy Crush while he was meant to be painting the Mona Lisa (I made the Cady Crush bit up), to how Martin Luther King Procrastinated up his historic, I Had a Dream speech. Here is a video of one of Grant’s talks which I stumbled upon while I was meant to be doing something else:

Now go free and waste time. Because it turns out that wasting time really isn’t a waste at all.

Sheep's head on statue artwork

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