If we didn't procrastinate life would be so much simpler.
More than 60% of people I have interviewed, did workshops with and taught Design The Life You Love to over the last 7 years have told me that procrastination is the #1 thing they would like to change about themselves. "If only!" they say. We feel guilty, beat ourselves up and feel like losers because we procrastinate.
I say stop beating yourselves about procrastination. Like most things in life, we need balance. Some procrastination is actually good for you.
1. Procrastination lets you put life first
My favorite procrastinator is also one of my favorite writers, Richard Ford, author of The Sportswriter and Independence Day. Ford would watch sports on TV, have phone conversations, travel long distances to buy a used car--anything it seems--before going back to writing. He calls this putting life before working, or in his words, "you get to put lived life first".
"At the end of a very lengthy period during which I did basically nothing whatsoever of any good to man nor beast, I got back to work. That is, I started writing again," Ford told the New York Times.
2. While you're procrastinating, your subconscious is working
According to Mason Currey, author of Daily Rituals, Kafka was a notorious procrastinator. He wrote after 10:30 or 11 at night, and even then it was mostly diary entries and letters. He'd also take 4 hour naps. He was hardly alone. Frank Loyd Wright famously drew the plans for his famous Falling Water between breakfast and lunch, in other words the time between when his clients the Kaufmanns announced they were coming over to review the plans and their time of arrival. He had procrastinated for an entire year.
A certain amount of procrastination is necessary for creative problem solving and imagination to happen in your subconscious. This is when your brain connects the dots between unrelated ideas to make-up new ideas.
3. Some nervous energy is good for work
If you've ever spoken on stage, you know that a little anxiety is good for you. I haven't met anyone who likes it, but it is the way your body prepares you for your performance.
Pushing yourself in a corner is almost a prerequisite for giving birth to new ideas. There is no place to go, but forward. It heightens your senses, makes you feel an acute need to get on with it. Writer Margaret Atwood is no stranger to it. She spends, "the morning procrastinating and worrying, and then plunges into the manuscript in a frenzy of anxiety around 3:00 p.m.", as noted by Piers Steel in his book The Procrastination Equation.
4. You can plan time for procrastination as well as productivity
Parkinson's Law, written by Cyril Northcote Parkinson states "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Time is flexible. Take advantage of it. Being a mom taught me to do things that used to take one hour in 10 to15 minutes. I still meet my deadlines, and I am sure you do, too. Instead of beating yourself up about how much you procrastinate, go with it.
Rather than giving yourself generous amounts of time to do something and then eating into it with other unplanned activities, give yourself a shorter time and figure out what you want to do with the extra time.
5. Always being on deadline dulls your mind
I have this rule: no work on Saturdays. In other words Saturday is my planned procrastination, 100%. I am free to do whatever I, or my family, want, without feeling guilty. I know if I worked some on Saturday, I would get ahead and it would mean less work for the upcoming week (I do work 1 to 2 hours on Sundays). But working all the time dulls my mind. It makes me lose my appetite for the pleasure of going back to work and giving 100% come Monday.
6. Many things really do take care of themselves
Sometimes things take care of themselves in the time you've procrastinated. New data comes in, someone else comes up with the answer, you read something unrelated that actually turns out to be related, you have a lunch conversation that inspires you in an unexpected way.
In other words, life happens. Life wouldn't be life and we wouldn't be human if we didn't procrastinate. So embrace it and reap it's benefits. And take comfort in being a part of an elite group of people that includes Leonardo da Vinci (famous for not completing his works), Bill Clinton (in contrast to Hillary Clinton) and J.K. Rowlings (who tweets regularly about how she procrastinates), among many, many others.
I should note, though, that the inspiration for this article came from my inability to write it from Sunday to Wednesday.
This article first appeared on Inc.com on September 15, 2017