Have you ever had a project hanging over your head and you just couldn’t find the motivation, the time, or the creativity to complete it? Every day passes and you feel more and more guilty about putting it off. You may even start a negative dialogue with yourself about how lazy you are or how you lack discipline. Then suddenly something unexpected happens. You get a huge wave of insight and energy and you crank out the best work you have ever produced.
Traditional thinking would say that you should have bitten off a small portion of your problem every day. You should have planned out the entire project so you could stay on schedule. You should have gotten it done 2 days early so you could review and revise it until it was perfect. The funny thing is that sometimes procrastination is exactly what you need to come up with your best ideas and produce some of your best work.
In Adam Grant’s book Originals - How Non-Conformists Move the World, he shows how some of the best entrepreneurs actually use strategic procrastination to create groundbreaking ideas. So what is the difference between just normal procrastination and strategic procrastination?
Strategic procrastination is the product of several key High Performance Mindset skills that, when purposefully brought together, can produce fantastic results. First, it requires high levels of curiosity. Rather than jumping on the problem you are trying to solve using your first instinct, curiosity helps you look at the problem from unique angles and perspectives, with fresh eyes on different days, but always with the childlike motivation to discover something which has been undiscovered. Second, it requires vulnerability. When you are strategically procrastinating, you aren’t just sitting on your hands - you are playing with ideas, running into brick walls, asking others to challenge your ideas, and often falling short of the outcome you desire. This requires the ability to be vulnerable to honest feedback and to failure but always coupled with the determination to not give up. Third, it requires a level of confidence and belief that you will find the best solution so even if you haven’t stumbled upon it yet, you know it will come. Finally, it requires the Mindset skills of detachment and discipline where you can walk away from the problem and give your brain the space to play, to dream, and to explore whatever comes to mind. For me this usually happens when I’m hiking, walking my dogs, listening to music, or just sitting in nature staring at a mountain or the ocean.
In the fire service we had a saying that whenever you have discretionary time (time to think), you should take it. This means rather than making a knee jerk decision when you actually have time to decide, you should strategically procrastinate because a much better answer based on much more information and insight is surely coming. Just to be clear, procrastination is not the answer to all problems because if you put off everything you will never be able to create enough space for your strategic procrastination to do its magic. But the next time you are working on a huge presentation or project, you may find that strategic procrastination can be super powerful.
As always, I’d love to hear what you think. I won’t expect an immediate response :)
By Scott Peltin
Founder/Chief Performance Officer