Procrastination has a bad reputation. It's very familiar to all of us. Almost everyone thinks It's entirely negative, but there are times when procrastination can work in your favor. You don't have to be anxious, disappointed and stressed all the time when you put things off, especially when you are a creative professional.
If you plan to get back to those tasks and actually get them done before your deadline, you can safely say you are using procrastination to your benefit. You are not necessarily being lazy or careless if you want to complete your work sometime later.
Procrastinators are better at planning but not so good at doing stuff when they have lots of time. They work better under pressure. You could argue that, it's their way of justifying putting things off. But it works for those who actually do what matters in time. Some procrastinators deliberately delay tasks and feel challenged by approaching deadlines. Active procrastinators who postpone work for later are mostly in control of their time and use it purposefully without worrying too much about missing deadlines.
Christoph Niemann, an illustrator said this about deadlines in a 99U interview:
"In advertising, and also editorial, when people have 2 days, the briefing is much better, and the discussion is much better. It's not that people just sign off on anything because they're in a hurry. They're just really looking at what they have, and trying to make the best product, and get it done."
This doesn't apply to to passive procrastinators who easily get anxious and can't master the courage to concentrate and get stuff done because they are constantly thinking of running out of time. If you know yourself well enough, you can better plan and do tasks without the anxiety that comes with deadlines.
Research by psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik in 1927, found that you can have better memory for incomplete tasks than for complete ones. Known as the Zeigarnik effect, Bluma proved that task left unfinished for a period of time helps your ability to retain and recall information. The results suggested that a desire to complete a task can cause it to be retained in a person's memory until it has been completed.
Since Zeigarnik's publication, a lot of other studies were carried out to confirm and replicate her findings. In 1963, British Psychologist John Baddeley developed the Working Memory Model with Graham Hitch.
In his experiment, participants were asked to solve a set of anagrams, each within a set time frame. Those who were unable to solve the anagrams in time were given the solutions. And he found out that those who couldn't complete in time were more likely to recall the solutions than than those that they had completed in time.
Adam Grants, professor at the Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania and Author of Originals says "When you procrastinate, you're more likely to let your mind wander. That gives you a better chance of stumbling onto the unusual and spotting unexpected patterns."
Procrastination can sometimes improve idea generation and creativity. Everything left undone is always still very much on your mind most of the time. You get to think about it more often than tasks you have completed. This encourages you to think about new ways to improve or do it better.
This thought process works best for people who are working on new projects and need creative ideas for solving pending problems. You probably won't benefit from procrastination if you have to deliver on tasks at the office and have strict deadlines to meet with no tolerance for delays.
Innovators and creative professionals use procrastination to their benefit more often than everyone else. Leonardo Da Vinci was a famous procrastinator. He is believed to have worked on the well-know Mona Lisa between 1503 and 1517.
In a conversation with Katie Couric of the NBC Today Show about how he writes and why he procrastinates, Aaron Sorkin, the creator of the television series "The West Wing" said "You call it procrastination, I call it thinking."
Procrastination can help with creativity to some extend if used well. The time you spend to process your tasks and projects can help you come up with amazing solutions. As long as you can deliver on time, it's okay to delay creative tasks and make time to think about possible solutions.
Most creative projects require moments of thinking. And sometimes you can ignore your natural need to finish early to come up with brilliant ideas. But you should also know when you are taking procrastination too far. When it affects your level of productivity more often than not, you have a problem and must find ways to beat procrastination instead of trying to use it to your advantage.