Procrastinate to Wait for the Right Time

I think to a certain extent, we all are procrastinators in our own way. Sometimes it’s just due to pure laziness, but sometimes it’s because we are waiting for the right time. Whatever your narrative is, only you know, myself included. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to complete the task and hence ideas are not flowing smoothly – I will end up getting it done in 2 hours when it could have been completed within even 30 minutes. So procrastinate is not entirely bad.

As Adam Grant says in his Original book, procrastination is a form of “delaying progress which enabled people to spend more time considering different ways to accomplish it, rather than “seizing and freezing” on one particular strategy”. He pointed out a finding by a doctoral student such that “employees who procrastinated regularly spend more time engaging in divergent thinking and were rated as significantly more creative by their supervisors”.  As long as the employees are intrinsically motivated to complete the task or solve a particular problem.

Adam Grant quoted a few legendary examples of procrastinators and the outcome of being procrastinate or should I repeat, delaying progress, as follows:

  1. Da Vinci – didn’t finish painting Mona Lisa all at once, he did it on and off for a few years, while working on other projects/experiments. Initially he saw it as a distractions but it turned out to be a lifetime of productive brainstorming that led him to produce the “most parodied work of art in the world”.
  2. Martin Luther King – well known for his “I have A Dream” speech at one of the most historic gathering in America on civil war. Apparently he started on his closing paragraph only the night before the speech and completed only in the morning. Even nearer to speech time, he kept on improvising the speech. The difference is that, he has been thinking about it much earlier on, did the research, sought advice, prepared a draft, asked for feedback etc.  And that’s how a true procrastinator works.

As Adam Grant phrased it:

Along with providing time to generate novel ideas, procrastination has another benefit: it keeps us open to improvisation. When we plan well in advance, we often stick to the structure we’ve created, closing the door to creative possibilities that might spring into our fields of vision.

It’s ok to not rush the work, it’s ok to phase it accordingly. Sometimes when we delay, a more valuable data or piece of information came in that might alter our conclusion entirely and we can’t dismiss that especially if this new data supersedes the ones you have. Would you rather state a false conclusion or wait for a little while to provide the right conclusion? Data are being produced in a voluminous way and high velocity, so we should always be quick to absorb and rephrase our narratives to provide timely and accurate analysis.

In a corporate environment which tend to be highly competitive, everyone wants to be the first to know, first to inform. They rush through it. But it’s ok to not be the first mover – gather and synthesize the right information first and form your own opinion/idea.

Another study (from Adam Grant’s book) showed that CEOs who planned carefully, acted early and worked diligently scored as more rigid while CEOs who tended to delay work were more flexible and versatile – as they were able to change their strategies to capitalize on new opportunities and defend against threats.

It’s all about the right timing. Although I wish we all have a magic ball to tell us, life is not as simple as that. According to Bill Gross, Idealab founder, timing accounted for 42% of the difference between success and failure. When it comes to finding the right time, I realized that you should trust your gut feel on this.

A final except from Adam Grant’s book to conclude my post today: 

Great originals are great procrastinators, but they don’t skip planning altogether. They procrastinate strategically, making gradual progress by testing and refining different possibilities.

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