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Permission to Procrastinate (Mindfully)

There are two kinds of procrastination. One helps the brain come up with creative, innovative solutions. But this type of procrastination must be activated intentionally and mindfully.

I have a dream…


One of the most powerful speeches of our times, delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in 1963, helps us understand and explore the concept of active procrastination and how it can benefit the creative process.

Listed amongst the Top 10 Greatest Speeches by Time magazine, Dr. King Jr’s vision for a more equitable and racially-just America, remains historic in its oratory prowess. The four, timeless words of his speech that stir our soul till today:

I have a dream…

The fascinating part about the speech is that Dr. King Jr. didn’t add the ‘I have a dream’ part to the speech till the very last minute! The most inspiring, spine-chilling, rousing parts of the speech didn’t exist till ten minutes before he delivered the speech. Adam Grant writes extensively about this in his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

This is the power of active procrastination.

Research is finding that procrastination might not be such a bad thing after all. But like all things, it must be approached intentionally and mindfully.

We can lump procrastinators into two kinds:

Passive procrastinators are the ones who give procrastination a bad name. They put off getting started and when they do, they’re often behind schedule, which means their output is poor in quality.

Active procrastinators, on the other hand, set an idea or project in motion but wait to complete it, because they need time for creative, innovative insights to percolate.

Procrastination (the creative, active kind) enables those unconscious parts of our mind to step in.

Any activity or project that has been started but unfinished will remain at the back of our mind, we’ll be chipping away at it, whether we realize or not. And then one fine moment, like Dr. King Jr’s last-minute backstage inspiration, we’ll find the perfect way to communicate our idea or complete our project.

As Aaron Sorkin says:

“You call it procrastination, I call it thinking.”

So, here are two things to keep in mind with regard to procrastination:

  1. It works for creative projects or problems that require innovative, out-of-the-box thinking
  2. You have to start the process. Only then will procrastinating support you to find creative solutions.

Have you been working on a project and beating yourself up for not completing it? Can you let yourself off the hook and trust the process?

Is there a creative project you’ve been meaning to start but haven’t? Would you like to get it in motion today or this week so the active procrastinator in you can work her magic?

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