Finding the Middle Way Between Procrastination and Precrastination

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Procrastination is the thief of time, unless it is really your intuition.  Then it may be saving you from yourself.  — Edward Young

As someone who regularly needs time to “process” and “let things simmer,” I understand Mr. Grant’s thesis in his recent piece, “Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate.”  I would just clarify that he’s arguing for the middle way between precrastination and procrastination—not really for procrastination—and that we need to be aware of when a particular tool is the right (and wrong) one.

Allowing your brain to noodle/process for a while after gathering information can be wise, useful, efficient, creative, etc.  But if you wait too long, “simmering” turns into procrastination.  Two ways to distinguish between processing and procrastinating:

  1. Are you letting ideas percolate so your subconscious can find new connections and ideas, or are you avoiding the work because of fear of failure,  perfectionist tendencies, or dislike of the activity (and the hope that someone else will take care of it if you wait long enough)?
  2. Do you leave enough time for revisions and input from others so that you can create the best possible product, or are you barely meeting deadlines with a deliverable that is not as good as it could have been?

Putting off tasks that don’t require creativity or innovation, such as laundry, dish-cleaning, and your taxes, is procrastination.  So is doing all manner of chores—including laundry, cleaning, and taxes—in order to avoid a hard or scary project.  The most productive people I know plan their days so that they clean, organize, commute, shower, etc. while their brains do the processing needed for more creative work.

Whether driven by a fear of not getting it done (precrastination) or not doing it well enough (procrastination), the key is to become self-aware and then consciously choose the most useful approach given the circumstances.


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Alexandra Marchosky
Alexandra Marchosky
I coach individuals and organizations to do and be better by more fully living their values.
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