why creative people seem to procrastinate

To procrastinate or not to procrastinate?

The surprising creativity & procrastination relationship

Here’s an interesting one: Does creativity happen despite procrastination, or because of it

Is procrastination always bad, or might it have some surprising benefits? We’ll find out by looking back in history and into what science has to say about the procrastination & creativity relationship. 

Spoiler: A moderate amount of procrastination could increase your creativity.

Isn’t procrastination a little monster standing in the way of our goals? Well, it could be. Chronic procrastination is not something to indulge in or be proud of. If you often miss deadlines because of it, then it’s something you need to work on. 

When I say procrastination in this article I am not referring to lying around on the phone or checking the fridge for an exaggerated amount of time. I am talking about intentionally postponing a certain task you need to do by doing something else instead

In the meantime, your brain will still be searching for ideas and solutions to the initial assignment. If you want your idea to stand out you can’t always pick the first thought that comes into your mind. You’ll have to dig a little deeper. Unless you’re a true genius (kidding, this applies to geniuses as well). 

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo is well known today as the greatest genius of the Italian Renaissance. It took him 16 years to complete his most popular artwork, the Monalisa. But he was not only an artist. He was also a science man and definitely a perfectionist. So, while slacking off on the Mona Lisa, he was onto some great stuff like flying machines and devices, the first robot (the mechanical knight), and the underwater diving suit. His head was so full of amazing ideas that you can understand why it was hard for him to stick to just one. 

Martin Luther King

We all heard of Martin Luther’s speech about racism, starting with “I Have a Dream”; But did you know that on August 27, 1963, late at night, one day before the big march, the American activist was still thinking about what to say in front of the crowd? His speech was not on paper yet, and let me remind you, it’s one of the most iconic speeches in history.

What does science have to say about this?

Adam Grant, professor of organizational psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a study after he noticed that some of his most creative students always turned in assignments at the last minute.

In a nutshell, they assigned a task to different groups. Some were asked to start working on it right away, some were asked to procrastinate a little bit first, and the last ones to start working on the task at the last minute.

  • Precrastinators (those who started immediately) didn’t give their mind a chance to explore alternative ideas. They did fine, they did on time, but their results were not remarkably creative.
  • Chronic procrastinators didn’t have enough time to come up with good ideas, they just had to implement the fastest and easiest solution. Too bad the easiest is not always the brightest, right?
  • Moderate procrastinators’ ideas ended up being rated as 28% more creative compared to the other groups. Procrastination gave them time to consider divergent ideas, think in non-linear ways, and make unexpected leaps.

If you tend to procrastinate don’t be too hard on yourself. We often think that we are lazy, but in fact, this behavior of postponing comes from the fear of not doing well enough, perfectionism, and anxiety. Show yourself some compassion. Allow the mind to wander, because great ideas come when we aren’t trying too hard! 

Now that you know more about creativity, are you ready to indulge yourself in a little bit of procrastination?