“Roughly 20 percent of adults report being chronic procrastinators,” says Adam Grant, professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School. ”But while procrastination is a vice for productivity, I’ve learned — against my natural inclinations — that it’s a virtue for creativity.”
Grant adds that for years he suffered from “pre-crastination”—the urge to start a task immediately and finish it as soon as possible. But a few years ago, one of his most creative students questioned his habits, saying her best ideas came to her when she put things off. Later, as a professor at the University of Wisconsin, that student conducted research in which she asked people to come up with new business ideas. Some were randomly assigned to start right away; others were given five minutes to first play Minesweeper or solitaire. Independent raters scored all ideas for originality, and the procrastinators’ ideas were described as 28 percent more creative.
It wasn’t playing games that increased creativity; it was the act of putting off the task. It turns out that procrastinators engage in divergent thinking. Letting their minds wander, they are more apt to spot novel solutions or unexpected patterns.
Think this is counter-intuitive? Try delaying a creative task for a bit. You’ll be in good company. According to Grant, chronic procrastinators include Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton, Aaron Sorkin, and Frank Lloyd Wright.
We want to hear: If you are a pre-crastinator, what is the most difficult part of delaying a task? What happens when you do procrastinate? Do you ever surprise yourself with your creativity? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.