Are Procrastinators Creative?

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Synopsis

When are you most creative? And what does procrastination have to do with it? The answers may surprise you!

Creativity is a choice. In order to be creative, we have to be willing to innovate, take risks, put forth effort, and welcome seeing things in a new light.

With that in mind, when does that light shine? When does that spark get lit? In other words, WHEN are people most likely to be creative?

Ask a bunch of adults or kids this question, and you will inevitably receive a wide range of answers, probably including the following: in the shower; first thing in the morning; in the middle of the night; while exercising or out for a walk; when I see or hear something creative or unusual; when I have to solve a problem; when I’m playing or relaxed.

Everyone has one or more different creativity triggers; those times or situations that set off creative impulses and motivate a compelling desire to write, paint, design, or express creativity in an individual way.

However—and I find this particularly interesting—I have yet to hear anyone say, “I am most creative when I procrastinate.”

I study procrastination (primarily among children), and have presented and written extensively on the topic, and it strikes me as curious that people do not cite “putting things off” as a creative impetus. I’ve given this considerable thought, and here are some insights…

Procrastination in a Nutshell

Adults and kids who tend to procrastinate often do so for good reason. For example, a task may be too difficult, or too easy. A person may not have the necessary organizational or goal-setting skills, or may be prioritizing and decide that there are better or more important things to do first. Past experience or the experience of others can also set a pattern for thinking that whatever the demands are, they can safely be put off for another time because they won’t take that long to complete.

But what does putting things off have to do with creativity? If a task is challenging, then it’s quite logical to think that by procrastinating we will have more time to figure out how to set about doing it, and how best to accomplish it. Procrastination allows extra minutes (or possibly hours, days, weeks, or more) to work things out carefully and creatively, before starting the actual step-by-step process of engaging in whatever the task might be. Whether it’s something that’s seemingly mundane (like de-cluttering a room, or straightening the garden), or something that’s potentially stimulating (like composing a story or a song), the act of procrastinating offers time. And, time is like a gift—one that enables us to stretch our minds in different, exciting, and uncharted directions.   

Therefore, procrastination leads to creativity. Right?

Yes, sometimes no, and maybe…

YES—Procrastination Can Lead to Creativity

Procrastination provides an opportunity to be more reflective, to develop questions, to let thoughts percolate, and to discover fresh ways to tackle what has to be done. Procrastination is a catalyst of sorts because it gives “bonus” time to synthesize ideas, change them, and develop a plan of action. We can even justify procrastination in this way, as it becomes an integral part of the strategic process of moving forward. After all, the more time we can nab, the more chance there is for us to be creative! IF we choose to be creative.

NO—Procrastination May Not Lead to Creativity

Just because someone takes or acquires extra time, it does not guarantee that it will be used productively or creatively. Procrastinating is synonymous with “putting things off.” As such, procrastination may be a means of avoiding a task, or even substituting or prioritizing activities. In instances when people are evidencing avoidance behavior, there may be little inclination for them to be creative. Creativity is a choice, and it may not be galvanized at a point when doing little or nothing is someone’s prevailing course of action.  

MAYBE—Procrastination Can Sometimes Lead to Creativity

There are many and various reasons why adults and children procrastinate, including ill preparedness, fear of failure, laziness, or poor time management skills. In such situations, creativity will likely take a back seat to coping with the overriding concern. However, it’s also true that individuals can generate creative avoidance techniques or innovative ways to overcome challenge, or find creative outlets while procrastinating or becoming involved in alternative or substitute pursuits. So there are possibilities for creativity to evolve during or as a result of procrastination. The trick is to pay attention to time usage, because squandered time becomes wasted opportunity. Again, people have to choose to be creative.

Final Words

When people procrastinate, attitude and volition can determine how or if they will ultimately move forward, and whether or not they will engage in creative endeavors. By harnessing the desire to be creative, and by resolving to use time productively—even while putting some things off—procrastinators can enable creativity to emerge. Anyone can be creative! It is very much an individual choice, and actualizing it merits some creative thought. (If not now, maybe later…)

 

References:

Further information on creativity and productivity can be found in “Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids” by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (House of Anansi Press, 2014), and at www.beyondintelligence.net

For more on procrastination, see “Not Now Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination” by Joanne Foster (Great Potential Press, 2015).

For lots of helpful time management strategies, check out “It’s about Time: Transforming Chaos into Calm, A to Z” by Mitzi Weinman (iUniverse, 2014).

An excellent book on creativity is “Wired to Create; Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind” by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire (Tarcher Perigee, 2015).

A podcast on supporting children’s intelligence and creativity is featured on The New Family website. 

For additional articles on creativity, procrastination, productivity, and more, see the column “Fostering Kids’ Success” on The Creativity Post website.

Tags: creativity, education, joanne foster, procrastination

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