Procrastination is the bane of many an author’s existence. So, what if I told you that it may not be such a bad thing after all?
The most effective way to tackle a new creative assignment is to put it off for a while. You’re actually doing the smartest and most productive thing in the world if you waste time.
In a 2016 TED talk, Wharton Business School organizational psychologist and self-described “pre-crastinator” Adam Grant argued that moderate procrastination was a necessary habit for original thinkers. “Our first ideas, after all, are usually our most conventional,” he says.
Grant described a study by former student Jihae Shin, which shows that people who played a video game before working came up with more original business ideas than those who immediately put their noses to the grindstone.
The bottom-line: Creative insight needs time to gestate.
If you, too, love procrastinating, you should note that you’re in good company: famous out-of-the-box thinkers like Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King were chronic procrastinators. Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest creative minds in history, took 16 years to finish the Mona Lisa.
Have some perspective
The purpose of procrastinating, says Konnikova, is “to make sure to have perspective before you start working.” To illustrate how such “perspective” works in the creative mind, Konnnikova uses optical illusions: “The way that our vision works is a really good metaphor for the way our brain processes things or more broadly, how creativity works” she explains.
In a layered image by Ocampo, you can see Don Quixote’s portrait flanked by several ghostly faces. Shifting perspective, you see the same “famous ingenious gentleman of La Mancha” astride a horse, with his squire Sancho Panza next to him.
People who take the time to step back and assess each visual puzzle above are more likely to perceive the multiple layers in the images. In the same way, when we’re developing an original idea, a pause gives our brains time to form creative associations, and recognize patterns, or simply see things from a different angle.
But how to spend the extra time pondering, rather than cat-watching on the Internet? Konnikova advised against multi-tasking. Instead, she challenged hyper-connected workers to take purposeful long walks, leaving their mobile devices at home. Even a brief, directionless stroll can dramatically boost creativity.
Read the full post on Quartz for more visual examples!