Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate

Adam Grant in The New York Times:

GrantNORMALLY, I would have finished this column weeks ago. But I kept putting it off because my New Year’s resolution is to procrastinate more. I guess I owe you an explanation. Sooner or later. We think of procrastination as a curse. Over 80 percent of college students are plagued by procrastination, requiring epic all-nighters to finish papers and prepare for tests. Roughly 20 percent of adults report being chronic procrastinators. We can only guess how much higher the estimate would be if more of them got around to filling out the survey. But while procrastination is a vice for productivity, I’ve learned — against my natural inclinations — that it’s a virtue for creativity. For years, I believed that anything worth doing was worth doing early. In graduate school I submitted my dissertation two years in advance. In college, I wrote my papers weeks early and finished my thesis four months before the due date. My roommates joked that I had a productive form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychologists have coined a term for my condition: pre-crastination.

…Steve Jobs procrastinated constantly, several of his collaborators have told me. Bill Clinton has been described as a “chronic procrastinator” who waits until the last minute to revise his speeches. Frank Lloyd Wright spent almost a year procrastinating on a commission, to the point that his patron drove out and insisted that he produce a drawing on the spot. It became Fallingwater, his masterpiece. Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter behind “Steve Jobs” and “The West Wing,” is known to put off writing until the last minute. When Katie Couric asked him about it, he replied, “You call it procrastination, I call it thinking.”

So what if creativity happens not in spite of procrastination, but because of it?

More here.