Procrastination and Creativity


During the early start of my professional career, I gave a lot of value to get things done fast.  I was an impatient operator whose only focus was execution with acceptable results.  Now, ‘acceptable’ is very subjective word that can have a lot of different meanings depending of the one who use it.  Later I found out that acceptable results often lead to rework.

With the years, I had the opportunity of working in process excellence and the Lean Six Sigma methodology.  The many questions I had into avoiding rework were answered.  However, I was still the same impatient person who gets motivated by getting results fast.  So, I became really good in achieving “quick wins” in process improvement projects.  Although this was a very effective way to have the stakeholders (and me) motivated and buying in into improvements.  The risk of this is that you cannot only focus on these “quick wins” because you can lose sight of a larger and more sustainable target.

On a later stage on my career started engaging into more creative activities like writing articles, designing new processes, presentations and new tools.  I soon realized that the “get things done” impatient approach did not helped creativity. Usually when I waited for the moment where I felt ideas and information just start flowing, I could get a great final product. But, is was not only waiting; It was time for sharing drafts of my work with colleagues and mentors that will provide feedback and inspiration into improving my work, gathering data that could support my ideas, running brainstorming sessions that will challenge my ideas into a more robust solution.  Also, looking to similar projects that could provide us with lessons learned that will prevent us from taking dead ends in our projects.  With this, I reached to the conclusion that procrastination may be bad for execution but is good for creativity.

At this point you will be thinking that is this is true then is OK to miss deadlines.  It is not OK, is also not OK to meet a deadline by impacting negatively the quality of the final product.  There cannot be good execution without good planning and this plan must be realistic.  It is crucial to include in your plan enough time for creativity.  This is what we call structured procrastination.  We do allow ourselves time let ideas flow without forgetting the importance of the completion of the task.  Then, there is a question we must ask ourselves:  How realistic and relevant to the company needs the deadline should be? If we are capable to answer this then we can find the balance we seek between timeliness and creativity.

Demanding deadlines create stress and stress boost emotions.  Emotions are not objective and we may not come up with the right solution.  When I face a problem there is boosting stress and emotions, I usually go to Ju Jitsu class and procrastinate solution with a very good reason.  Emotions are not eternal, they will go away and a physical activity is just the perfect activity to allow them to leave and make space for creative solutions to this problem.  So procrastinate, but never skip planning.  You will fall in love with the result!

Cheers!

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