Procrastination is usually characterised as a negative habit but this is not necessarily so. If you are working to a tight deadline, trying to complete an assignment or aiming for a difficult goal, procrastination will almost certainly delay successful completion.
Here we need a little reflection and to be honest with ourselves (and possibly our colleagues at work). If I delay because I am lazy then I should recognise this and take some action to ensure that I correct this behaviour. But in the world of creativity and innovation we sometimes hang fire completing something, and make several iterations in order to try and make sure that we deliver the best solution possible. This is one of the golden rules of creative thinking ‘cycle often, close late’.
Procrastinating can only help you to improve an outcome when the (tangible) benefits of delay outweigh the risks of hasty progress. In such cases, procrastination allows time for reflection and learning and to incorporate our learning into current rather than future work.
We must therefore learn to procrastinate strategically to avoid threats (or minimise risks), become more innovative, and discover original and creative solutions to our problems. Why not build in a little ‘procrastination time’ into your project plans?
Here is just one example of a famous procrastinator, Leonardo Da Vinci. Researchers estimate that he painted the Mona Lisa in fits and starts over a period of several years, starting in 1503, and not completed until just before his death in 1519. Critics said he wasted his time on various experiments and other distracting activities that prevented his paintings from being completed earlier. Did he in fact make use of any of these lessons in his works before he died? What would the Mona Lisa have been like if it had been completed in say 1504?