Organizational research has demonstrated that people who procrastinate are more creative than people who don’t procrastinate. Actually, the results show a bell curve, meaning that a degree of procrastination is helpful in facilitating creative ideas.
This is really not so surprising. If you’re someone who anxiously leaps into action to get every task done without giving yourself space to “let things percolate,” you’re not going to be coming up with creative ideas and insights. And on the other end of the spectrum, if procrastinating for you is really about not doing anything, well of course, you’re not engaged in creative flow.
At the University of Chicago, under the mentorship of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the New York Times bestselling author of Flow, I studied how adults learn in everyday life. And since the completion of my PhD dissertation, I’ve continued to study how adults learn and process information in daily life.
What I have found is that those who procrastinate on something are likely more aligned with Deep Creative flow. I define the Deep Creative as wisdom that lies under the surface of our conscious awareness. It’s pre-verbal; it’s our “gut.”
Let me give you a couple of quick examples from my own life. I have a routine way I market my classes—social media posts, a few articles, and so on. Business owners would call this a “marketing strategy.” But sometimes I don’t have time to market an event in this standard way. Unfortunately, my mind will spend the weeks before the event beating me up: “this isn’t going to be good” “you should be marketing” “you’re not going to get the numbers.” But then lo and behold, a week before the event I’ll realize that the event filled up on its own. I didn’t need to spend the time, energy and resources marketing it. I got the numbers I wanted without doing all that.
There are other times when I have a scheduled talk or webinar or presentation, and I haven’t had time to prepare for it. Again, my mind will be very worried: “Yikes! What am I going to do?” And then it turns out fine. I didn’t need to spend time preparing for it. In fact, if I’d spent time preparing it would have been a waste of my time.
Of course this doesn’t always happen. I usually need to prepare notes before I talk somewhere and I need to market my work. But there are times when I procrastinate, or I simply don’t have the time, and I later find that I didn’t need to spend the time, energy and resources.
But there’s no way my thinking mind can know ahead of time what I need to prepare for and what I don’t. Instead, I’m aligned with something deeper than my conscious mind. I’m in Deep Creative flow.
Steve Jobs at Apple apparently never wrote up detailed business plans. Instead, he tuned into his gut and made decisions on the fly. This makes sense in industries that are rapidly changing. What’s true about your business model today isn’t going to be true in 6 months or a year. Or 5 years.
I have clients who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on training that they didn’t need, or hire expensive consultants that pushed them to do something that sounded like a good idea but wasn’t in alignment with their Deep Creative.
Tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours wasted.
Our thinking minds are limited. They only know what they know. They don’t know what they don’t know.
But there’s a deeper (pre-verbal) part of you that DOES know.
If you’re procrastinating on something, let me suggest this possibility: The task that you’re procrastinating on either doesn’t need to get done, or the scope of it is going to change. Trust your gut and stay aligned with the Deep Creative.
On that note, I have an upcoming seminar that starts this Friday for entrepreneurs (and others) to align with Deep Creative flow. I’d love to have you join us! Click here for more details.