What we call something has a significant impact on our perceptions.

If you don’t start a project when you or someone else thinks you should, labeling it “procrastination” places a lot of negativity squarely on your shoulders. “Procrastination” can suggest laziness, hesitation, lack of responsibility, and indifference. Any of these individually (or collectively) represent a heavy burden; this burden makes it even more difficult to be creative and productive when you need to be.

While in school, and beating myself up more than I do now, I would have readily labeled myself a procrastinator. Many nights I wrote papers for next-day classes or began intense studying for tests right before they were to be given. Doing this never hurt the results though, since I earned strong grades throughout school.

With experience, however, it’s clear making progress on every project won’t begin right away.

Many really important projects will seem as if they should take a lot of effort over a prolonged period of time. Despite their importance, your approach to these projects may not unfold until very close to the deadlines they carry. Nearly every time though, what has to happen to make the project great comes into clearer view at the RIGHT TIME, the necessary creativity and productivity begin to flow, and the project gets done successfully.

What in my earlier life I’d have thought of as procrastinating, I now consider to be an integral part of managing the creative process. Through using creativity-instigating techniques which are shared here frequently, there’s now a high degree of confidence that when it makes sense to turn attention to a project (even if it seems really late in the game), the creative spark will be there to deliver what and when it’s ultimately needed.

I don’t pin the procrastination label on myself much at all anymore. Trust me – if you still think of yourself as a procrastinator, you should stop using the term too. You’ll be a lot happier, creative, and more fulfilled when you do. – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement.  To learn how we can facilitate the best innovative strategic thinking in your team email us at [email protected] or call us at 816-509-5320.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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4 Responses to “What If You Didn’t Call It Procrastination?”

  1. Ama says:

    Call it “just-in-time” creativity like the manufacturing sector did with inventory control. You’ll have a whole new audience!

  2. Barrett says:

    Great advice. Another useful analogy in thinking about delays comes from our agrarian heritage. It isn’t procrastination to wait until the crop is ready to harvest. Picking corn before it is ripe makes you stupid, not lazy.

    Same thing with innovation and strategy.

  3. Franis Engel says:

    It’s much more common that you’d imagine to mislabel one’s own emotional states. Think about how commonly people call how they are feeling, (even grief!) “depression” when it’s really something else more specific.

    Started calling myself a “productive procrastinator” with tongue firmly in cheek, as I realized that I seemed to do best always having something on the back burner of my next intentions. Seems to help fulfill my rebellious nature. But then realized that some of this urge to wait until the last moment came from a pleasure to measure the last bits of whenever I could have changed my mind.

    Something about keeping my options opened so all the possible permutations could emerge; determining what that last moment was to “force” the decision and seizing it before the ability to make a decision was swept from underneath me.

    …a strange pleasure. But after awhile, walking that edge – cutting it a bit closer each time – there’s the times when you realize that you’ve waited too long and misjudged the situation and lost your self-proclaimed race with timing.

    So now I tell myself that I’m not really doing anything, just getting the tools together in case I want to be ready to do it later…this usually seduces me into the pleasure of doing it before it actually needs to get done.

  4. This is the kind of question that serves to bring bona fide procrastinators out of the woodwork. Since procrastination is not associated as a practice to sweatshops, it is in reality an exemplary form of decadence.

    This means that procrastinator is somewhat in a privileged position just to be able to be in the position to procrastinate. If we change the word so we can mentally fool ourselves to be more productive or more efficient – it simply means that the personal control mechanism which is procrastination, has moved into a higher sphere of privilege (for the upwardly mobile) or your luck’s just run out (and life has no other direction than the downhill slide into the organizational abyss).

    Someone whose procrastination serves as a liability is somewhat missing out on what the consummate procrastinator has learned as the procrastinators advantage.

    There only needs to be a change in the word if there is a liability involved, which fits the definition of reckless endangerment – but that is often the realm of the amateur procrastinator. The professional procrastinator is fully immersed and involved in the universe of creativity and not destruction – which is standard by which one can measure if one is a professional or simply an amateur procrastinator.

    If procrastination has a payback element then it comes with the nerve and excitement of a poker table – but if procrastination has no tangible payback, if it is just avoidance or the primary constituent of it is paralysis by fear – then by all means find new meaning, for there is absolutely no point in having one’s life stuck in a moment or worse, a rather bad place.

    Yet for those who have ever experienced the continuous payoff of procrastination, no other word shall suffice – for then it has become a core part of one’s being – and a highly decadent being at that. Of course the option for procrastination can be terminated at any downward spiral in life circumstances.

    My view is that if one truly is immersed in the reverie and reward form of procrastination, then the word must never be changed unless we personally become averse to our own decadent behavior or become indistinguishable from the masses and find ourselves chained firmly back into the rat race.