8 Nov 2010
The Power of Procrastination.
Still, I haven't missed many deadlines in my life. I'll gladly admit to the all-nighters, improbable stunts and miraculous bursts of energy it took me to get there, but I (nearly always) managed to deliver on time. Sometimes I was on my last edit a minute before presenting, on other occasions I was still swapping slides around while already smiling at the audience, but I made it.
I even notice that, the older I become, the better I seem to be getting at pinpointing that crucial moment: the last possible minute you have to start on something in order to finish on time. In recent years it's even happened that I've completed a task before its deadline. Several times!
For years I thought I was just really bad at planning and organising my time. Until I discovered the MBTI.
(I"m not going to go into the specifics here, but if you want to know more you can find an introduction here and do a personality test here or here.)
Getting deeper into the MBTI helped me to understand that I am by no means a bad planner, or hopeless at making decisions.
Instead I learnt that I have a natural preference to consider all possible options before deciding what I want to do and how I'm going to do it. And just like any other personality trait, this has advantages and disadvantages, depending on the situation at hand.
Unless there is something really urgent and important going on, my priorities will be variable. If there is no clear "best option" I'll try to avoid final decisions and continue taking in information, letting it simmer and crystallise. This is not a skillset that will ever make me a brilliant planner, but it does make me a great improviser - or crisis manager. And when I do make a decision, it has a million different small and bigger elements factored in, often leading to a better decision in the end.
Our world needs diversity of skills. We seem to be a species that specialises and then cooperates to get a better result. Our social units need people who can make decisions quickly, ànd others who consider the 'what ifs'. It's when we learn to value each other's strengths and understand which skillset to apply to which situation, that our tribes can thrive.
Therefore, next time you notice you're procrastinating: don't fret about it. Instead, ask yourself why you're postponing action or decision. There's always a reason. Maybe what seems urgent or important in one part of your life isn't all that pressing in the grand scheme. Maybe you can't decide to change jobs because you haven't got a clear view of your true talents or how you want to use them. Or you're putting off writing your next chapter or article because you're subconsciously aware that your current idea has holes the size of Jupiter that need to be sorted out first.
There will be times where you have no choice but to kick yourself into gear. But even then, if you can spare a minute to think what is holding you back and what still needs to be fixed, you'll likely end up with a better view on the situation and ultimately with a better result.
Procrastination is not a flaw. It might occasionally get you into trouble in this fast-result-driven world we live in, but really, it is your secret superpower.