Why Procrastination Boosts Your Creativity

Procrastination is an art. Anyone who has entertained procrastination in their lives knows this to be true. In my younger years, I spend a lot of time perfecting that art.

For instance, when I was in high school, I didn’t know the meaning of the word “homework”. At the time, I much rather spend my evenings saving the princess in Mario Bros, playing street hockey, watching the Cosby Show, or whatever. Anything but do my homework.

Now, here was the challenge. My parents and teachers were expecting me to do homework, but I wasn’t interested—at least not as much as I should. This was my dilemma: I’m expected to do something that I don’t want to do—at least not while I can play and watch TV.

See, when parents ask you if you have homework and you don’t want to do homework, what do you do? You tell them a story.

Likewise, when teachers ask you about your homework but you haven’t done any, what do you do? You tell them a story. In short, you make excuses. You can’t say, “I procrastinated!” You find clever excuses to cover up the fact that the work isn’t done.

Everyone knows the classic: “I forgot my homework at home”; “My dog has eaten my homework.”; or “My grandma was sick.” But after awhile you have to come up with more creative excuses.

Procrastination improves your creativity because it pushes you to come up with ever more clever excuses for not doing the work (or doing the work at the last minute). It makes you rack your brain. When you’re cornered, you feel compelled to come up with a creative excuse to explain why your work isn’t done (or not done with excellence).

For instance, if your boss asks you for the report, but you haven’t done it, you must find a creative reason why it’s not started or not completed yet. Of course, you don’t say, “The report isn’t done because I was procrastinating; I felt that surfing the web and talking to Shannon was more interesting than that dumb report.” Instead, you say, “I was super busy working on that other thing.” What thing? There’s no other thing. You were procrastinating.

I must tell you this though. The “boost” of creativity comes at a price. In fact, there’s a price to pay—and it’s a hefty one—for the storytelling (i.e. making excuse to cover up procrastination). The price is results. You find clever excuses, but at the price of results: you get no results. That you have a nice story why it’s not done doesn’t change the fact that the work isn’t done. It doesn’t change the fact that you haven’t produced the desired result.

Granted, sometimes you’re not making excuses; something did prevent you from getting the job done. I’m not talking about that time. I’m talking about the other times when you would have been able to complete the work had you not been procrastinating.

Making excuses is pretty much about making up stories, which is quite a creative endeavor. But it’s not profitable. And often those stories sound lame to the person hearing them.

Next time you want to use your creativity to cover up your procrastination habit, think about the cost you’re paying.

There are more productive ways to use your creativity. In fact, instead of using your creativity to make excuses, use it to make great work.