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Note: the first or second week in March is national procrastination week (depending on when you get to the celebration, and someone pointed out that this celebration seems to be observed later every year).

On the one hand procrastination is bad.  We who have this malady (and I am one) should not keep putting off that which needs to have been done last week.  On the other hand, maybe not so bad.

On the One Hand

do it tomorrow imageDr. Pier Steel teaches at the University of Calgary and is a Professor of Procrastination (are you surprised that there is such a position?).  He is also the author of The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Things Done.  In an online article he notes that some recent researchers have suggested that procrastination may have benefit in that ideas are allowed to incubate, and this process leads to more creative solutions.  However, the recent research may be flawed, and Dr. Steel observes, “The bleary-eyed 3:00 a.m. crowd scrambling to finish a project will usually come up with routine, unremarkable solutions. Innovative ideas are typically built on the bedrock of preparation, which includes a laborious mastery of your topic area followed by a lengthy incubation period.”[1]  Incubation is indeed valuable, but it should not be confused with procrastination.

On the Other Hand

procrastination imageDr. Steel wrote an earlier article in 2011 praising the whimsical activities of Les Waas whom Dr. Steel designated “The Greatest Procrastinator in History.”[2]  Mr. Les Waas worked in advertising and had a long productive career.  Mr. Waas also had a subversive tongue-in-cheek side.  He began by getting a large Philadelphia hotel to post signs proclaiming “Procrastinator’s Club Meeting Postponed.”  He became president of the PCA (Procrastinator’s Club of America), actually acting president since they never got around to electing him.  Their group chartered a bus to visit the world’s fair in New York City—the year after it closed.  They became known for their 100% accurate yearly predictions, released the year following the events concerned.  Dr. Steel admires Les Waas’ combination of significant professional and civic achievement with a recognition that sometimes work is not the highest priority in life.

So there you have it.  A friend of mine once called me the king of “on the other hand.”  On the one hand don’t procrastinate.  Learn to get after the tasks at hand as promptly as possible.  On the other hand, lighten up, let go; some things can and should wait.  Of course, the difficulty is knowing which to do when.  I suspect some of us more need to hear the message of the one hand, and the others of us need to hear the message of the other hand.  Happy procrastination week, and then let’s get back to work.

For what it’s worth to my credentials as a procrastinator, I finished the original draft of this blog last December.

[1]Piers Steel, “The Original Myth: Procrastination as a Source of Creativity.”

[2] Piers Steel, “The Greatest Procrastinator in History: Puts Off Death.”