The Creative Imperative

How innovation and play beget wellbeing

Procrastination Nation

How to use your urge to procrastinate to be productive.

Let's face it: You are procrastinating.  Even as you read these words you are avoiding doing something that you "should" be doing.  And that's okay (as long as you keep reading my post).  Americans are superbly efficient at at least two things: 1.) Keeping Sarah Palin in the popular press, and 2.) Procrastination.  Now that I think about it, perhaps those two are linked - but I digress.  We all procrastinate and trying to avoid procrastinating is as futile as avoiding the Kardashians.  It cannot be done.  So don't even try.  If you find yourself constantly putting off things that you want to do, especially creative projects, the key is to manipulate yourself into using your powers of delay to get things done.  If that seems paradoxical, read on...

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Rather than trying to subdue your instinct to procrastinate, cultivate it.  But do it carefully.  Get a number of creative projects going at the same and when one seems stale, move on to another.  The idea of keeping your hands in various different creative endeavors will allow you the thrill of keeping things fresh, and therefore keeping things moving.  Plus, it has the added bonus of feeling illicit - It's sort of like cheating on yourself - I'm avoiding working on my screenplay, or novel, so instead I'm doing an article, (or blogging for Psychology Today), so I'd better enjoy it. 

Now for some structure: Indulge your urge to procrastinate, but don't get silly.  The idea of having a few projects going on simultaneously is a great strategy to push forth in your creative imperative, but keep it to six or fewer projects (there is actually some neuroscience research to support this idea, but I won't bore you with the studies).  Any more than six, and your energy becomes diffused and you won't really make any progress on your projects and you will likely end up feeling frustrated and stagnant. 

So give it a try.  Stop avoiding what you should be doing and go out and procrastinate. 



Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in helping patients achieve mental health and well-being through creative expression.


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