Advance Performance | Procrastinate to Create: The Benefits of Taking Your Time to Think about Ideas
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Procrastinate to Create: The Benefits of Taking Your Time to Think about Ideas

Procrastinate to Create: The Benefits of Taking Your Time to Think about Ideas

Time management in balancing work, leisure, family and friends, and achieving career and personal goals is an increasing juggling act in our society today. Our means to communicate via technology blurs so that we can be on alert 24/7. When do we give ourselves time to just think?

Do you remember daydreaming while in class at school? Remember thinking about being a Premiership footballer or an astronaut or acting in the West End or being the next J.K. Rowling? While you daydreamed, you were visualising a goal and a future. Those dendrites were formed, but weakened if you moved away from that daydream you didn’t actively pursue. If you developed your idea, actively pursued your goal, the dendrites strengthened and you have likely achieved your dream.

Each working day is filled with tasks, deadlines to complete, urgent phone calls, conference calls or emails, training, projects, and of course, many interruptions. So, it seems almost impossible just to create time to give yourself actual headspace to develop ideas. Time to create.

Time is relative though. We run our lives by our clock time to fit in appointments, deadlines, and physical working hours, but our real time is relative to our attitude. If we are enjoying a task, time passes quickly, but filling in a tax return in January can seem interminable!

We also put off tasks by wasting time through procrastinating. It is so easy to open another tab and just scroll down Facebook or Twitter, play Candy Crush or The Sims for ten minutes, but is procrastination useful?

As Aaron Sorkin said: “You call it procrastinating, I call it thinking.

In his excellent TED Talk “The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers”, Adam Grant explores the benefits of actively giving ourselves time to think – to procrastinate – and to develop our creative ideas. He discusses research which examines how students given a task then time to procrastinate (playing Minesweeper) for 5 minutes can predict more success.

When you have an important task such as a meeting, completing a report, give yourself time before actively completing it to think about it – visualise successfully completing it to your potential – before starting the actual task.

Grant’s research on great thinkers, artists, and innovators who take their time to build on their ideas have more long lasting success and create more highly acclaimed pieces of work on the whole. Leonardo Da Vinci took 16 years to complete the Mona Lisa. Thomas Edison spent years on his experiments to develop the lightbulb. If he had given up after exploring just one idea he would not have been known as such a great innovator.

But great ideas, great art, great creations and projects take time. We need headspace to go back and revise a goal to improve it, to develop from one aim to a more effective aim.

Give yourself headspace in your day to think about ideas, to be creative, and visualise your goal. Visualise your plan as a success. Form your SMART plan towards achieving your goal, and write down your affirmation.

Adam Grant explains that the great artists, composers, and innovators did not just work on developing one idea for many years. They practised their skills over many years – we have explored the 10,000 hours rule which is the subject of Matthew Syed’s book Bounce in a previous eshot Does Practice Make Perfect? As James Dyson has explained, he did thousands of experiments, patenting results before he was happy with the first Dyson vacuum cleaner. Practice is developing your ideas and skills, and if it does not work effectively, it is not a failure. The practice is part of the success, and you can give yourself more time to think and develop your ideas based on how effective was your previous attempt.

By reviewing your ideas in the same way Edison, Dyson, and acclaimed writers, musicians, scientists, or artists do, you can improve the original idea and the effectiveness of your goal.

Practice enables success. The more ideas you pursue, the more likely you are to find your masterpiece.

As Adam Grant says “If we want to be original, we have to generate more ideas.

If we want to be successful, to be a pioneer in our field, to be different, to go one step further, we need to give ourselves the headspace to think creatively. We need to give ourselves time to procrastinate so that we can successfully create.