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Are Creative People More Likely to Procrastinate?

Strategies and goals


A good imagination may not be strictly necessary for procrastination, but it can help.

In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen talks about the nature of procrastination: picturing something in the future and imagining how hard it will be or what can go wrong. He goes on to point out that the more easily a person can imagine problems, the more incentive they have to procrastinate “… because their sensitivity gives them the capability of producing in their minds lurid nightmare scenarios about what might be involved in doing the project and all the negative consequences that might occur if it weren’t done perfectly.”

How do people successfully combat procrastination? They take control and move things forward–that is, they figure out what the next physical action is.

Allen is big on the next physical action, and close examination of the idea helps explain why: figuring out the next action changes the focus from broad dangers to easy, short-term wins. For example, if you’re daunted at the prospect of doing your taxes, you may find yourself distracted by thoughts of a big balance due, mistakes, or audits. Figuring out your next task (“Sort through receipts in receipt box” or “Call tax preparer to make an appointment” or “Download an update to the tax softare”), by contrast, puts things on a much more comfortable level. Almost anyone can sort receipts, make a telephone call, or click a button on a Web site, and doing so moves the tax process forward. Reducing large tasks to a series of next actions–only one of which needs to be figured out at any given time–can create enthusiasm or energy around getting things done instead of wrapping the task in anxiety.

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  1. Walter  •  Feb 18, 2010 @3:29 am

    Procrastination is the attitude I deal everyday. And I agree with what you have stated here. I have figured out for myself that if I take some actions NOW, my anxieties will likely loose its influence. It does work wonders for me. 🙂

  2. Luc  •  Feb 18, 2010 @1:08 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Walter, and that’s an interesting distinction between determining the next action and starting the next action. Both seem to bring relieve from the anxiety procrastination tends to bring, but it seems to me that planning next actions helps a person feel more control, while doing a next action creates momentum.

  3. Cameron  •  Jun 28, 2010 @12:24 pm

    A very interesting way of putting it. I’m a creative writing major, and writing is something I love to do, but getting started on a new story is always tough. Because it’s challenging, and I know exactly what to expect, I sometimes avoid beginning a story out of fear of the long-term task that you point to as an inhibitor, even when I know I will enjoy every sentence that I write once I have a concept.

  4. plante slabesc  •  Nov 23, 2011 @8:02 am

    I’ve learned new things by means of your website.

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