I have grown to love procrastination. I advocate for it for myself and for the leaders I work with. It’s become a goal, to learn to procrastinate in favor of not wearing myself down, thinking through my priorities, and being more intentional about what comes out of my mouth and the decisions I’ll make.
Putting things off gets a bad rap. We often hear of all of the downsides of procrastination. Most leaders I know are wired for action, but what if we take procrastination to heart and intentionally think of it as a verb (look it up, it’s true). Yes, it’s an action word. Is it possible that there are some upsides to procrastinating?
Every time you “act” instead of “react”, you’ve put more energy and heart into the actions you take. When you defer decisions and wait to speak, you’ll find that you are a better leader. Hard to do, yes – but terribly important. Before you dash off that scathing email or berate someone for their mistake, before you make a decision that you’ll regret later, slow down and procrastinate in order for your impulse to go to the rational part of your brain so that you can take deliberate action.
The upsides of procrastinating:
Less stress: When you purposefully decide to put off an action or decision, you can relax. Ask yourself if there is an urgent or immediate reason to do something right at this moment, of if you might put it off. If you think through your response, chances are that your actions will be more in keeping with your intentions as a leader. You may also find that your decisions are spot on the first time around rather than having to make careless mistakes and retract them.
Careful thought: Intentional procrastination will give you a chance to think through important actions that could make or break your leadership. Certainly, there are times when you need to react – but there are also times when it makes sense to hold off, to shut up, to put off, and to think through important decisions. When you are able to take the time, take a deep breath and think carefully about the action you want to take.
Genuine leadership: If you observe closely, you might find that the best leaders are thoughtful. You will see them asking questions of others in order to delay a decision while learning more about something before they leap. Or you might find that they will purposely state that they can’t make a decision about something right now, they need time to think about their responses. When you learn to do this, you’ll also learn to take action that is aligned with who you are as a leader.
Better actions: In the end, leaders are judged by the action they take. I’m not advocating for delaying everything or for inaction through procrastination, but for better action through deliberate procrastination. I know it sounds strange, but delay can often result in better leadership.
So think of deliberate procrastination as a verb, giving you the advantage of taking superior action and making better decisions. Don’t allow the continual pull of urgency to override your ability to think through your responses and be the best you can be.