At least, that what this article was going to be. But, when doing my research and reading this article by Timothy A Pychyl, I learned that what I wanted to write about was the benefits of a Controlled Delay.
According to Pychyl, procrastination is a failure “to act as intended even though we are aware that this delay will probably come at a cost.”
On the other hand, a controlled delay is when we step back and allow our minds room to process the task as a whole.
This type of delay is beneficial because it promotes creativity, enhances our focus, and helps us realize our priorities.
Let me explain.
A controlled delay promotes creativity by allowing our minds to step back from the stress of the task while giving it room to find new, more creative ways to tackle the problem.
For example, I delayed writing this article and ended up with two different variations before I settled on the one you see now. That delay helped me figure out the tone, structure, and flow of this article, which is much smoother than the first two iterations.
A controlled delay also enhances our focus because, unlike procrastination, we don’t experience that “deadline panic” that comes when we wait until the last minute to complete things. Instead, we are refreshed, full of ideas, and ready to complete the task and store it away.
When I wrote the first drafts of this article, I was constantly distracted by little things that kept begging my attention. Now that my delay is over, my only thought is getting this article written and published.
And finally, a controlled delay helps us realize our priorities. This one is a little more complicated and comes from a study on procrastination done by UC Berkeley in 2000. They claim that “people may procrastinate more in pursuit of important goals than unimportant ones, or equivalently that increasing importance can exacerbate procrastination.”
Now, this study focused on procrastination, not controlled delays, but I believe the statement applies. If a task requires a lot of effort, we’ll often delay it and deal with the smaller tasks first. However, if we keep delaying the main task, we run the risk of falling from controlled delay to procrastination.
For, as Pychyl would say, “while all procrastination is delay, not all delay is procrastination,” and it is our job to learn the difference so we can make better use of our downtime.
So, next time you have a task or problem, remember that a controlled delay can be very beneficial to your creative process! Just be careful- a controlled delay can easily become procrastination if left long enough.