At least, that was the plan. Then, I found this article by Timothy A Pychyl. After reading it, I realized that I really wanted to write about Controlled Delay.
Procrastination VS. 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 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.
Benefits of a Controlled Delay
A controlled delay promotes creativity. Our minds get to step back from the stress and find new, more creative ways to tackle the problem.
For example, I delayed writing this article. That delay helped me figure out the tone, structure, and flow of this article. As a result, it is much smoother than the first two iterations.
It 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 was to get this article written and published.
And finally, a controlled delay helps us realize our priorities. This point comes from a study on procrastination done by UC Berkeley in 2000. In this study, “people may procrastinate more in pursuit of important goals than unimportant ones, or equivalently that increasing importance can exacerbate procrastination.”
See the Difference?
The study from 2000 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 stalling on the main one, we risk falling from controlled delay into procrastination.
For, as Pychyl would say, “while all procrastination is a 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 because a controlled delay can easily become procrastination.