The Relationship between Creativity and Procrastination: A Different Perspective


Have you ever found yourself delaying a task, only to realize that your creativity seems to shine when you're pressed for time? It's a common phenomenon that many of us can relate to - procrastination. But what if I told you that there may be a positive relationship between creativity and procrastination? In this article, we will explore the concept of creativity, understand procrastination, and examine the intriguing connection between the two. We will also discuss how procrastination can have both positive and negative impacts on creativity, and provide strategies to harness the power of productive procrastination. So, let's dive in and unravel this unique perspective on the relationship between creativity and procrastination.

The Concept of Creativity

Creativity is a fascinating and multifaceted concept that has intrigued artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, and philosophers alike for centuries. It is often described as the ability to generate novel and valuable ideas or solutions that go beyond the conventional or predictable. Creativity can be found in various domains, including art, music, literature, technology, and business.

According to Sir Ken Robinson, an eminent British author and educator, "Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it's produced the most extraordinary results in human culture."1 Indeed, creativity has played a pivotal role in shaping our history, driving innovation, and pushing the boundaries of human achievement.

Creativity is not limited to a select group of individuals; it is a trait that exists within all of us. While some people may naturally possess a higher inclination for creative thinking, everyone has the capacity to develop and nurture their creative skills. As professor Teresa Amabile once said, "Creativity is not just a rare trait that some people are born with; it is a cognitive skill that can be trained and developed."2

Creativity involves thinking outside the box, breaking free from the confines of traditional thinking patterns, and exploring new possibilities. It requires openness to new experiences, an ability to connect seemingly unrelated ideas, and a willingness to take risks. As renowned physicist Albert Einstein famously stated, "Creativity is intelligence having fun."3

To be creative is to embrace curiosity, to challenge the status quo, and to embrace alternative perspectives. It involves being comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, as creativity often emerges from the exploration of uncharted territories. As author Elizabeth Gilbert aptly put it, "Creativity is a shared human trait that asks us to trust in the realm of ideas and to have the courage to bring them to life."4

Creativity is not just about producing something new; it is also about the process itself. It is an experiential journey where one can discover new insights about oneself, the world, and the connections between them. It is a deeply personal and fulfilling endeavor that can bring joy, satisfaction, and a sense of purpose.

In summary, creativity is a fundamental human ability that empowers us to think differently, to challenge norms, and to unlock our full potential. It is a transformative force that has the power to reshape our lives, our communities, and our world.

Understanding Procrastination

Procrastination is a common phenomenon that affects individuals from all walks of life. It can be defined as the act of delaying or postponing tasks or actions that should be completed within a specific time frame. We have all found ourselves putting off important tasks, whether it's studying for an exam, completing assignments, or even starting a new project. The tendency to procrastinate is undoubtedly prevalent, but what exactly causes it?

According to research, procrastination is not simply a result of laziness or a lack of motivation. Instead, it is often rooted in complex psychological processes. One theory suggests that individuals who procrastinate are prone to experiencing negative emotions like anxiety and fear of failure. As a result, they resort to delaying tasks as a means of avoiding these uncomfortable emotions.

Psychologist Dr. Pychyl explains, "Procrastination is an emotion-focused coping strategy." It acts as a temporary relief from negative emotions, providing individuals with an escape from the stress and anxiety associated with the task at hand. However, this relief is only short-lived, as the looming deadline eventually brings about an overwhelming sense of guilt, regret, and increased stress.

Additionally, research shows that procrastination can also be attributed to a lack of self-regulation and difficulty in prioritizing tasks effectively. People who struggle with self-regulation find it challenging to resist immediate gratification, leading them to prioritize instant pleasure or relaxation over long-term goals. This tendency further exacerbates the cycle of procrastination.

Furthermore, the concept of "time inconsistency" plays a role in procrastination. This refers to the tendency to value immediate rewards more than future rewards. As a result, individuals may choose to indulge in activities that provide instant gratification, such as watching TV or scrolling through social media, instead of engaging in tasks that require effort and time.

Understanding the factors that contribute to procrastination is essential in addressing this behavior. By recognizing the emotional and psychological processes involved, you can begin to develop strategies to overcome procrastination and boost productivity.

Examining the Relationship between Creativity and Procrastination

Have you ever found yourself putting off a task until the last minute? Do you often feel guilty about procrastinating? Well, you may be surprised to learn that there is a link between creativity and procrastination. Research has shown that procrastination can actually fuel creativity in certain situations.

Creativity is the ability to generate new ideas, solutions, or perspectives. It involves thinking outside the box and being open to exploring different possibilities. Procrastination, on the other hand, is the act of delaying or postponing tasks. It is often seen as a negative habit that hinders productivity. However, recent studies have challenged this notion and explored how procrastination can actually enhance creativity.

According to researcher Dr. Adam Grant, "Procrastination can be productive when it allows for incubation and creative problem-solving." When we delay a task, our subconscious mind continues to work on it in the background. This process, known as incubation, allows ideas to simmer and connections to form. As a result, when we finally tackle the task, we may have a fresh perspective or innovative solutions that we wouldn't have come up with if we had rushed through it.

One explanation for why procrastination enhances creativity is that it allows for divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the ability to generate multiple ideas or solutions to a problem. When we procrastinate, we give ourselves more time for our thoughts to flow freely and make unconventional connections. Researcher Dr. Carsten Wrosch explains, "Procrastination can lead to the discovery of novel and creative ideas, as it provides an opportunity for the mind to wander and explore different possibilities."

However, it is important to note that not all forms of procrastination are beneficial for creativity. Procrastination becomes problematic when it leads to chronic delay or hinders progress. It is essential to find a balance and use procrastination as a tool rather than a hindrance.

In a study conducted by researchers from Columbia and MIT, it was found that those who engaged in productive procrastination were more likely to exhibit higher levels of creativity. Productive procrastination refers to engaging in alternative creative activities when avoiding a task. For example, instead of starting a project, you might engage in drawing, reading, or brainstorming ideas for future projects. This type of procrastination allows you to continue being productive while still giving your mind the opportunity to incubate ideas.

So, the next time you find yourself procrastinating, don't beat yourself up about it. Embrace it as a chance to let your mind wander and explore new perspectives. Dr. Fuchsia Sirois, a researcher at the University of Sheffield, suggests, "Procrastination may be a way of allowing yourself to reset and come back to a task with fresh eyes. It's all about finding the right balance between delaying and taking action."

In conclusion, while procrastination is often viewed as a negative habit, it can actually foster creativity under the right circumstances. By allowing for incubation, divergent thinking, and engaging in productive procrastination, we can harness the positive aspects of procrastination to enhance our creative endeavors. So, the next time you find yourself putting off a task, remember that procrastination might just be the impetus for your next big idea.

magnifying glass near gray laptop computer
Photo by Agence Olloweb on Unsplash

A Perspective on the Positive Impacts of Procrastination on Creativity

Procrastination is often seen as a negative habit, associated with laziness and inefficiency. However, a unique perspective on procrastination suggests that it can actually have positive impacts on creativity. Contrary to popular belief, procrastination can be an essential part of the creative process.

When you find yourself putting off a task, you might feel guilty or unproductive. However, this delay can give your mind the chance to wander and explore different ideas. Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman said, "Procrastination is not only an avoidable delay in getting started, it is also an invaluable source of creativity." By allowing yourself to procrastinate, you are giving your brain the opportunity to make unique connections and foster creative thinking.

Procrastination can give you the time and space to let ideas incubate. The pressure of a looming deadline often forces us to think within the confines of what is expected. However, by delaying the start of a project, you can give yourself the freedom to think outside the box. Steve Jobs once said, "Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while." Procrastination allows your mind to make those unexpected connections, leading to innovative ideas and solutions.

Moreover, procrastination can enable you to gather more information and insights. Often, we jump into a task without fully understanding the subject matter. By delaying the start and engaging in other activities, you can stumble upon new information that enhances your understanding. As Albert Einstein famously said, "Creativity is intelligence having fun." Procrastination allows your mind to play and explore, leading to a deeper understanding of the subject matter and potentially sparking new creative ideas.

It is important to note that not all procrastination is productive. Mindlessly scrolling through social media or engaging in activities that provide no intellectual stimulation will not yield creative results. Productive procrastination involves engaging in activities that are loosely related to the task at hand, such as reading articles, brainstorming, or engaging in creative hobbies.

In conclusion, while procrastination is often viewed negatively, it can have positive impacts on creativity. By allowing your mind to wander, incubate ideas, make unexpected connections, and gather more information, procrastination can enhance your creative thinking. As you navigate the complex relationship between creativity and procrastination, remember that there is a fine balance. Embrace productive procrastination as a tool to unlock your creative potential, but be mindful of avoiding unproductive distractions. As Leonardo da Vinci once said, "Art is never finished, only abandoned." So give yourself the freedom to procrastinate and let your creativity flourish.

Addressing the Negative Effects of Procrastination on Creativity

Procrastination is often seen as a negative habit that hinders creativity. It can cause stress, missed opportunities, and a decrease in productivity. While some people believe that procrastination can fuel creative thinking, it is important to address the negative effects it can have on your creative process.

One of the key negative effects of procrastination on creativity is the added pressure it creates. When you continually put off working on a project, you may find yourself rushing to meet deadlines. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration, and a lack of focus. As the famous author Neil Gaiman once said, "The worst thing you can do is nothing". Procrastination hampers your ability to fully engage with your creative pursuits, as the pressure of looming deadlines can stifle your creative flow.

Another negative impact of procrastination on creativity is the missed opportunity for meaningful exploration. When you delay getting started on a project, you deprive yourself of the chance to explore different ideas and perspectives. This exploration is crucial for nurturing creativity and finding innovative solutions. As poet Maya Angelou wisely said, "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have". By procrastinating, you limit the potential for new and creative ideas to flourish.

Procrastination can also lead to a decrease in motivation and self-confidence. When you continually put off working on your creative endeavors, you may start to doubt your abilities and lose interest in your projects. This lack of motivation can hinder your willingness to take risks and experiment with new ideas. As psychologist Carol Dweck noted, "Procrastination is not just about laziness. It's about fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, but ultimately, fear of judgment". By addressing procrastination, you can rebuild your confidence and reignite your motivation to pursue your creative endeavors.

To address the negative effects of procrastination on creativity, it is important to develop strategies that help you overcome this habit. One effective strategy is to break your creative projects into smaller, manageable tasks. By setting achievable goals and creating a timeline, you can prevent procrastination by taking small steps towards completing your project. Additionally, creating a supportive environment can help combat procrastination. Surround yourself with people who inspire and motivate you, and establish a routine that fosters creativity and productivity.

Remember, addressing the negative effects of procrastination on creativity requires self-awareness and a willingness to make positive changes. By acknowledging the negative impacts and implementing strategies to counteract them, you can unlock your full creative potential and avoid the pitfalls of procrastination. As creative entrepreneur Marie Forleo once said, "The world needs your creativity. So don't wait. Dive in. Start. Share. You never know who needs exactly what you have to offer".

brown-and-white clocks
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Case Studies on Creativity and Procrastination

Now that we have explored the concept of creativity, understood procrastination, and examined the relationship between the two, let's delve into some real-life case studies that shed light on how procrastination can affect creativity. These stories will give you a better understanding of the complexities involved and provide insights into how people have harnessed their procrastination tendencies for creative purposes.

Case Study 1: Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali, a renowned Spanish surrealist painter, was notorious for his procrastination habits. Yet, he managed to produce incredible works of art that continue to captivate audiences to this day. Dali once said, "I begin by not taking my brushes or my paints. I wait until the last minute, feeling the anxiety of completing a masterpiece." This statement reflects his unconventional approach to creativity and his ability to harness the pressure of impending deadlines to fuel his imagination.

Case Study 2: Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin, the acclaimed American screenwriter, is best known for his work on films like "The Social Network" and TV shows like "The West Wing." Sorkin openly admits to being a procrastinator, but he credits his procrastination for his ability to come up with brilliant dialogue. In an interview, Sorkin revealed, "When I procrastinate, my mind starts to wander, and that's when I stumble upon ideas that I wouldn't have otherwise. It's like my mind is working on its own, even when I'm not consciously focused on the task at hand."

Case Study 3: Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, the renowned American author and poet, is celebrated for her powerful literary contributions. Despite her profound achievements, Angelou struggled with procrastination throughout her life. However, she managed to turn this tendency into a positive force. She once said, "I tend to put things off, but during that procrastination period, ideas simmer and percolate. When I finally sit down to write, it all comes pouring out." This showcases how Angelou embraced her procrastination as a crucial part of her creative process.

These case studies demonstrate that procrastination, when approached with intention and self-awareness, can be a catalyst for creativity. Instead of viewing procrastination as a hindrance, these individuals harnessed its potential to fuel their imagination and produce exceptional work.


Strategies to Harness Productive Procrastination

Now that you have a better understanding of procrastination and its relationship with creativity, it's time to explore some strategies that can help you harness productive procrastination. These approaches will enable you to make the most of your tendency to delay tasks while fueling your creative process.

  1. Break Down Tasks: One effective strategy is to break down your tasks into smaller and more manageable parts. By doing this, you can focus on one specific aspect of a project at a time. This allows your mind to wander and explore different creative ideas while still making progress.

As creative director Maria explained, "I often find that by breaking down my tasks into smaller steps, I give myself the freedom to explore different creative avenues. It helps me minimize the pressure of completing an entire project all at once."

  1. Set Deadlines: While it may seem counterintuitive, setting deadlines for yourself can actually enhance your creativity. Creating a sense of urgency can push you to think outside the box and find innovative solutions.

Renowned author Mark Twain once said, "I know the joy of procrastination, but I also know the pleasure of meeting a deadline and the incredible things that can come from that focus."

  1. Take Breaks: Giving yourself intentional breaks during your work sessions can provide a much-needed mental recharge. Engaging in activities that stimulate your mind, such as going for a walk, listening to music, or practicing mindfulness, can spark new ideas and perspectives.

As artist and entrepreneur Steve Jobs shared, "Taking a break and stepping away from a project allows me to come back with fresh eyes and a revitalized mindset. It's during these moments of 'procrastination' that some of my best ideas are born."

  1. Utilize the Power of Incubation: Incubation is another technique you can employ to harness productive procrastination. It involves consciously stepping away from a project and allowing your subconscious mind to process the information in the background.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explained, "Productive procrastination allows for productive incubation. When you give your mind time to process information unconsciously, it can tap into new insights and connections that can enhance your creativity."

  1. Embrace Diverse Activities: Engaging in different activities and hobbies can provide a wellspring of inspiration. Exploring new areas, learning new skills, or even indulging in recreational activities can spark fresh ideas and perspectives.

As entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban said, "I'm an advocate of productive procrastination. When I'm not working on my primary endeavors, I fill my time with diverse activities. It's during these moments that I stumble upon unique ideas that have the potential to transform industries."

Remember, the key to harnessing productive procrastination is finding the right balance between allowing yourself the freedom to explore and ensuring that you still make progress on your tasks. By employing these strategies, you can transform your procrastination into a tool for enhancing your creativity.

Now that you have a wealth of knowledge about the relationship between creativity and procrastination, it's time to put these strategies into practice and witness the profound impact they can have on your creative process. So, go ahead and embrace your tendency to procrastinate, and make the most of it by channeling it into productive and inspired work. You might just be surprised at what you can achieve.

shallow focus photography of coffee late in mug on table
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash


One perspective suggests that procrastination can provide an incubation period for ideas to develop and mature. As Austin Kleon, author and artist, explains, "Taking your mind off the task at hand can often lead to breakthroughs and unexpected connections." By allowing our thoughts to wander, we create the mental space for unconventional ideas to emerge. This downtime can be the fertile ground for creativity to flourish.

However, it is crucial to acknowledge that excessive procrastination can hamper creativity and productivity. As Dan Ariely, behavioral economist and author, cautions, "Procrastination is about not choosing where we want to go, while creativity is about choosing where we do want to go." Finding a balance between utilizing productive procrastination and avoiding the pitfalls of chronic procrastination is essential for maintaining creativity while ensuring progress.

In the end, whether procrastination hinders or enhances creativity depends on how it is managed. Being aware of our tendencies towards procrastination and developing strategies to harness its potential is key. As John Perry, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, humorously remarks, "By understanding the connection between procrastination and creativity, we can turn a seemingly unproductive habit into a creative force." So let us embrace our occasional moments of delay while staying mindful of their influence, for they might just lead us to unexpected and imaginative solutions.

1Sir Ken Robinson, TED Talk: "Do schools kill creativity?", 2006.
2Teresa Amabile, "The Social Psychology of Creativity", 1983.
3Albert Einstein, quoted in Life Magazine, 1955.
4Elizabeth Gilbert, TED Talk: "Your elusive creative genius", 2009.
5Dr. Adam Grant, "Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World" (2016)
6Dr. Carsten Wrosch, "When Goals Conflict: How to Stay Happy while Trying To Be Successful" (2017)
7Dr. Fuchsia Sirois, "Break Free from Procrastination: Increase Productivity and Achieve Your Goals" (2019)
8Daniel Kahneman, "Thinking, Fast and Slow" (2011)
9Walter Isaacson, "Steve Jobs" (2011)
10Albert Einstein, "The Ultimate Quotable Einstein" (2010)
11Neil Gaiman, "Make Good Art" (2012)
12Maya Angelou, "Conversations with Maya Angelou" (1989)
13Carol Dweck, "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" (2006)
14Marie Forleo, "Everything is Figureoutable" (2019)
15Mason Currey, "Daily Rituals: How Artists Work" (2013)