To Procrastinate or to Incubate?

Thursday Bram over at lifehack.org published an interesting post today about Fake Deadlines. It’s all about how to create deadlines for yourself where none exist (eg. a client that says “just get it done whenever!”). I’m sure we all know people who say things like that. It makes it hard to get motivated and easy to procrastinate.

However, I have found a distinct advantage to procrastinating on some things. Case in point:

I have a proposal to write. It’s a pretty good opportunity, and I have already come up with some great ideas for this client. But they haven’t given us a deadline. They just asked for a proposal….”just get it done whenever!”. So, another day goes by and I haven’t started to write the thing yet. I’m not usually a big procrastinator. I’ve been told that procrastination is the direct result of not having enough information. Nope, that’s not it. I have all the information I could possibly need…I have been working with this particular client for years, and I know very well what they need and how they need to do it. So why am I posting on my blog about this, instead of writing the darn proposal?

I’m incubating. Now, Mom, before you go getting all excited about babies and things…it’s not that kind of incubation.

Sometimes in the creative process, I need to let my subconscious work on things for a while. Instead of staring at a blank page of my open document “client_proposal_v1.doc” and wondering where to start, I need to put it aside and do something else. Write on my blog. Text message my hubby. Eat Lunch. Chit chat with my business partner about something completely unrelated to work. Maybe I even need to go home and sleep on it.

Then, when I’m absolutely NOT concentrating on the task at hand, the inspiration will hit. Maybe that’s why so many of our company’s proposals get written at 11pm on a Monday night or 4am on a Saturday morning.

I found myself doing this incubation process so often that now I use it as a technique. If I’m really stumped on how to start something, I put it away. Let it fester in the back regions of my brain for a few hours, or even a few days (sometimes not having a deadline is a blessing in disguise!). Then, when I come back to the project, the words just flow.

Try incubation next time you get stumped on a creative task. You’ll be surprised how doing nothing about it can make for a much better end result.

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