In insight


One thing the team over here at MOVE loves doing (maybe too much) is talking about how to be better:

How to be more efficient, more fun, more dynamic.

How to build a process as a team without stifling the workflows of individuals.

How to tell a better story—for ourselves and for our clients.

Recently, I’ve been advocating for a “working ahead” strategy to take some of the stress off of approaching deadlines and allow more time for the approval process. Anxiety is like carbon monoxide in a work environment—an odorless, stifling killer—so anything to take the pressure off seemed like a winning strategy.

And then I read this article in the New York Times on the virtues of procrastination. It connected with a few other things jangling around in my head and shook loose some of my assumptions regarding time management and creativity. If procrastination can lead to more creative thinking, could there be a way to procrastinate efficiently?

Is that as oxymoronic as it sounds?

Surprisingly, I think not.


I used to think this saying only applied to procrastinators: putting off work doesn’t make it go away, it just means you spend more time feeling guilty about leaving it undone. But there is more than one way to fill up a space of time with work, such as consuming hours with an excess focus on detail, or inventing problems where none exist. Even setting an early deadline still fills time with work—the same amount of work, just less time to do it in.

But what if we changed our conception of efficiency and procrastination? Specifically, what if “efficiency” didn’t mean “working faster,” and “procrastination” didn’t mean “bad time management?”

Working ahead shouldn’t mean trying to get a four-hour job done in two. If you think it will take four hours, block off four hours and use every minute. Deciding on Monday to work on a project on Wednesday isn’t procrastinating, so long as you’re giving yourself time on Wednesday to get the work done. And using up all your time on Wednesday isn’t procrastinating; it’s prioritizing your creative energy by not allowing yourself to be phased by your deadline.


John Cleese once gave a terrific speech on creativity that remains one of my favorite inspirational talks of all time. In it, he draws on his own personal experience as well as psychological research to create a brilliant case for using play and humor to foster creativity.

In short:

  • Creativity results from giving yourself time and space to think. Not too much (or else you’ll never get your work done), but enough to relax and explore many alternatives.
  • If you allow time pressures to govern your creative processes, then anxiety will cause you to grab for the first and easiest solution—not necessarily the most original.
  • At the same time, if you wait till the absolute last minute to start, then real time pressures will force the same outcome.

Fearing deadlines and trying to beat them by under-allocating your time resources isn’t efficient—it’s cutting corners.

And whatever you do, you should never cut corners.

Creativity hides in corners.

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