This content was created by Girlboss in partnership with Notion.
We’ve all been there before. You’re sitting at your desk, there’s a big deadline coming up, and yet, for whatever reason, you can’t bring yourself to work on the project. It will look different for everyone—maybe you’re distracted by your TikTok FYP, maybe other items on your to-do list feel easier to tackle, maybe you decide now is the best moment to go through all those tabs you have open—but there’s no doubt about it: You’re procrastinating.
Procrastination is not usually seen as a virtue in our productivity-driven work culture—in fact, people turn to digital services like the Webby-nominated workplace tool Notion to avoid it as much as possible. But some, like academic Frank Partnoy, who wrote the 2012 book Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, argue that procrastination is actually the key to getting it all done.
It sounds almost too good to be true. Is healthy, creative procrastination actually a thing? The answer is a bit more complicated, says Toronto-based productivity coach Clare Kumar.
“You have to understand what makes you procrastinate,” she says, explaining that there are many possible reasons. It could be that you’re putting off something—say, filing your taxes—because it’s so mind-numbingly boring. Not ideal, but certainly understandable, so long as it’s not a regular occurrence that speaks to a greater unhappiness in your career. Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure about next steps, so you’re choosing to avoid getting started on a project, which, again, may be a sign of a bigger problem.
Healthy procrastination, on the other hand, is a more natural part of our creative process. “It lets the back of your mind work on something that needs to be solved,” Kumar says. “When I plan a talk, for example, I build the outline two months out. Then I’ll leave time to think about it. I’ve given myself a taskmaster that my brain can work on while I’m sleeping. I’m subconsciously processing things and forming connections without [doing it] directly.”
You shouldn’t have to sit in front of your computer, toiling away at something for four straight hours to feel like you’re accomplishing something, according to Kumar. You have to give permission to your brain to wander—something we don’t do enough, the expert adds. That’s not a sign of laziness or a lack of discipline, but the “right” kind of procrastination.
So how can you try it for yourself? First, you have to identify your own work processes. If you’re weary of an assignment because you know you don’t have all the required information or research done, use a tool like Notion to schedule time for you to focus on that part of the task and organize your thoughts (like a calendar template, time-management tracker or brainstorm toolkit). Once you know how you work, Kumar suggests doing things that aren’t cognitively demanding when the mood to procrastinate strikes. She likes to iron (who doesn’t love a crisp shirt?), but you try baking something or organizing your skincare products. A walk is a great idea, too—but don’t listen to a podcast as you stroll, because your brain needs the quiet time to sit with your thoughts.
Perhaps most importantly, you have to change your mindset. Sure, maybe that half an hour away from your computer can technically be considered “procrastinating,” but if you return feeling reenergized and ready to tackle a task, is that really a bad thing? Or are you just creating the best possible conditions for you to do what you do best? “Productivity is personal,” Kumar says. “We tend to think there’s only one way of doing things, and that’s just not true.”