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Creative Flow: 8 Reasons Why Procrastinating is Better than Working

Don’t you hate wasting time? You need to get to it and do the work.

But what if forcing yourself to do the work isn’t always the best answer? What if doing so will result in long lasting creative blocks?

On the other hand, procrastination could hold unlimited potential for your sanity, overall well being, and productivity.

I’ve become prolific because I learned the value of procrastination. I stopped fighting it and gave into it wholeheartedly.

Procrastination could be the key to unlocking your creative flow too.

I love creating stuff that matters and I like to think I’ve been rather successful, but there are times when I just I don’t feel like it. I’d rather be doing something else, even if it’s just daydreaming, or, as too many others see it, procrastinating.

I’m cool with that. And yet I’m one of the most productive people I know. Seems kind of odd doesn’t it?

Maybe not.

I’ve talked with others I know who are extremely productive, more so than I am, and all have admitted they don’t buy into the “work your butt off” mentality.

It’s liberating and allows one the freedom to remove unnecessary pressure that otherwise would inhibit one’s creative flow.

I’ve spent the last two weeks not writing and I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it, and I don’t feel guilty for not feeling guilty about it.

Here’s the thing, when I force myself to write I end up with work I don’t appreciate or I spend hours staring at a screen until my eyes are about to pop out.

That’s wasting time! And it is stressful.

Procrastinating is better than spending time stressing myself out.

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Creative types, especially writers, are famous for giving the advice to sit down and do the work even if you don’t feel like it. I refuse.

The mind needs down time, it needs time to ponder, and even time to recover.

If we are always going, going, going, forcing ourselves when our mind and body are telling us to rest, then we’ll just end up getting nowhere faster and probably crash somewhere along the way.

If we are creating just anything for the sake of staying busy, we are more likely to be unhappy, miserable, and dissatisfied with the results.

So why do we force ourselves anyway? Put a stop the madness.

I discovered that the more time I put off writing and procrastinate, the more time I spend creating. It goes against everything I’ve ever been taught, but it works.

How’s that possible?

The short answer is: remember The Tortoise and the Hare? You can still win by taking your time.

The long answer is:

8 Reasons Why Procrastinating is Better than (Constantly) Working

1 – You’ll create work that matters to you.

Today we are all about working to meet deadlines, to get things done and then do more and more. It’s excess. And what we ultimately end up doing is burning out early and often. Downtime allows you to recharge your mind, body and soul. Recharged we create work that matters, that feels satisfying and worthwhile.

If you don’t feel like creating right now, that’s okay. Go for a walk, go to a movie or take a nap. When you’re ready to create you’ll know it and you’ll do a better job that you will appreciate.

2 – You’ll be less stressed.

Procrastination helps release stress.

Stress is not only counter-creative it is destructive. 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. (Read more from source.)

To be at your most creative you need to be relaxed, stress free, and ready and willing to enjoy the creative process.

3 – You’ll produce more.

Procrastination enables you to produce more by giving your brain time to take in and organize your thoughts, all that you have learned and researched. If the brain is always going from one task to another it doesn’t have time to refresh and allow thoughts to settle for further reflection.

4 – You’ll be happier.

By taking time off from the creative process you’ll find there are other things to enjoy than just your butt aching in a chair and your eyes getting sore from staring at the blank page on a computer screen.

The world is full of wonder and awe, go explore it and come back and write about it, paint what you saw, or sculpt something that caught your eye and inspired you.

5 – You’ll have more quality time for your loved ones.

My wife loves going to the zoo and visiting historical places, and so do I. But all too often I put off a day trip to stay home and write (to do the work as it were).

I’ve wasted too many days forcing myself to write when I didn’t feel like it and I ended up producing stuff I wasn’t happy with.

I don’t do that anymore. Instead, I get up, turn the PC off and take my wife somewhere wonderful. Watching her smile ignites my creative passion anew and when we get home I’m usually ready and willing to write stuff that matters to me (and hopefully my readers!).

6 – It’s easier.

We’ve come to a point in history when we believe everything must be ever more challenging in order to create wonderful work.

Procrastination is easy to do. The mind needs to know that “easy” is okay and not everything has to be a challenge to be worthwhile..

7 – Your natural creativity will flow.

Whenever you force yourself to create you’re not allowing your natural creativity to flow. You’re taking a “short cut” up the steep side of the mountain and it’ll take you ten times as long to get to the top than taking the winding path that leads leisurely to the top. Worse, you might give up because the path is too treacherous and exhausting.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

There’s nothing wrong with a good challenge and putting in some hard work, but the point is that we can only go, go, go so long before we reach the point of diminishing returns.

8 – You’ll have time to eat healthier.

When you’re constantly busy there’s little time to eat properly. When I pushed myself to create, I constantly munched on gummy bears, popcorn and pop tarts, and drank plenty of coffee to wash them down.

By taking the time I deserve to relax and restore myself, I eat healthier food and more slowly. I actually enjoy my meals now.

Overall I feel much better, healthier, and when I sit down to create, I’m ready, willing and able, with energy to spare.

I’ve chosen to make procrastination something that works for me, not against me.

The problem is that too often when we take a break and are not doing some kind of work we call it procrastination. It’s always been a dreadful word none of us want to be accused of.

We’ll overwork ourselves to the point of burning out before we allow ourselves to be seen as procrastinating.

Let’s be honest, forcing ourselves to stay busy doesn’t mean we’ll produce more or that what we produce will be quality work.

No. More likely we’ll be silently resentful of all the time we spent staying busy and missing out on life. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but the day will come.

I say embrace procrastination and you’ll waste less time, and you’ll be energized when you do feel like creating.

Procrastination is a word. Powerful, maybe, but it only has the meaning and power you give it.

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As humans we are meant to relax and do things to free ourselves from the daily grind so we can regenerate. Sleep, relaxation, and play are built into our DNA!

The fact is we can be way too hard on ourselves and force ourselves into creative blocks if we don’t listen to our mind and body.

If you’ve been feeling blocked for days on end it might be that your mind is overworked, your body is exhausted, and they are telling you something.

Listen to them.

Sounds like it’s time for some quality procrastination.

Have you taken any down time lately? Did it help? Share in the comments.

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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Like a good friend, Bryan guides you through the process of facing your inner demons, conquering the craft, and creating work that matters. ―Jeff Goins
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  • I will procrastinate my book and eat breakfast. Then I will play “Littlest Pet Shop” with my daughter and procrastinate my book. Then I will clean seven litter boxes and procrastinate my book.
    Then I will sit down after lunch and work like a maniac, with a happy tummy, a happy daughter, and four happy cats.

  • themagicviolinist

    I usually write my book when I’m supposed to be writing blog posts to send to different websites. I usually tackle all of those on the same day and celebrate afterwards with a huge bowl of ice cream and a movie.

    • Oh, you just had to mention Ice Cream. Good idea! Too good. Looks like I will be adding something to my grocery list for later 🙂

      However, you make an excellent point. It is always a good idea to acknowledge when we’ve accomplished our goals. It makes relaxing that much more enjoyable.

      Btw: You’re the most productive young blogger I know!

      • themagicviolinist

        Ha! One of my recent favorites is called “Double Dunker.” As my mom and brother both put it, it tastes like “Dunkin Donuts” smells.

        I always find it’s easier to relax once I have the things I need to get done done. But your post has helped me to chill out a little bit when I don’t get them done right away. 😉

        Aww, thanks. 🙂

        • Nooooo. Stop, K. Now I need Ice Cream. However, lucky for me “Double Dunker” isn’t available in Germany or I’d rush out the door to get it, but Half Baked is…. ah well, I’m going to lose this round. I’ll enjoy Half Baked while I watch America’s Got Talent tonight 🙂

  • Bryan,
    I see you as a person who likes to go against the flow. It’s refreshing. Today I am doing down time. My body and mind are tired. Yesterday was hard because I had things to do and my little guys were here, but I purposely stopped and spent time with them. They are a riot.

    Sometimes we can outwardly appear like we are relaxed and yet, inside we are running wild. I want to be congruent. My body wants that too.

    Down time is on the schedule today.

    • Excellent Anne 🙂

      Actually, you might like to know that you inspired this post with your comment a couple days ago to TMV’s post about when you were at the campground and you were exhausted. When I read that, I thought to myself why do we do that to ourselves. You did the right thing, but all too often (at least for me in my past) I would push and push, even if I didn’t produce anything worthwhile. I learned that I create best when it comes to me and I feel like it, but when I push I never ‘feel like it’ and when I let go, then that’s when inspiration strikes and oh boy, does it ever.

      I thought you’d like to know that about your comment. I’m going to do my best to get to your book this weekend. I’m fighting a cold at the moment. I wasn’t even sure if my post made enough sense today between sneezes and blurry vision 🙂

      • Wow, I inspired a post. That’s something Bryan. But before I let my large enough head enlarge, I’ll remember it was my exhaustion that did the inspiring. Still, good to know we affect each other.

        Sorry about your cold. Obviously a tap on your shoulder to relax. No evidence of sniffles in your post today. Get well Bryan, we need your writing.

        • I think I was feeling the same way, exhausted as this cold started to set in. Going to do some quality relaxing today as this is going to be a busy weekend.

  • I’m learning. I am a person who feels better when all the items on my to-do list are checked off and THEN I can relax. But as I have been working my way back into writing full time, I am discovering that when I try to force the writing it isn’t as good. It’s like trying to run uphill. I can do it, but it takes longer and is not as much fun. Great post, love the part about not feeling guilty about not feeling guilty! Made me laugh.

    • It made me laugh when I wrote it, Tracy. You’re right though, when we over do it and continue trying when we know we need to rest then we can’t give our best. Send me a link to something you’ve written lately.

      Now go get some rest. 🙂

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  • Lia Carel

    Hi Bryan,
    Excellent post. I hope you don’t mind but I put a link for this post on my own post. My blog is called ‘Waiting to write: Writing and the art of procrastination’ and your blog post was perfect. thanks, Lia.
    P.S. I follow your blog.

  • ghost the lurk

    Sadly, that doesn’t work for everyone. I’ve been procrastinating for 8
    months and still this illusive inflow of new revitalized energy to get
    things done hasn’t happened.

    In fact, all that has happened is that I’ve done nothing at all. It seems the key is not feeling guilty about procrastinating and I can assure you I don’t feel
    any at all.

    Still nothing is done and I can’t bring myself to care that nothing is done.

    So, it appears to me that this blog post is well intentioned, it is missing
    the mark on a few key points all in the name of ‘going against the flow
    of common belief’.

    Congratulations, though. You’ve given me new purpose to continue to procrastinate and not get damn all done! Thanks!

    • Oh my, Ghost. I don’t know what to say, except congratulations on your continued success!

      However, I would also say that the post isn’t intended to say procrastination alone is the answer and get nothing done, because obviously I’ve written quite a few books and hundreds of blog posts.

      It’s a matter of harnessing the energy and using it when you feel like using it. I do believe though, there will come a time when you get started and for that I suggest you read this post: http://goinswriter.com/step/ – I think that’s the REST of the story you really want to read. Let me know.

  • Terrie Coleman

    Thanks, Bryan. I needed this today. I’ve read the other comments and I understand those, too. But I have to wonder if part of staying in procrastination is not partly due to how we treat ourselves about it – like a vicious cycle. But for today, you have helped me to delight in my procrastination, go easy on myself about it and let the creative process – or just life – flow naturally. Blessings to you.

    Oh, by the way, true story….. I once bought a book on procrastination, but never got around to reading it. I finally gave it to the local library.

    • Thanks Terrie, you got the message! Procrastination is a word, but it’s a powerful word, and the trick is to steal it’s power for good.

      We say things all the time to ourselves, such as we need to stop procrastinating, instead of embracing the special moments of quiet and calm in our lives with the self assurance that we will also do what we need and want to do naturally.

      We, at least for me, tend to overthink and beat ourselves up believing that’s what we need to do, then we feel guilty when we run out of time or when we are late. Eventually, as you so perceptively pointed out, it becomes a vicious cycle.

      Oh, and about your book, if you needed it you would have read it. You didn’t. 🙂

  • Tammy Schaefer

    Thank you for sharing this Bryan. I am one of those who has an inner voice telling me not to waste any time. I’ve driven myself to complete exhaustion too many times. This was just what I needed to remind me to take time to enjoy the journey and not make it so hard. Thanks!

    • Yep, Tammy. One of the issues with following one’s passion is over doing it and driving ourselves to exhaustion. Enjoy the journey, get something more out of it than only working. Take time to enjoy what you’ve already created, reflect and when your ready, start again.

  • Danielle Forrest

    Great article. I’ve said for years that you can’t write effectively that often. I used to say I would write on weekends and figure out what I was going to write all week. All week my brain would be working out the scenes, jotting down ideas. Then at the end of the week, when I had time to seriously sit in front of the computer, I could do as much as 10k words in one day.

    All too often, if you sit down in front of the computer without knowing what you’re going to write, you won’t write anything of worth. Now, I’m not a planner or anything. But I do put some rudimentary ideas down on paper before I start. It might just be a handful of words and sentences on a post it, but they’re notes.

    Another thing to thing about is this: writing isn’t only about writing. It can be frustrating when people act like the only productive use of your time as a writer is writing. You have editing, marketing, formatting, and events, to name a few. Not writing? Need a creative break? No problem, I say. Even if you still want to feel like you’re being productive, you can still goof off. Sometimes I play with my website, or connect with other authors on Facebook, or work on fine tuning my mailing list. A lot of it’s brainless, and not the slightest bit creative. I spent several hours playing around with fonts for my cover art. Had a blast. Still haven’t figured out what font to use for the author name, though.

    • Well said, Danielle. The last two weeks I spent creating pictures for sharing to help promote one of my published books and I enjoyed the process without forcing myself to write at the same time. It was a lot of fun, but it wouldn’t have been had I forced too much on myself.

  • Christa Sterken

    In all the blur of words I have read this week Bryan, these are the only ones I am taking to heart long term. Well done!

  • Diana

    Last week I had a week off of work and I was planning to use the time to get caught up on all the writing I had to do. Instead, though, I felt this nudging to give myself the week off, and so I let myself take a break from writing, too. I felt like I was committing word count goal suicide, but it was so relaxing and refreshing! Now I just need to get back into the swing of things, but I will be taking time now and then to let myself relax and forget about writing.

  • Ann Marie Thomas

    Thanks for such a thought-provoking post Bryan. I would add that we shouldn’t stress about not being able to do other things too. I recently spent two weeks with my foot up and was initially upset because I couldn’t be up and about doing things. When I stopped stressing about it I actually got a lot of writing done!

    • Great Ann! Well, not about your foot, but about finding a way to stop stressing about it and get some writing done. That’s the key, finding ways to release the stress and not letting it own us. Good for you!

  • You know, I’m a great procrastinator – shocker, right? I love your statement about choosing to make procrastination something that works for you, not against you. That’s smart. Thanks for a good one, Bryan!

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  • Kaye

    I don’t remember noticing this post before, but wow!!! It definitely got my attention today – as almost shocking.
    Wow! I have been too practiced at the feeling guilty for procrastinating part.
    I am naturally not a high-energy person – and have pretty much accepted that about myself. I also tend to be a great procrastinator – or a terrible procrastinator in my own mind – and have not accepted that part of my person so well. I feel guilty about it and then feel sad for doing that to myself.
    I have happened upon one little gimmick that works for me sometimes. When I happen to notice that I’m not being very productive or my body or my brain seems to have shut down or slowed down or to be down-right rebelling, sometimes I will say to myself: “It seems that my body is telling me I need a day off.” So then I decide to take the rest of the day off – guilt-free. To call it a legitimate day off. Subtle difference and maybe silly, but it often makes a difference in my sense of well-being. Maybe that is a teeny bit like you are suggesting.

  • Ram