Procrastination gets a bad rap

Procrastination can feel stressful. For some, the stress comes from not having produced anything yet. For others, the stress comes from the label “procrastinator” and actually has little to do with what has been produced by when.

Which are you? Because it matters.

If the stress of procrastination comes from the label – and all of its “baggage” – then I might have some good news for you.

Some procrastinators are actually mislabeled percolators.

Percolators are people whose brains are constantly churning information over in their minds. Does any of the following sound like you?

  • When I produce something at the last minute, despite the stress, it comes together nicely, and I can be really proud of what I produce.
  • Under ideal circumstances, I prefer to conduct some research then spend some time away from it, rather than absorb as much as I can in one sitting.
  • When I procrastinate, I often have “light bulb” moments when new ideas spring forth.
  • I like to “talk things out” and try to explain things that I’m working on, as part of my process for organizing information.
  • I have rarely executed a very proscribed plan where I meet interim deadlines consistently. In fact, I find it stifling.

If you see yourself in this list, then you are likely a percolator. You are more likely to naturally process information by thinking rather than doing. And if that’s the case, then you should explore a new way of working that embraces your natural tendencies and relinquishes the negative baggage associated with procrastination.

You might be a percolator, but you’ve still got to operate in a world that does not typically tolerate percolators.

The business world may talk a good game about accommodating people who have different work styles, but it’s rare in practice. So what’s a percolator to do?

  1. Know thyself. Don’t call yourself a percolator if you’re really a procrastinator. If you’re surviving deadlines by the skin of your teeth, and not proud of what you produce when you put things off until the last minute, you don’t get off the hook. Percolators should mindfully approach their percolating times with purpose and intention.
  2. Communicate early and often about your process. Set expectations with coworkers and managers. Make no promises about light bulb moments, but let them know that you process information differently than the typical production-line process.
  3. Show up well at those interim deadlines. Let your team know what you’re thinking, where you are exploring, and what you’ve come up with so far, so that even if you don’t have a product for show-and-tell, you can demonstrate you’ve clearly been working on it. Practice active listening, respond to your colleagues in the moment, use your mental process to capitalize on and further ideas in different channels. Do not go unconscious at these times.

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