Jason Fried

June 2, 2022

Wait to concentrate

Procrastination is often tagged as a negative.

If you're putting something off until the last minute, it's assumed it's because you don't want to do it, or it's too hard, or you've been avoiding it for some other reason.

Maybe I'm making excuses, but lately I've found procrastination can be aimed to your advantage. Not always, but more than I imagined.

Procrastination has a way of concentrating attention. When it has to be done, and the clock is ticking, it blocks your attention from wandering to other things. There's simply no time, and the penalty for further delay is high.

Concentrated attention, at least for me, helps me do my best work. It's as if attention is a reduced sauce, thickened and viscous, sticking to what I'm working on. Undivided, undiluted, unbroken.

Procrastination helps wedge me into a sustained flow state. "I have to get it done this afternoon" turns into 3 or 4 hours of continuous, focused work. When the deadline is over the horizon, it's too easy to shatter those hours into ineffective slices of attention doled out over days or weeks. But when it's right in front of you, you tuck in, get real, and get it done.

There are obviously occasions where you wish you had more time, or a second take, or another edit, but, more often than not, I find more time talks you out of your best ideas, and slips in too many second guesses. I think I'd rather take something slightly undercooked than overcooked.

One downside of waiting is if others are waiting on you. Procrastination is disrespect if others need what you're making in order to move forward on what they need to make. So be sure to take that all into consideration too. You can't wait until the 11th hour, if it forces everyone else into the 12th.