Byron's Babbles

Informed Procrastination

Yet another phrase used by Joseph J. Ellis in Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation has caused me to ponder and think about the merits of what he called “enlightened procrastination.” He used this phrase to describe how our second President, John Adams, kept our infant country from going to war with France by not revealing a series of insults from the French government until time and diplomacy could resolve the issues. It worked for President Adams in this scenario and I am pondering about the merits of this as a leadership tool. I am going to guess that many of you are already saying, “You’re crazy!” Hear me out and feel free to comment.

If you have ever responded too quickly to an email, phone call, face to face, or now, Zoom interaction when you were upset and then regretted it this could be a place to use procrastination as a leadership tool. Take time to ponder and think. This will give you a chance to respond as opposed to reacting. I have people I work with regularly kid me about always waiting till the end of a meeting or conversation to ask a question or make a comment – just when they think it is about to end. This is because I’m a slow processor. I actually continue to work at honing this as a positive skill. It allows me to hear all sides and again, process.

Another thing is, we don’t have to solve every issue. Providing time for others to weigh in or solve themselves can be both healthy and many times bring about a better solution. I’m now thinking it should be called “informed procrastination.” Informed procrastination can help us, as leaders, make better decisions. Taking the time to ponder on answers to problems you are striving to find a solution for can help us better understand different perspectives and angles. To be clear, I am not suggesting we all become procrastinators. I am suggesting, however, that when we are informed, we can use it as a leadership tool.