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Procrastination vs. Incubation

As someone who often sees herself as a procrastinator, this article offers a new perspective. I have often defined my operating mode as procrastination. And, it can look this way from the outside perspective. You’ll often find me setting aside 3 or 4 hours each day to read and reflect, go on a walk, or drink a cup of tea or coffee while having a conversation with tribe members and friends. And yes, from the outside, it looks as though nothing is happening. But when the project deadline arrives, it is delivered on time and within budget.

Robert Biswas-Diener suggests that the opposite side of the procrastination coin is incubation. He defines incubation as “a clear sense of deadlines, confidence that the work would be complete on time, certainty that the work would be of superior quality, and the ability to subconsciously process important ideas while doing other — often recreational — activities.” Acknowledging incubating as a strength was a breath of fresh air. In sharing this insight with a friend, yes – in a conversation over coffee, she added that incubation can be a big part of creativity and innovation.

As I reflect further, this idea fits in with the reading that I’ve been dong on interpersonal neurobiology and how our brains most effectively process and manage information. Our brains need a balance of sleep, exercise, good nutrition along with time for stimulation and relaxation in order to function at peak levels. And whatever one calls it, setting aside time for incubation, curiosity, thought experiments, reflection, or exploration, will allow us all to function at our best.

I will continue to plan and set deadlines. I will set realistic expectations for myself. I will communicate with clients and co-workers. But I stop judging myself for taking time to incubate ideas and projects.

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