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Wait until later to do everything

January 01, 2011|Kate Coleman

OK.

I just spent 20 minutes searching my computer for a young California friend's Facebook page for a post I thought I'd saved because I loved it when I read it — probably more than a year ago.

I didn't find it, and although I'd like to quote it exactly, it's getting late and this column's deadline is looming, so I'll take a shot:  "PROcrastination. It's gotta be a good thing!"

Nice positive spin.

And, I discovered an additional soothing way of looking at my for-as-long-as-I-can-remember propensity for never doing ANYTHING early.

Another young Facebook friend — this one studying in England — posted a link to a reassuring article on the subject found on Oprah.com. (Yes, that Oprah.) "The 11th Hour: How Working Under Pressure Can Be a Strength," was written by Robert Biswas-Diener, who is identified on www.intentionalhappiness.com as certified mentor coach and author of books that include "Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching."

Biswas-Diener uses the term "incubator" to describe a person, who, like a procrastinator, tends to put off work until the last minute and seems to be "best motivated by external pressures such as deadlines." Both are inclined to be hard on themselves and view themselves as lazy, he wrote.

My previous familiarity with "incubator" was the contraption in which baby chicks were hatched from eggs in my kids' kindergarten classroom. I knew the word as the hospital apparatus for premature babies, and I'd heard it used in the context of developing businesses.

But I wasn't aware that incubation is viewed as one of the four stages of creativity, according to information on www.answers.com. Incubation is the subconscious processing of important ideas while doing other things — "often recreational," Biswas-Diener wrote.

The difference between procrastinators and incubators lies in the quality of their work. Citing a study of undergraduate university students, Coach Biswas-Diener found that although incubators work under pressure at the last minute, their "superior-quality" work separates them from procrastinators whose work is "shoddy" or late.

Validation for me?

I'm a modest person and wouldn't claim my work to be "superior," but I think it's all right and I manage to get some positive comments.

I'll confess to having stretched a morning deadline to afternoon or even the next day a time or two. I never quite manage to send the Christmas greetings I intend, and I buy more than my share of belated birthday cards. I'm fond of the Mark Twain quotation: "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow."

I guess I fall somewhere between procrastinator and incubator. Yes, I'm hard on myself and usually wish I'd started sooner, but at this point in my life, I'm pretty self-accepting. Besides, I love the magic of a surprise phrase or clincher ending coming out of nowhere.

And my penchant for checking in with Facebook friends?

Betty White landed a guest-host spot on "Saturday Night Live" last May because several hundred thousand people "signed" a petition on the social-utility website to get her the gig. During the broadcast, the 88-year-old comic actress admitted that before the campaign, she didn't know what Facebook was. "But now that I do, it sounds like a huge waste of time," she quipped.

I might spend a little too much time on Facebook, but I'm happy to know — or at least view it through the rose-colored glasses of positive psychology coaching — that it's not all wasted. This column is proof that I get ideas from the social network. They might not hatch until the last minute, but — to paraphrase the title of the 1969 bestseller — I'm OK, that's OK.


Kate Coleman covers The Maryland Symphony and writes a monthly column for The Herald-Mail.

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