Procrastination vs incubation

Painful procrastination vs creative incubation:
turns out the difference is trust.

I’ve been pondering my way of doing. I ponder a lot, you see.

That pondering is sometimes the thing I ponder. It’s bananas.

I notice that it takes me a long time to do things. I’m a deep thinker, not an especially fast one.

I need time. I need to plant a seed, then give it time to do the thing it knows how to do – grow.

If I try to hurry myself, push too hard, be faster than I am, my wiring goes funky. I panic. I lose my magic. I make sad faces.

Step back.

There’s a thing you need to do, so you do something else instead.

That’s procrastination, right?

It’s only procrastination if you spit at yourself while you’re doing it.

Trust that you’ll know whether you’re wallowing in shadow comforts or just giving yourself space.

Trust that you’ll recognise the point at which patience becomes a lie.

Trust that you’ll know what you need to do when the time is right.

Call it creative incubation and be done with it.

Lean into it.

Now watch what happens.


More about this kind of thing:

John Cleese says we don’t get our ideas from our laptops. Good point.
Elizabeth Gilbert spoke about genius. You’ve probably seen it – now you can see it again.


  1. Rob Hughes

    When under pressure, I definitely find myself “gravitating” toward the easy “low hanging fruit” because I can control that.

    Busy-ness is the most stealth form of procrastination. :)

    Recognizing my vice, I’ve worked hard (and will continue) to prevent myself from burnout under pressure. I can’t give what I don’t have… ya know?

    Here’s how I’ve done it, in the recent months:

    Great post. Take care,

  2. Noreen

    “It’s only procrastination if you spit at yourself while you’re doing it.” I love it! In the past year or so I’ve stopped seeing it as procrastinating, and now I think of it as allowing. Things happen in their own time. Incubating is a good word, too. I’m also extremely lucky to be working with people who accept my explanation that I am allowing, not slacking ;-p Thanks for the post, Lisa! x

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  4. KellyBebop

    I make happy faces every time you post, knowing it’s going to be JUST the thing I needed to read. Trust. This is today’s magic word. Thank you.

  5. Chloe Walker

    This is precisely why I hardly ever comment on blog posts. There’s no time to percolate an answer. I usually have a pretty good one after about six weeks.

  6. Megan Lubaszka

    I love this new word for it “incubating.”

    My mom hatches baby chicks every year with her Kindergarten class. Thinking of myself like I am a tiny egg incubating that will turn into a chick. (Which will later be a chicken who lays golden eggs. )

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  8. Wild Cherry

    I’m so glad you’ve said this! There’s far too much modern myth about procrastination. In our rush to achieve optimum productivity, we’re inclined to forget that we’re human not machines and therefore it’s impossible that we can function at the same pitch every day!

  9. Carolina

    I’m so glad I followed the trail here. Feels like home.