Two famous procrastinators

Isn't procrastination all bad?

Procrastination is usually seen as a bad habit that prevents us from achieving our goals and fulfilling our potential. But what if procrastination is not always a sign of laziness or lack of motivation? What if some of the most brilliant minds in history were also chronic procrastinators who used their delays and distractions as a source of creativity and inspiration? Let's consider two of the most famous procrastinators, who despite (or perhaps because of) their tendency to put things off, managed to produce remarkable works of art, science, literature, and more.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci was an Italian artist, engineer, and scientist, known for many famous works, such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. He is often said to have been a procrastinator, who delayed getting started and finishing things, and who often spent much longer than expected on projects that he frequently left unfinished. Da Vinci was so renowned for his procrastination that his benefactor had to threaten him with bankruptcy to inspire him to finish a commissioned work. Even now, many of the pieces that we know and love remain unfinished, all thanks to Da Vinci’s inability to focus.

But Da Vinci's procrastination was not just a flaw; it was also a strength. His delays and distractions allowed him to explore different fields of knowledge and experiment with various ideas and techniques. He was constantly curious and inventive1, crossing into seemingly unrelated disciplines and domains. For example, he also designed aerial devices, a bicycle, ingenious gadgets, and even war machines. His notebooks are filled with sketches, notes, and observations on topics ranging from anatomy to optics to geology. He was a true Renaissance man who embodied the spirit of multidisciplinary learning and creativity.

Da Vinci’s difficulty activating himself to task may have also helped him improve his artistic skills and vision. He was known for his meticulous attention to detail and his use of light and shadow to create realistic and expressive portraits. He often revisited his paintings over years or decades, adding layers and refinements until he achieved perfection. His delay in finishing the Mona Lisa, for instance, may have contributed to its enigmatic smile and mysterious allure.

Douglas Adams

Douglas was an English comedic writer, known for his franchise "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy". He had a reputation for repeatedly missing deadlines, and was famously quoted as saying “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by!”.

Adams was so notorious for his procrastination that his publishers had to resort to extreme measures to get him to finish his books. For example, while writing (or, to be more precise: not writing) his novel "The Salmon of Doubt", he reportedly “soaked for hours in the bathtub, lollygagged away entire days in bed and dreamed up ever more fancifuil excuses for his exasperated editor”.

His editor eventually locked him in a hotel room with a typewriter and refused to let him out until he produced some pages. This became known as the Alcatraz Walk of Shame Method.

But Adams’s procrastination was not just a hindrance; it was also a source of humour and creativity. His delays and distractions often led him to come up with absurd and hilarious scenarios, characters, and dialogues that made his books so popular and beloved1. He also used his procrastination as a way of coping with the pressure and expectations of being a successful author2. He once said: “Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank paper until your forehead bleeds”

ADHD Coach, Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis is an ADHD Coach, writer and founder of SimplyWellbeing. He has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of experience in coaching hundreds of ADHD executives, business professionals and creatives, and previously running a large ADHD support group and an ADHD diagnostic clinic. His business expertise comes from a twenty years career in software, from programming, through marketing, sales and running a few start-ups. His ADHD insight is personal, with decades understanding his own ADHD experience and in bringing up his ADHD daughter. He has published his writing primarily via this website, with interactive ADHD courses in development.

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