Where is the line between procrastination and gathering inspiration?

intersection

When does checking Twitter or reading an article in The Atlantic cross the line from shame-worthy act of procrastination, into the defensible realm of a much-needed creative refresh? How long can you concentrate on a task before you take a break? Am I over thinking this?

I always assumed the latter, and didn’t give the topic of distraction-as-a-creative-refresh-tactic much thought.

But then I came across this article: The eternal struggle to balance creation and consumption by journalist and playwright Kara Cutruzzula. It’s essentially an explication of the weekly productivity reports she receives from RescueTime, a service that tracks your activities and assigns a productivity score to each. Checking LinkedIn or Slack hurts your score; writing in TextEdit or editing a spreadsheet improves it.

Kara describes RescueTime as an “infuriating and necessary tool for [her] creative life.” When her workweek is packed with deadlines and making stuff, she feels “drained, exhausted, and alive.” But when she procrastinates too much, she feels “stimulated, impatient, and deeply unfulfilled.”

I notice similar patterns with my work. But I’d add this: On days I get to do more than just writing (i.e. coding an email newsletter or brainstorming for a direct mail campaign), I’m much more likely to feel that *drained, exhausted, and alive” feeling. I think that’s part of the focus equation: when the tasks are considerably different, it’s easier to eschew procrastination.

The full article includes interviews with different creators. Check it out.

Photo by Flickr user Dickson Phua; used under Creative Commons.