Leonardo da Vinci was apparently so prone to leaving things half-done that Sigmund Freud accused him of being a victim of “artistic sterility.”

We are used to thinking that the tendency to procrastinate is always an enemy.
“Procrastination is not good.”
“Procrastination and procrastination is counterproductive!”

Procrastination is the “enemy” that prevents us from accomplishing our goals, the “sneaky demon” that pulls us away from our duties, the “chain” that imprisons our determination…

Something to be defeated just like a fierce opponent.
Something to be eradicated, like a disease.
A war to be fought with all the means we have….

Procrastination, delay, postponement, and deferring are attitudes that we are used to seeing only and always as negative patterns.

In fact, there are now hundreds of tests on the net to see whether or not we have a tendency to procrastinate. And just as many tips, more or less authoritative, on how to overcome it, to be able, finally, to rebel against it and defeat it.

The vocabulary used on the subject is almost always aggressive. The narrative often military.
The advice almost solely aimed at eradicating it tout court, always considering it only as something to be “eradicated” from our patterns.

For that matter, we know that there are situations in which this attitude of procrastination can become crippling:

  1. When it limits our social and professional lives, for example;
  2. or when it becomes so frequent that we experience anxiety, and/or live in a condition of chronic stress.

…And yet.
Yet I wonder if there might not be more to it.
Is procrastination really always just an
…a dead-end street?
…a trap?

In other words, is it really true that procrastination is ALWAYS AND ONLY a “dysfunctional” paradigm?
I am beginning to think that there may be more to it than that….
While writing this, I realize that I am instinctively following the same neural pattern that led me several years ago now to question the theories that held (claim) that emotions are divided into adaptive and maladaptive.

I am convinced that there may be another way to look at this trend. That an approach more in tune with my community’s school of thought is possible….
A more welcoming and less judgmental approach.

To challenge my own hypothesis, I queried the net in search of scholarly articles.
I found several, which I’ll leave you with in the notes and sources, but of which I’ll quote a couple of insights:

What if Leonardo Da Vinci’s procrastination tendency was ADHD?

What if procrastination had effects directly related to how each of us perceives and copes with it?

From my research, I emerged with at least three good reasons in favor of mindful procrastination.

The tendency to procrastinate, as well as a diagnosis of ADHD are not “evil.”

We all procrastinate something sooner or later. The question is how we feel about doing it!
Not only can conscious procrastination be good, but a soft approach to the myriad commitments of each day can even help us achieve our goals.

I. A tendency to procrastinate, as well as a diagnosis of ADHD are not “evil.”

In the article “Leonardo Da Vinci1: the genius moved by procrastination,” the authors question the “paradox” of Leonardo Da Vinci2, analyzing the views of Sigmund Freud and those of more recent neuropsychiatry.

In his 1922 psychoanalytic essay on Leonardo, Sigmund Freud blames Leonardo’s lack of discipline, ease of distraction, and inconstancy on his “illegitimate birth and from his mother’s pampering.”
Modern neuropsychiatry wonders whether this tendency was not instead related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a “behavioral disorder characterized by continuous procrastination, inability to complete tasks, mental wandering, and restlessness of body and mind. “3
Compared with the 1920s, today we have a little more information:

a diagnosis of ADHD2 is not necessarily disabling, since it “disregards level and intellectual ability and is increasingly recognized among college students and adults with successful careers. “4
Quite the contrary! Arguably, if channeled positively, some characteristics of ADHD can bring an advantage: “mental wandering can fuel creativity and originality; restlessness can lead to novelty seeking and action for change5.”

II. We all put something off sooner or later. The question is how we feel about doing it!

The article, “Effects of procrastination: good and bad effects,6” reminds us that some activities are more challenging than others. And much less enjoyable. For example, paying F24s is much less exciting than several other things….

If we happen to put off important tasks until later, we might consider ourselves as people who procrastinate, which might make us feel stressed, and increase the feeling of anxiety.

But we should not forget that:

  • it’s something that happens to everyone sooner or later, and that in any case, procrastination is more common than we think;
  • while persistent procrastination can lead to stress and decreased performance, research shows that deliberate procrastination is not always bad. In fact, sometimes, delaying a deadline can yield positive results.

In essence, quoting the article’s subtitle, procrastination has benefits and consequences, depending on how you deal with it.
To this last thought, I add another, equally “unpopular” one.

Not only can conscious procrastination be beneficial, but a soft approach to the myriad commitments of each day can even improve our performance.

To tell you why, I invite you to follow me on this “walk through time.”

Long long time ago…

I am 11 years old and I would love to go read, but I can’t: first, I have to finish the paper.
The temptation is strong. I really want to continue that beautiful book.
I would just close the ruled notebook and put off the essay.
“I can always do it later.”
“Even tomorrow…” in fact, there is no hurry.

Yet, even stronger than the temptation, I hear a little voice telling me not to do it.
“Business before pleasure.”
“Giulia, no! Don’t procrastinate!”
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today…”

Although I know I still have time, a full two days, before the essay is due, I also know that if I don’t do it now, I will feel guilty.
Doing homework right away, even in advance, means getting ahead of the game.
Conversely, going to play without first doing my homework is not allowed. One must not!
Procrastination is not a good thing, everyone knows that!

I am only eleven years old and there are already patterns in my head capable of producing guilt and stress.
I am a child of a fast-paced world geared to productivity and success at all costs. My universe rests on a system that cannot be stopped. Which must never slow down. Which, because of this, drives us to desire more gratification, more power, and more objects that in turn require us to be more and more high-performing.

I am only eleven years old, so I have no idea yet, but I already feel that sooner or later this system will start to get tight for me. So will several simplifications, and also some rules that peremptorily define what is right and what is absolutely not.

  • Emotions: adaptive and maladaptive.
  • Patterns and tendencies: functional, dysfunctional, pathological.
    …Among them, procrastination.

An instant after I completed my 11-year-old paper, I finished high school, and the one immediately following, I had already graduated and, unbelievable but true!, passed the age of 30.
After all, you know, “time flies…”

And here I find myself speaking to a community of hundreds of therapists who, like me, follow Emotionally Focused Therapy at the Italian level, and thousands and thousands at the international level. With the people I am around, close even when miles and borders separate us, I talk every day. Live, by phone, via social and call.
Not only that, I also recently decided to carve out the space to return to writing on this blog.

The hope is that EFT’s extraordinary, nonjudgmental and very much “inclusive” approach to emotions will be able to reach more and more people.
Therapists and non-therapists, human beings struggling with other human beings, couples and individuals looking for a compass to navigate their way through the “Forest of the Human Soul.”

To succeed in this sort of mission impossible, I could have adopted several strategies.
I could, for example, have compiled a classic “To-do List.” Or put alerts on my devices and fixed appointments in my Calendars.
But the (life) school of Emotionally Focused Therapy led me to choose a much softer approach.

More possibilistic and open-minded.
No less “serious,” and certainly no less professional.
Just much easier to follow. More Fluid.

Whenever I think about a topic, I jot it down somewhere.

And as soon as I find myself on the road, on a plane, or on a train, that’s when I start writing.
Whenever I have a draft, and I have a way to get in front of a screen, I upload it online, adding it to the others to revise.
Every time I find ten minutes to revise a draft, I fix it and schedule it.
I try to get online with a new post every Sunday around eleven o’clock in the morning, but if for some reason I can’t, patience! The post may come in the afternoon, or even early in the week….

It has already been three months that this strategy of “serene procrastination” is paying off. To date, I have already put 18 articles online, between the Italian versions and those rewritten in English, which at an average of 1,000 words per article exceed a total of 18,000 words.

It may not be Proust’s Recherche, but it’s something!

  1. https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/142/6/1842/5492606?login=false ↩︎
  2. Alexine Thompson, ICEEFT Trainer deals with EFT and ADHD wonderfully, if you need help regarding this theme connect with her. ↩︎
  • “Grey Matter Leonardo da Vinci: a genius driven to distraction” – Brain, Volume 142, Issue 6, June 2019, Pages 1842-1846, https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awz131 ︎
  • From the definition of Demontis et al., 2018 ︎
  • (Palmini, 2008) ︎
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awz131
  • https://psychcentral.com/health/good-and-bad-things-about-procrastination ︎