Harness the Power of Procrastination

(Suggested background music: the Rolling Stones, Time is on My Side)

With all the hoopla we make about decision making and how much we frown on waiting, sometimes putting a decision off is the best thing you can do.

Line drawing

I got this in a decision sciences class at business school. While not everything in decision sciences is to be taken as gospel, try this one on:

Never make a decision now when there is no penalty for waiting.

Shocking as that might seem, it’s good practice. Think about it: Often there is a penalty for waiting. Flights get booked, projects fall behind schedule, windows close. But when there isn’t a penalty — and you know, if you think about it, when there is and when there isn’t — then wait and see. You’ll be glad you waited.

This is especially important when you know there is more information coming. Wait, breathe, keep your options open, and see what happens. We agreed, by definition, that we’re talking about the decisions that don’t carry a penalty for waiting. So wait.

Here’s a corollary:

Never make a decision now when there is no penalty for waiting, and there is more information coming.

Good decision making doesn’t mean jumping in fast and all decided, even if you could wait, and even if there’s more information coming. And yet, if you watch for it, you’ll often see people jumping early.

When time is on your side, wait.


  • Aditya Joshi says:

    … a more interesting way of saying “Haste makes Waste”, right?

    • Tim Berry says:

      Aditya, ha, thanks for the comment, and I hope it’s not as simple as “haste makes waste.” I’d like to think it’s about using delay as strategic advantages is the cases where that’s a possibility.

  • Scott Asai says:

    Partially agree. I tend to make decisions fast and sometimes they have backfired on me so I have become more patient over time, yet if you wait too long the opportunity may pass you up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *