Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is one of the most important speeches in American history, and Lincoln didn’t finish it until the morning he gave his address.
In Wharton professor Adam Grant’s new book, “Originals,” Grant details how Lincoln didn’t write his closing paragraph until the night before his speech, and it wasn’t until the morning of that he finalised it. According to Grant, this, in part, is what made it so great.
“He probably followed his usual habit in such matters, using great deliberation in arranging his thoughts, and moulding his phrases mentally, waiting to reduce them to writing until they had taken satisfactory form,” Lincoln’s secretary John Nicolay noted.
In his speech, “Lincoln reframed the Civil War as a quest for the freedom and equality promised in the Declaration of Independence,” Grant writes. Lincoln wanted to develop the most compelling theme, and so he procrastinated strategically.
As Grant tells Business Insider, procrastination is a powerful tool used by some of the most innovative thinkers.
According to research by Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, once we finish a task, we stop thinking about it — but when it’s interrupted and left undone, it stays active in our minds. Procrastinating strategically means stopping whatever creative tasks we’re working on before they’re complete to allow more creative ideas to bubble up, “making gradual progress by testing and refining different possibilities,” as Grant writes in his book.
Grant believes this is exactly what Lincoln did while writing his epic speech — and the world was better off for it.
NOW WATCH: Here’s when it’s smart to procrastinate
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