Overcoming procrastination as an artist or media professional is key to becoming successful. Procrastination is everywhere. Some of us procrastinate about finishing that film or work of art, while others procrastinate about going for their annual checkup with the doctor.
According to Wikipedia, procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. Procrastination is basically the practice of doing something more pleasurable instead of facing your deadline, or even taking time to focus on less urgent tasks when you really should be focusing on the urgent tasks.
If you actually have the time and this is not simply distracting you from a great masterpiece, here is a great TED talk on procrastination that is elegantly simple, funny, and insightful. Watch it HERE
Why Overcoming Procrastination is Hard
Why do we procrastinate? Let’s figure that out later, . . . maybe. Well, ok. Since I have to finish this blog, we’ll get on with it— We usually procrastinate because of some form of fear. We may have a fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of living up to our dream, or even fear of failing to execute our genius ideas at the level we intend.
Sometimes our procrastination is actually a form of self-deception. We may tell ourselves, “I’m not writing today because I’m mulling over the character development” or “I’m just letting it mull around in my head”. While that may be a legitimate point and processing ideas is an important part of the creative process, more often than not, (if we are HONEST) the best course of action is to simply start writing, painting, sketching, composing, etc. Every artist knows there will be drafts and drafts and drafts. The sooner we start the process, the sooner we will end up with the end result that makes us proud.
Other times, procrastination is actually self-sabotage. We have some unhealthy thoughts and mental habits that lead us to believe awful things about ourselves, our audience, our patrons, etc. Often, we are so afraid of being rejected in the end that we beat them to the punch. We reject our self first. It really isn’t very different than how some people break up with a prospective spouse because things are going so well, and they can’t believe it will last. They sabotage the relationship now, before things get even better, so the pain won’t be as bad. They assume things cannot really be that good, so the better it gets, the more likely they are to fall.
As a pastor, I just want to say – If this is you, please talk to someone who loves you, and start talking about how God loves you – no matter what you do. God cannot love you any more than he already does, and He refuses to love you less. It is not about your performance . . . start there and then you can begin to apply that grace to your work and your heart.
Simply Distracted. Who Me?
Honestly, sometimes we are just easily distracted. It is no great self-sabotage or self-deception. Of course when we speak of distractions I am thinking of the dog in the movie UP, who loses his focus every time he sees a squirrel. We have more distractions than ever.
Even if we are alone in a studio we can be interrupted by email, texts, alerts, and sirens driving by. I’m not sure if we can eliminate all interruptions, but we have to do the best we can. For some, this means investing in some noise-cancelling headphones and listening to a good soundtrack. But if you are writing music, rehearsing lines as an actor then you just need a private place to focus. Find what works for you and protect your process.
Tips to Overcome Procrastination
Schedule Bursts of Time
Overcoming procrastination tip number one is to schedule bursts of time to work or create. One of the most popular versions of this is the Pomodoro effect. Breakdown your projects into increments of 25 minutes, so it never seems overwhelming and you don’t allow too much time for a project. You can look up the Pomodoro Technique HERE
Put It on the Calendar
If it isn’t on your calendar, it probably won’t get done. Take the time to write down the days and hours you need to spend creating. Unless you live alone in the woods and have almost no distractions, this is essential. Block out and schedule your time to create.
Just Create Now!
Don’t wait to be perfect. Start creating drafts, and then more drafts, and painting and sketching, etc. If you are a perfectionist, this is often freeing. You need to let go of the idea your work will come out as a perfect finished piece the first time. Just have fun with it! The more you create the more you learn, so just get started and make lots of art without the expectation of perfection. Go create a ton of art, and THEN throw away the bad drafts, sketches, compositions, shots, choreography, etc. It is freeing, so don’t wait. . . start now.
One of the most powerful techniques is to overcome procrastination is to create habits. This is so your will power is not tempted to give up. If you wake up every morning and do exactly the same thing, you begin to operate on autopilot. I had a fellow tenor sax musician on the east coast who always left his saxophone on a stand right by his bed so he could practice for 30 minutes before he got his coffee or breakfast. He never had to think about it because it was simply a habit. Find parts of your day where you can create habits that train your brain to automatically get to work on your creative projects.
Soren Kierkegaard has many wonderful ideas, but one in particular that has always struck me was his analysis of dread. We can become overwhelmed with dread when we face too many choices. And when we fail to get specific about what we fear. Or what we are trying to accomplish.
As long as our fears remain vague, they aren’t fears we can conquer. They are a vague sense of anxiety that cannot be tamed. So name your fears. Describe your concerns. Define your goals. Kick anxiety and dread to the curb, and get to work on the specific task at hand. Overcoming procrastination is possible! God made you unique, and gave you a desire to create something unique – don’t waste that mysteriously wonderful gift!
So Stop Reading and Go Create!
Copyright © 2019 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.