Hi creative procrastinators! We know you want to read this article on how to stop procrastinating, but you’ll probably put it off until later. We’ll wait here.
Or maybe you’re here to avoid that other thing you’re supposed to be doing: starting your edit, designing storyboards, or brainstorming a new idea. Well, we hope you at least find this useful and it helps you get back on track.
It’s a common misconception that if you like your work, you will automatically be productive. It’s also a common misconception that if you have trouble getting things done, you’re lazy.
The truth is, many people procrastinate on a regular basis, and the real reason is often based around anxiety, fear of failure, and stress. When you work in a creative field, these things can run rampant. Every day, you’re expected to come up with something great and original. It can be taxing on the mind.
But there are some things you can do to help you stay focused and make your work easier and more fun. And when that happens, you’ll be less likely to procrastinate. Let’s get started already!
Tips for Creatives to Avoid Procrastination
1. Set Achievable Goals
One of the first practical ways you can help avoid procrastination is to set achievable goals. When we look at our to-do list and see huge tasks, it’s no wonder we want to put them off. They seem like they’ll never get done anyway, so why bother?
Instead of setting a goal like “Edit Video”, try setting smaller goals like “Select Shots For Scene One” or “Color Correct Interior Shots.” By breaking down large tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks, we can see results more quickly, check things off our list, and feel good about the progress we are making.
That momentum can carry over from task to task, making the whole process easier.
2. Avoid Perfection
This may seem odd as a creative. You bank your career on delivering outstanding work that is a cut above the rest. You feel compelled to create your best work every time you take on a new project. We get it.
But you have to remember one thing. It will never be perfect. It’s just the nature of things. Conditions will never be ideal, timelines, budgets, clients, and a host of other things will ensure that it can’t be perfect.
So, don’t stress. Do your best, but remember that you also have to deliver, and you have to move on. Focus on getting the project 80% to perfection, then go back and make tweaks if there is time.
By training yourself to do a “good job” without having to be perfect, you can avoid some of the pitfalls of the fear of failure type of procrastination.
It may be confusing to suggest something that feels like procrastination to some of you. You’ve got a tight deadline approaching, and we want you to stop and meditate? Yes, we do.
There are lots of reasons for this. First of all, meditation helps you center yourself and focus. A short meditation of even 5 to 10 minutes can help you let go of nagging thoughts that interfere with your work and center yourself for the task at hand.
Additionally, it’s thought that a lot of procrastination comes from falling into the “instant happiness” trap. This is where our instinctual limbic system jumps in and finds ways for us to be happy in the moment, not thinking about the future… or deadlines. Meanwhile, the more rational prefrontal cortex takes longer to kick in and get you moving in the right direction.
Some researchers believe that meditation helps to develop your prefrontal cortex and regulate your limbic system, in turn, helping you make better rational decisions about the things you need to get done.
Here’s a great video by Stuart Langfield that explains this idea in more detail.
4. Enjoy Your Work
We said earlier that there is a misconception that if you like your work, you will be more productive. While this is true, liking your work can help you in certain ways.
Even in creative disciplines, there are projects, tasks, and clients that we don’t enjoy all that much. But you may be able to find bits and pieces that you do enjoy in every project. Use those bits as motivators.
For example, let’s say you’re working on a video edit, and you aren’t looking forward to sifting through a bunch of interview footage, but you’re looking forward to designing the lower thirds.
In one scenario, you can use a reward system where you make yourself finish the interview sorting in order to get to the fun part of designing the lower third. The idea of the reward can help push you through the hard part where you’re more likely to procrastinate.
If that isn’t your style, you can use the fun part as a motivator to get started and build momentum. Once you’ve achieved one goal, it may be easier for you to keep rolling and finish all of your tasks.
5. Limit Your Time
This concept may cause more anxiety for some, but it can actually be a great tool for cutting down on procrastination. It also aligns with avoiding perfection.
The term “work expands to fill the time” often holds true. And it basically means that if you have an hour to do a task, it will take an hour. If you have all day for the same task, it will take all day.
What this means is, if you give yourself too much time to complete something, you will likely spend a lot of that time procrastinating and then just rushing to get it done at the last minute.
Instead, practice working on figuring out how long certain tasks take. Then, give yourself realistic timelines for tasks that are achievable but not generous in their allotted time. When you finish the task in a timely and efficient manner, you can reward yourself with “slack off” time, or you can just move on to the next task, keeping you on schedule and helping you to avoid anxiety down the road.
6. Forgive Yourself
None of us are perfect. No matter how hard we try, we will all procrastinate at some point. Some of us more than others. It’s important to not beat yourself up over it. This is just a recipe for more anxiety and stress.
Instead, take each opportunity as it comes. Every time you set out to complete a new task, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to be productive and not procrastinate. When you do pull it off, remind yourself that you did it, and try to remember how good it feels.
We hope these tips on how to stop procrastinating have helped you feel more in control of your day and workload. If you do succumb to procrastination in the future, and you feel bad about it later, meditate on it, and let it go. There’s always tomorrow to try again.