It’s so easy to get beat down by failures. We want so badly to accomplish some goal, or dream, but every time something goes wrong, or not as planned. It’s like every step we take forward.. two more steps are instantly growing in front of us and the finish line just keeps inching farther away the closer we get, creating this endless treadmill effect where stuff’s happening, but we’re never really getting anywhere. Or maybe we just beat ourselves all together before we even start, by telling ourselves lies like “maybe it wasn’t meant to be,” and “it’s too hard,” or “it’s going to take too much time.”
…and what about “Time?” There’s another problem all together. It seems the older we get these failures of ours are a thousand times worse and harder to get past. The lies get bigger, let downs start hurting worse, and our pool of regrets just keep growing deeper and deeper, as our time gets shorter and shorter. We have this false expectancy and insatiable need for instant gratification and assume this is how the world works, and when we don’t get it, we want to give up all together…
We live in a world surrounded by instant gratification at every turn…
We’ve all been there right? You have all of this time set aside, and plenty of amazing ideas of what to do with it, but when you get your chance, you just can’t seem to focus on any one of them? …There’s too many ideas swimming around inside your head and you just don’t know where to begin. Now I don’t mean procrastination. Procrastination, like I mentioned in my last post, is something that is completely in our control. What I am speaking of now, is a much more wild and untamed beast… THIS is “Creative Overflow,” otherwise known as artists block, or writers block.
…Maybe you drank too much coffee or Red Bull, or you’re simply getting all cramped up in your usual creative spot…
"Time is at once the most valuable and the most perishable of all our possessions" - John Randolph
Until someone invents a time machine, procrastination will continue to be the arch nemesis of productivity. We’ve all been there right? …We have this amazingly, Earth shattering, take-over-the-world kind of idea for a work of art, or project, or a blog we have to write, but for some reason it just keeps getting put off and eventually never gets done. As an artist, I deal with this all of the time. Sometimes I have a whole day free and completely set aside, and I think I’ll get a ton of painting done, but all too often I’ll get to the end of my day only to find that I haven’t even picked up a paintbrush. It’s not that I don’t want to do it, because trust me I absolutely do, it’s just that something is preventing me from getting started. If you’ve experienced this (and most people have), then you’ll know just how frustrating it can be.
…Before we get into that, what exactly is procrastination, and why does it have such a commanding power over us? Procrastination rears it’s ugly head in many different forms… Sometimes we simply get distracted by our phones, emails, Facebook, TV, …anything but what we were originally planning on. This is procrastination. Sometimes we may feel that we don’t have enough time to finish something, so we decide to just wait until we can set aside a longer period of time. This is procrastination. Or maybe we may feel like we are lacking in motivation, and decide to simply wait until some grand moment of inspiration to come along. This too, is a form of procrastination.
Is it really that we get all amped up and focused, our minds set and ready, and then out of nowhere here comes smug ‘ol Procrastination, and SMACK! Completely out of our control, instantly we’d rather do anything accept the very thing we intended to do in the first place, and there’s nothing that we can do about it?
While it does seem like this most of the time, if we just take the time to dig a little further, to the very roots of procrastination, what you will find might be a bit of a surprise… Hidden in the very depths of procrastination itself lies a massive, bubbling cesspool of Fear. Yep, you heard right; big fat stinking FEAR. Our fear of rejection; fear of not living up to expectations, whether our own ridiculously high standards of perfection, or someone else’s, all boils down to our innate ability to subconsciously fester that very Fear into one of the most self deceiving, and dangerously contagious bio-chemical weapons known to Man. This Fear stops us from doing what we truly want to do, because distracting ourselves and making excuses is a lot easier than facing those fears head on. We’ll bold face lie, and tell ourselves all sorts of devilishly-ingenious excuses like: ”I’ll just start when I have more time to finish,” just so we don’t have to work on what is most important to us.
For starters, by acknowledging the fear and ignoring it, then simply, “Taking Action,” …ANY action. The antithesis to fear and procrastination is Action. The simple act of ‘doing’ is the very opposite of fear. So in order for one to overcome procrastination, one simply has to take action, and just DO! Do anything, even if it’s just painting an unused under-painting on your blank canvas, whatever, just begin. Obviously that’s easier said than done, but what I try to do for my own artwork when I feel like I’m procrastinating, is to just start. I’ll take my blank canvas and literally start painting it any color of my choice. For the most part, this step is an unnecessary artistic-placebo in a way, since it’s usually completely covered up by the end, but I’ll sometimes also use this as a technique to add some depth to my paintings with complimenting colors and layers. Sometimes though, just by the simple act of painting that first coat, regardless of what color it is, I have already taken the first step towards overcoming my procrastination. After all, it’s a lot harder to quit something once I’ve already started. Which brings me to my next point of mastering the art of procrastination.
I’m the worst at using this particular excuse: “I’ll just start when I have more time…” I can’t stand not finishing something once I’ve started. Since creating a painting takes a while, it is really easy for me not to start unless I have an entire day free to give, so as a result paintings tend to get put off for weeks or even months sometimes before I return to an idea. The truth is we will never just ‘have,’ or ‘find’ time. If you want time, you have to take it; …NOW. Time is there for us to do our bidding, every second of every day. What we do with it is our choice. So even if you find yourself with only 20 minutes before you have to leave for a meeting or whatever, don’t wait to start something until you have time to finish… Try not to think about the time you are lacking. Instead, think about all that you could do in 20 minutes. Even if all you get done in those 20 minutes is paint a blank canvas red, or just sketch an idea for your next painting, then that’s how it has to be, Congratulations, you’ve taken your first step towards conquering your fears, and completing your next big artwork, AND all on your own terms.
The point is you just have to be honest with yourself, and strict with your time. Whatever your schedule is, we all have areas where we can shave just a little time here and there. I sometimes set my alarm a half hour earlier to get a jumpstart on my writing. Or if I know I have 5 hours before I have to be somewhere, I will usually set 30 minutes or so to reading, 2 hours for writing, and the rest on painting.
The truth is that we will go out of our way to work on everything except the very thing that we are needing or wanting to… so we have to use this to our advantage somehow. According to one writer, the trick is to prioritize our procrastinations. I found his concept of “Structured Procrastination” pretty interesting. He says:
"The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important. If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him do it. However, the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important…"
If you want to hear more about John Perry’s “Structured Procrastination" technique, you can check out his blog here. If you’re having a hard time with procrastination yourself, (and who isn’t right?) …then hopefully some of the ideas in this blog were able to be helpful.
So how do you handle your procrastination? Do you have any helpful tricks you use to get back to work after you find yourself procrastinating? Feel free to join in the discussion!
…Looking forward to next time, until then I hope you have a great day, and as always,