Thoughts on Procrastination

Procrastination, folks.  Oh yes!  Everyone deals with it.  As artists, we’re especially prone.  Our livelihood, after all, depends on our being emotionally vulnerable and open to daily criticism (if not hourly, thanks to social media).  Who wouldn't want to sit out a few rounds?  

In procrastination’s mildest form, you may put off doing a few annoying chores.  Thing is, procrastination’s a sneaky SOB- it may start super low key but, over time, as your lack of motivation intensifies, virtually any activity appears so difficult that you’re overwhelmed by the urge to do nothing.  Because you accomplish very little, you feel worse and worse.  Sadly, we often don’t recognize we’re trapped, and this situation can go on for weeks, months, even years.

So many artists suffer in silence with this kind of thing, not wanting to appear less-than.  It’s heart breaking, and I’d like to dedicate the next several posts of the Mind of a Trevor to strategies I’ve used to combat Do-Nothingism.

Strategy 1- Create an Antiprocrastination Sheet

Say you’re avoiding a particular task because you predict it’ll be too difficult and unrewarding.   Using an Antiprocrastination Sheet, you’re able to test your negative predictions.  

-In the first column, write down the task in question.  If it’s kinda big and overwhelming, break it down into small steps, with each one taking at most about 15 mins to complete.  

-In the second column, write down how difficult you predict each step of the task will be, on a scale of 0-100.  If you imagine the task will be easy, keep it low, 10-20, say.  If you predict crazy ninja difficulty status, go high, 80-90.  

-In the next, write down how satisfying and rewarding you predict each step will be, 0-100

-Once you’ve recorded these predictions, complete the first step of the task.  After you’ve completed each step, record how difficult it actually turned out to be, as well as the amount of pleasure gained from doing it.  Record this info in the last two columns, again using 0-100.  

Here’s a recent Antiprocrastination Sheet of mine:


Task:  Writing a long, annoying business email (broken down into small steps)


Activity                        Predicted            Predicted            Actual            Actual

                                   Difficulty             Satisfaction        Difficulty     Satisfaction

1. Outline email               90                        10                       10                  60

2. Write rough draft        90                         10                       10                  80

3. Edit final draft             80                        10                        10                  85

4. Send email                  60                         20                        5                  90


As you can see, I predict that writing the email’s going to suck big time.  After recording my pessimistic predictions, I’m curious to see if it’ll be as tedious and stupid as I think.  To my great surprise, I find writing the email’s really not all that bad- kinda easy, in fact.  Inspired by this small victory, I finally wash the goddamn dishes.

Looking forward to sharing more strategies with you!  Let's help each other and be human beings together.