You’ll start painting your masterpiece tomorrow. Or maybe you’ll write the first chapter to your novel next week. Or the week after. It’ll be a New Year’s resolution. But probably not…
It’s time to stop procrastinating and start DOING.
Sure, we all procrastinate. I know that I love watching some Netflix when I should really be practicing, learning, painting, or whatever else is in my important queue of things to do.
Nothing beats vegging out with a pizza, re-watching Firefly for the 20th time and just generally feeling lazy.
Except getting something meaningful done.
That feeling of accomplishment is such an amazing rush that I don’t know why we all fight so hard to NOT get things done. Is it fear of failure? General laziness? I really don’t know. But I do know how to push through it.
Here’s a short but sweet list of how you can get your ass in gear and start creating today.
1. Prioritize your life
And prioritize in order of importance or fear.
What big project or projects could you be working on today that would make your life better, make you feel more fulfilled, or just generally scare the piss out of you?
Typically, the thing you put off out of fear is the one thing that will make you feel like a million dollars once it’s done.
Another way to do this is ordering your projects based on which single project would make the rest of them easier or unnecessary.
If you want to, say, learn how to draw portraits and start drawing a comic – it’d be a good idea to do the portrait drawing first because it will make drawing comics easier.
2. One project at a time
Once you’ve identified one or five projects and put them in order of importance or (inverse) fear – tackle the one at the top of the list.
Only the one project at the top of the list. That’s going to be your exclusive focus during creative time for now.
3. Break it into smaller pieces
Start deconstructing your project. Break it into smaller chunks so you don’t feel so overwhelmed.
Back to portrait drawing as an example – breaking it into smaller pieces would look something like… skull structure, muscles and skin, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hair, neck, specific styles, caricature.
You can focus on each one of those chunks one at a time and come out the other end a great portrait artist.
4. Set a deadline
Pick a date to finish your project, then pace yourself.
Be careful not to set unrealistic expectations of yourself.
You aren’t going to write a novel in a week, you aren’t going to paint like DaVinci in a month.
5. Start small
Start with small blocks of time – and if you have varying degrees of difficulty, start on the hardest part.
Essentially – you work for 15-30 minutes at a time, then take a short break. Rinse and repeat.
This relieves a lot of the pressure to work for long periods of time. Keep adjusting your timers to get the most focus. Mine is set to 25 minutes of work to 5 minutes of rest.
6. Play loud music
I don’t just play loud music, I play really loud music that rocks the office.
As a creative I like to listen to instrumental music mostly. No lyrics. Lyrics distract me.
If you have coworkers or a family to disturb – invest in a good set of noise isolating headphones. I’ve had my V-Moda Crossfades for quite a while now and I love them. I love them with my ear holes.
7. Exercise and get fresh air
Exercise tends to have its own resistance. But overcoming procrastination with fitness is a great way to get some energy and a quick-win that can help you push through your big project.
Just use one of your 5-minute breaks to lift some weights, step outside and get some sun, do some stretches or jog a quick lap around your office.
A little sweat never killed anyone, and riding an office chair all day isn’t exactly great for your back (or abs).
This is one that I’ve been experimenting a lot with lately. Just sitting in silence and letting the mind drift can be nice.
Even better is a guided meditation focused on creativity. Headspace has a 30-day series dedicated to creativity and I LOVE it.
Meditation has tons of other benefits, too. More than I can cover in a little list article.
9. Mute your movies
If you realize that you’re watching the same show or movie on Netflix for the 10th time – that might be a good cue that you’re procrastinating.
That doesn’t mean you have to turn Netflix off. Maybe you can use it.
Sometimes I just like to mute my show or movie, drop it onto my 2nd monitor and do my work on monitor number one.
Just the movement of people and scenes in my peripheral vision can give me the fix I need while I focus on other work.
10. Guard your time
This is a lesson I wish I’d learned earlier in my life.
You need to block off time to work and flat-out ignore everything and everyone else unless it’s an emergency.
When I’m working on DrawCore or a new piece of art – the office door gets shut, my phone goes on airplane mode, my email gets closed, I glare at anyone who interrupts me and I get to work.
Interrupting a working me makes me angry. You won’t like me when I’m angry.
11. Learn what you need to know
Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.
That doesn’t make a lot of sense when you say it out loud, but it’s true! You might not know exactly what the best process is for the project you’re working on.
So do some research!
Research how others have tackled projects similar to yours. Not only will it help you break down your project a little easier (see #2), it may give you some inspiration or a creative boost that you’ve been looking for.
Having an accountability partner is one of the best ways to improve, get feedback, get inspiration and stay on track with your project.
An accountability partner is great for any goal you have in life. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an artist – find someone that will grow with you and help you grow.
13. Don’t break the chain
Make working on your project a daily habit.
Use Jerry Seinfeld’s method of not “breaking the chain” by using a calendar (or an app) to make sure you work on your project every day.
The longer the chain gets – the harder it is to break it. Because then you have to start from Day 1 again. And you cry.
14. Get plenty of sleep
This should go without saying – but get plenty of sleep.
Contrary to popular belief, sitting at the desk all night with your passion project for weeks on end isn’t going to produce superior results. Having that kind of excitement and motivation for a project is awesome, but sleep deprivation isn’t.
Get as much rest as your body and your mind will need so you can make quality work.
15. Choose a reward and celebrate your wins
This is another piece of advice I wish I’d gotten earlier in life. Whenever you hit a milestone in your projects, make sure you celebrate.
In fact – pick your rewards in advance. “As soon as I master drawing the eye I’ll treat myself to an ice cream.” Now you have a great motivator.
So stop dicking around
Quit playing on StumbleUpon or Reddit (unless you’re browsing /r/artbuddy), close Netflix or mute your movie and get to work on your next art project.
If you just get started – you’ll be amazed at how fast it really gets done and you’ll feel great afterward.
What project have you been putting off that you’re ready to get started on today? Let me know in the comments!
Hi! I'm Josh. I'm a father and husband before anything else, and I don't know how to stop working. I enjoy good design, tattoos, business, personal development, self-improvement, pasta, art, philosophy, and teaching people how to live to their fullest potential.
You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or check out my pet project, DrawCore if you'd like to learn more about me.