How To Stop Procrastinating On Creative Projects
I’m aware enough now of my own patterns to know that this is my much needed anticipation time.
What you’re about to read in this post isn’t a strategy to use for dealing with little things like getting the dishes done, but a strategy to use to ensure that you beat procrastination and do follow through with starting and finishing larger creative projects.
If you don’t know me yet, a few things to know about me:
- I’m a guy with ADHD.
- If you’re into Myers Briggs personality types, I’m an ENFP (Campaigner Personality).
So these are two aspects of personality, ENFP ADHD, that are not exactly mutually exclusive from procrastination, shall we say.
By default procrastinating is something that definitely comes to me and when it comes to creative projects, like writing a book, filming a video, anything like that, most people, regardless of your personality type and day to day life, tend to have some level of procrastination.
There are a few reasons this happens.
One reason is just natural preparation, your unconscious going to work trying to think things through and actually prepare.
I know for myself before I actually get on camera, even though I don’t have a script and I have no notes, there’s nothing in front of me to read from, I am doing mental preparation. This might mean before filming I’m going for a walk or taking a shower and thinking about the video, and in a way writing it or scripting it, let’s say – unconsciously.
And I know when I was writing books and will be writing again in the future that this was a lot of my process.
I would think about what I wanted to write the next day and then the night before and the morning of I would be processing unconsciously what I’d be writing and then when I sat down, it was a lot easier.
But that’s not the strategy here that I use to ensure I actually follow through. I’ll share some tips on how to stop procrastinating and get more done.
Understanding Why You Procrastinate Your Creative Work
The way I approach overcoming this kind of creative procrastination is to anticipate it and then to plan my days around it.
Let me give you an example – and that example will be today or many other days where I plan to film a video.
What happened to me so, so many times in the past where I’d end up wasting a whole day and not get any filming done is that I would give myself a short window for filming.
I remember this came up when I had someone staying with me, a family member of mine, for a couple of months.
At that time, I wasn’t so comfortable filming with other people, not even in the room, but in the apartment and so having someone there, I then asked them if they could go out for a little bit during the day.
What would ultimately happen is there was this lingering pressure that this person is going to come back soon and I wouldn’t have enough time to, let’s say, go through the procrastination phase to get ready to film.
By the time I was almost ready to film, I’d be looking at my watch thinking:
“Oh, they’re going to be home in an hour. You know what, there’s no point even beginning to film”, and then the day would be a bit of a write-off.
Of course, having someone stay with you isn’t the only time that you can be interrupted in the middle of your creative process.
This happens to me on Sundays, where I’ll have group coaching calls scheduled at, say, 1 pm. It’s 10 am and I want to start filming but especially right now we’re in Spain, we’re in a new apartment, we just got to take some time to figure out the lighting, figure out where in the apartment to film, and all that sort of stuff, not to mention, the dread having to actually shower and do some kind of shaving and all that stuff as well. 🙂
It’s just a lot of work that goes in and if you spend that first hour setting, getting everything set up, and then you look and again, you have a meeting coming up, what ultimately can end up happening is you don’t end up setting up and then starting your creative work (in my case, it’s filming).
The #1 Strategy To Overcome Procrastination and Get Your Creative Projects Done
What I try to do now as much as possible is:
- Anticipate that the setup time is everything. Some projects have less setup time than others. For instance, writing is often just turning on a laptop, whereas filming has more to anticipate.
- Accept there’s a built-in procrastination time. Today I went and I walked unnecessarily to a great grocery store to buy a few things. I watched a bit of a TV show, which is totally not what I should be doing on a Monday morning on a work morning, and I had way too much coffee.
But I’m aware enough now of my own patterns to know that that’s my, we could say, procrastination time. Maybe a better label is anticipation time.
That’s how I prepare for creative projects. That’s how I’m getting ready, basically.
If today it’s 4:30 at the moment and if today was set up where I had meetings, even from 3, there’d be no filming getting done today and a huge part of this day would have been a write-off.
I would have gone through that procrastination warm-up anticipation time and then when it actually came time to film wouldn’t have actually got into it. Then the day would have been a write-off at least in terms of the filming side of things.
So what I try to do now is whenever I have creative projects that I think I’m more likely to need some of that anticipation time, I give myself the entire day to do it.
I don’t make plans in the evening.
I don’t have plans in the afternoon.
I basically say to myself:
Hey, you’re going to get this done before the day ends and if you need 2-4 hours to anticipate, to mentally prepare for it, then so be it.
But ultimately, once you get into it, you’ll get into the flow and get it done.
I know that’s very true for myself with filming. Once I get everything set up, once I get over that initial sort of creative block, then I’m able to film three, four, sometimes five or more videos in a day.
But it took me a long time to realize this and not to only anticipate that I need that time, but not to feel guilty about it and not to feel bad, like:
Oh, I didn’t get right to work.
Therefore, I screwed up the day, then I feel bad, which then puts me in a bad headspace and then I don’t actually start getting the work done and cannot stop procrastination, which obviously creates a really bad pattern and can end up where weeks go by without any kind of filming.
Different Types of Creative Projects: How To Maximize Your Productivity
Now, some of you, especially if you’ve been in my Free Freelancer program, or saw some of the training I’ve done around how to be more productive and get things done, might be a little confused right now. Because you’re thinking:
“Dan, one of the things you taught us is that when you were actively writing books (I’ve published quite a few books, so I got really disciplined at that time) is you’d write two hours in the morning and it was a set time – there was no procrastination time.”
And this procrastination advice I’m giving now is quite a bit different – yes, that’s completely true.
Both approaches work for different things.
So what I actually planned to be filming today is not this video on stopping procrastination, but a video series on Adult ADHD. It’s a series that’s going to go quite a bit more in-depth than I sometimes can do in a single video. A series that’s going to go into some territory I don’t usually touch on. It’s because of these new challenges in it that it’s something I’m not exactly comfortable with yet, and I’m still having to wrap my head around how to present some of the material.
Because of that, there is that procrastination, this lead-up time that I need, whereas, if I was filming a regular video on a topic I was really comfortable with and that I talked about all the time, I may not need that lead time, so that’s the main difference between these two.
If there’s something that’s a creative task, but a little more routine, for example, when I answer your AskDan questions on my podcast, I do these about 30-minute recordings all improvised. I’m not taking notes before about how I will answer or anything like that.
And that’s something that is, I would say, creative and is on the spot, and I probably would procrastinate years ago, but now I’m really comfortable doing and so those sorts of creative tasks, you know – writing every day if you’re already in the flow, in your writing material, you’re really comfortable with – schedule those in. Don’t give yourself all this build-up procrastination or anticipation time. Just jump into them and you can build that habit.
But something that’s newer, that you’re not quite sure of the material, that’s maybe a little intimidating, and you think:
Maybe I’m going to need time to process this to think it through.
Those are the types of creative projects that I do give myself entire days to really not only wrap my head around and make sure I do it, but ensure there are no excuses and ensure there’s no way to weasel my way out of it.
Because sometimes the things that are uncomfortable with creative projects – when we’re maybe a bit worried that we won’t do well, that we will fail, that we won’t know how to do it and, perhaps unconsciously, not only can we procrastinate, but we can find ways to maybe skip over that video series or just – “oh not have time for that, there’s an important meeting” and ultimately never get that stuff done.
Let me know in the comments:
Do you think a strategy like this will work for you as well when it comes to overcoming procrastination and getting your creative projects done?
Prefer listening? Check Dreams Around The World Podcast for the audio version of this and some more Podcast episodes on ENFPs, INFPs, and creatives.
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