|The definition of procrastination is "to put off intentionally and habitually" according to Webster's Dictionary. And when you procrastinate, you go nowhere fast. Procrastination is very different from pacing yourself and taking time for yourself between tasks. Procrastination leads to immobilization while taking time to yourself can serve as a bridge between your daily creative lives giving you a place to let your ideas simmer and take shape- like a warm-up before a workout. For instance, you might want to clean up the clutter around your desk, or tidy your studio before getting started. Or, you may spend time gathering materials such as a rhyming dictionary and/or a songbook to study chord progressions or do a few stretches or breathing exercises. But anything longer than ten or fifteen minutes- especially on regular basis- should send up a red flag. If you find yourself paying bills, cleaning the entire house, and deleting old e-mails from the inbox instead of writing then you're in trouble.
Procrastinators are addicted to the low-level anxiety that procrastination produces. It's
what they know-it's their comfort zone. It's easier for them to obsess about what they
aren't accomplishing than to move forward which requires taking action. It's terrifying
to face the proverbial blank page. It's much easier to sit and think about what the odds
are of succeeding and convincing yourself that it's not even worth trying. The
procrastinator asks him/herself such questions as:"What if it's not good enough?" and
"What if I never make it?". And the kicker is that procrastination is self-fulfilling. If
you don't do the work, you can't succeed and then you get to be right that it's not good
enough and/or it's too hard to make it. But the worse part is that procrastination robs
you of the joy and enthusiasm that led you to become a creative person in the first
place. To stop procrastinating means to be willing to risk change- to try something new.
It means being willing to face your fears and move through them, one step at a time.
The way to do this is by taking action. Some people think that they have to take giant
leaps when in fact, they only have to take one small step at a time. (In my experience the
hare makes more noise but it's the tortoise who ultimately gets the rewards.)
Unfortunately, one of the problems with procrastination is that people don't always
realize that they are suffering from this paralyzing problem. They believe that they are
taking action when in fact they are just keeping busy. Years can go by frustrating the
creative person into believing that it is his or her talent that is missing, when in fact they
are suffering the long- term effects of chronic procrastination.
Here are five suggestions for stopping procrastination from taking over your life.
Make the commitment to yourself to stop procrasting and get on with the success that you were meant to have. Making the commitment is half the battle. If you are determined to change your patterns, you can do it using the suggestions that follow.
Write a paper on why you procrastinate. See if you can identify what is stopping you from moving forward. Once you uncover the reasons why you do it, it becomes harder to pull the wool over your own eyes. You’ll start to catch yourself and be able to stop yourself sooner from falling into your old patterns.
Identify the things that you tend to do to procrastinate. Once you’ve identified them try to add these things into your weekly schedule at a time other than your writing time. This way, they will be taken care of and it will be harder to use them as reasons not to write.
Get a timer, and set it by your desk. Before you sit down to write or practice, turn it on and give yourself 15 minutes to procrastinate. You can use this time to make a phone call that is going to stop you from focusing, or for whatever you need to do to get ready to write. This way you will be in control of your procrastination time instead of letting it control you.
Get a date book and schedule in a period of time each day when you will work on your music. Give yourself a two- hour period of uninterrupted creative time because it may take that long to get the creative juices flowing. In addition, give yourself a back-up time, so if for some reason you absolutely can’t make your first date. You will have a back-up time. Make sure to schedule your creative time when you know that you will be the most alert and get the most done. There’s no point in making a date with yourself at 7 a.m. if you’re a night person. If scheduling feels too restrictive then decide how many hours a week you want to be creative and make sure that you work in that many hours by the end of each week. Everyone has a different style so try both of these and see which one works better for you.
There is a technique in the book “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron called morning pages. In this exercise you write without stopping for at least three pages using 8 1/2 by 11 paper and pen every morning when you get up-no computers for this exercise! I suggest doing this every day as it gets you in touch with what is really going on in your mind and will help you to get rid of the psychic clutter. It may also give you some ideas about what you want to write about.- which could stop you from procrastinating.
Luckily, procrastination is not fatal. With a little knowledge and a lot of determination, you can overcome it. Why not start today?
By Ellen Silverstein (www.neveroffkey.com)
Back to articles index