By Carolyn Edlund
Be honest – do you have a lot of unfinished projects sitting around? Are you unable to account for what happened, and why you’re not able to complete them?
Procrastination is a self-defeating behavior that can have a crippling effect on your art career or small business. If you are working as a solo artist, and you aren’t accountable to someone else for getting things done, that can make it even worse.
Forbes recently featured an article about it , stating that about twenty percent of the population “habitually and consistently delays tasks.” Are you one of them?
Procrastinators often have a fear of failure, which as we know is rampant among artists. Self-doubt can turn into paralysis, preventing you from finishing, or even getting started. And working on too many things at once can overwhelm you, cause you to get seriously disorganized and send everything into a downward spiral.
Use these tips to beat procrastination and start getting things done:
1. Create a To Do list, every day. Set your priorities, and tackle the most urgent things first. Then, get to work on the hard things, the worst part of your list. Don’t put them off until the end of the day when you have less energy. Use pen and paper, or handy task manager ToDoist to set up and keep track of your list.
2. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. If you run out of day before you run out of your list, you may be overcommitting yourself, which just causes increased stress. When planning, give yourself time to get things done right, and schedule in breaks.
3. Work every day on your business. Persistence is especially important for entrepreneurs, and an ongoing commitment is essential for success. If nothing else, commit to doing something on your art business every single day, even if that activity is merely making a list or one phone call. Don’t make giving up an option.
4. Pace yourself. Rather than commit to long hours on one task, divide it incrementally. Even working in fifteen minute blocks at a time means that over the course of days you can get a lot accomplished.
5. Get in the studio, and close the door. Make sure your family understands and respects your separate work space and your time.
6. Say no to distractions. Stay away from Facebook, Twitter and other time eaters. Turn off the phone. Only check email once or twice a day, and not until after you have gotten a few things ticked off your list.
7. Set a goal for yourself, and a time frame in which to reach it, which is realistic and measurable. Visualize what it looks and feels like when your task is completed, to get into a better frame of mind to start.
8. Stay on task. Before you start on another big project, finish the one you are currently working on.
9. Know when to delegate. You can’t do it all, so prioritize those things that only you can do, and ask others to take care of related tasks on a project, or other responsibilities. For example, some artists use virtual assistants, bookkeepers or studio assistants to help move things along more quickly.
10. Don’t beat yourself up. Given what you have done so far, you are right where you are supposed to be. Rather than wallow in regret, resolve to move forward from here. Your plan to stop procrastinating is a good thing. Lighten up, and feel better about it. It’s like going on a diet, and starting day one. That’s inspiring!
11. Get an accountability partner. If you work alone, find a friend you can work with to account for getting those important things done. Help each other get more accomplished by committing to report what you are planning to get done, and when your project is finished.
12. Reward yourself for getting it done. Many things are hard for entrepreneurs trying to build a business, especially when you need skills they didn’t teach in art school (like bookkeeping, marketing or sales). When you finish a tough project, celebrate! Give yourself credit for a job well done and treat yourself to something special.
Need more help in getting organized and moving forward with your creative business? Book a consulting session. Carolyn Edlund, the founder and author of Artsy Shark, and Executive Director of the Arts Business Institute, works one-on-one with artists to build sustainable businesses.