12 Ways Artists Can Stop Procrastinating

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?

 

clockProcrastination 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.

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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.

 

 

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this article. It such a vital problem for everyone to come to grips with. As a self sustaining artist procrastination is a major downfall if it’s not admitted, accepted, and addressed. As a recovering alcoholic I see it as being similar, like a disease.

    It was once simply explained to me this definition. Procrastination in like masturbation. The only one you screw is yourself! This may sound a little crass, but I think the point is very well taken!

    I love you site! So informative and helpful!

    Catherine Meyers

  2. Wow! This terrific post could not be more timely…I was checking email for the umpteeth time when I should have beeen finishing up several commissioned paintings that are due by Christmas…and this post popped up in my inbox…how did you know this is just what I needed right at this very moment?!? You must be psychic, ArtsyShark!!!

    • Jandi, Get to Work!!

      Actually, I think there are so many people out there checking email endlessly that you have lots of company. Have you noticed on the metro, in waiting rooms, and all over America, people are glued to their cell phones because they can’t stand to go one minute without checking who sent them a message? It’s addictive.

      Best of luck with those commissions!

  3. I find that using a timer works well for tasks that are ongoing. Give yourself a certain time to do a task and when the buzzer sounds that’s time to move on to something else. “Tidy studio” can drag on far too long if you’re not careful, whereas “Tidy studio for 30 minutes” is much more focussed. You’ll probably find you work quicker if you’re trying to beat the clock too.

  4. Thanks for this. I agree with everything on this list. The hardest thing is working alone without being able to bounce ideas with someone else…and getting over self doubt of course.

  5. Robert Macklyn says:

    Procrastination is a matter of mismanagement I guess. When ever there is an unplanned approach for the work or tasks, procrastination is no doubt held to come up in line with the basic management. Being an artist I believe that the usage of tool as such will make the things go in the right manner and for that very reason I have been using the cloud based task management software from Replicon ( http://www.replicon.com/olp/task-management-software.aspx ) which makes the procrastination goes off with the tasks inline.

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