Oh Procrastination You Devious Little Minx

Procrastination is not always as straightforward as we might think. It doesn’t always manifest itself in the most obvious ways. Sometimes it comes in disguise. And that it is precisely why it’s so dangerous.

When you add to this the fact that as creative people, obviously we’re capable of being very creative. And, guess what? Yep, that creativity covers everything we do.

We’re not just creative when we paint or draw or write or bake or sing. It’s not just something we switch on now and again, it’s a permanent state within us, that has its high tides and low tides, but is always bubbling away within us in some form.

Even if sometimes the way we are being most creative is in procrastinating.

The more creative we are, then it follows that the more creative and inventive we can be in how we procrastinate! Ironic huh?

Let me share a personal example if I could.

I started this blog as a new venture, and the hub of all my creativity coaching work online. That was about forty days ago, and when I began I committed to writing a new post every day.

Partly this was a personal challenge, to see how many consecutive days I could write for. Partly it was to get the blog up and running and established, with enough good content so readers new and familiar could come here and find it a valuable resource in helping them be more creative.

So, forty days in, I’ve written forty posts, and not missed a day. So far so good, pat on the back for me.

But, before I began glowing indulgently in my own achievements too much, and after talking with a good friend, who (fortunately for me) doesn’t put up with any of the vague, half hearted explanations I’m sometimes prone to, I realised something about my prolific start to this new venture.

Whilst prolifically writing, I have also been prolifically procrastinating. Miss Procrastination has crept in almost unnoticed and tricked me once more…

image: JustSimplePhoto

Writing for the blog is very valuable, and a good use of my time, there’s no doubt about that, and having such a daily creative routine has always worked very well for me. Creating every day is at the core of what I believe allows to be at our most creative, as I frequently talk about.

But whilst I was writing a blog post every day, I haven’t been developing the new courses and ebooks I have planned. I haven’t been promoting the existing courses and ebooks I have, that in the past people have found so useful.

I’ve been making myself very busy in one area – an area that I find relatively easy to create in – to avoid creating in another area, one I find more challenging. One I might fail in.

A quick estimate of figures. A blog post is on average 450 words. Multiply by forty posts and that’s around 18000 words. That’s a new course or a new ebook in content terms, maybe two. In just forty days.

By not developing those books and courses, I’m not just letting down you who reads what I offer and hopefully gains something from it. I’m also letting myself down by not totally practicing what I preach, by not investing time and energy in the development of my creativity coaching that will over time enable me to reach even more people, and earn an income that will free me further still to reach wider still, and spend time on the other passions in my life too.

What also happens, in my experience, is once you’ve created something early in the day, you tend to relax a little. Maybe check your email, browse a few blogs, read a few chapters of a book. None of these are “bad” things in themselves, in moderation.

But it’s very easy to find the rest of the morning, or the whole day disappear without creating very much more, because you’re still in that comfortable mildly triumphant glow of having written a new post, or story, or whatever.

Oh that Miss Procrastination, she is indeed a very devious little minx.

Think for a moment, and over the next day or two, how might this be happening in your own creative life?

What are you being very creative and “busy” with, that’s great in itself, but is actually helping you avoid what you REALLY want to be creating?

Those projects that call you, that smoulder inside you, desperate to be released into being.

Those projects that are really going to challenge you.

Those projects that might not turn out like you hope.

Those projects you might fail spectacularly at.

So, what am I going to do about my own situation? I’m going to look at the next couple of months and adjust the way I spend my time and energy. I’m still going to write a new blog post every day, that works for me, on many levels.

But I’m not going to then let my foot off the pedal and spend the next few hours after writing just ambling around online or checking email or reading something I really don’t need to read, or not really doing much. I have specific new projects planned that I am going set completion dates before. And I’m going to get started. Watch this space, I’ll keep you updated.

What can you do in your situation?

Just be vigilant. Be aware of Little Miss Procrastination and her devious ways, and ask yourself regularly – what’s the best use of my creative time right now? What do I REALLY want to be creating? Then take that first little step, start that momentum rolling.

I can do it, you can do it. Let’s get creating.

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14 thoughts on “Oh Procrastination You Devious Little Minx”

  1. “…take that first little step, start that momentum rolling.”

    This is the most important line in this post for me. The army of creativity killers line up in front of me: doubt, fear, guilt, negativity, fatigue, distractions, perfectionism, obligations, etc. and all it takes is one small step forward, then another and another, to push through them.

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  2. Absolutely agree Diane. Create a little bit each day, and before you know it you have a wonderful body of work, and a wealth of creative experience.

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  3. Thanks Mike I appreciate the encouragement.

    I guess it’s all down to different degrees of procrastination. I could’ve have done nothing but check emails and watch tv for the last 40 days, and not have the articles I’ve written, so that’s a great outcome.

    I just know deep down there’s other stuff I need to do and be brave about doing. 🙂

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  4. Sheesh.
    I haven’t been at the easel in weeks.
    The past week or so, I’m in the process of starting something different. Now, I need to make sure it isn’t an avoidance technique!
    Thanks, Dan.
    Your essays are always timely.

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  5. Seems to me that its not in the writing of the daily posts where the procrastination lies but in the afterglow of achievement that tells you you’ve done enough today…Its one I recognise!

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    1. That’s a very interesting observation Wild C. I believe if we can start the day with something creative, it sets us up for feeling up for doing more. If at the beginning of the day we say to ourselves here are two creative tasks I want to do today, then we do them in the first few hours, it’s likely we’ll go on and do more, as we’re in the flow. Better than keep putting those tasks off all day and feeling that anxiety and disappointment swell and build within.

      This has reminded me that in the past when I had a full day free I used to divide it into two hour blocks with breaks in between, map it out on paper (I made some preprinted sheets), then fill in the blocks with things to do, one thing per block. Far less intimidating than having a big empty day stretched out in front of you and being overwhelmed with what to start on first. Very easy in that scenario to end up with the swelling anxiety as the day disappears and nothing gets done.

      I think there are a few articles’ worth in exploring these ideas more!

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  6. Oh my God! You’ve just described what I do and I hadn’t even realised I was doing it. So yesterday morning really early, I went to a ‘thing’ with a new friend which I didn’t really want to. I didn’t want to because I prefer to fester under my bed with a packet of ginger nuts and feel lonely and sorry for myself in a new city, new country, new everything. So, after reading an a article about becoming a ‘yes’ person rather than my default setting as a ‘no’ person, I went to this thing with my new friend. Bless her, she was brilliant and sweet and introduced me to a mass of other people and signed me up for a heap of new things and, and, and. I came away feeling fabulous. The rest of the day, I slept. I was exhausted and as I’d been up since 4am stressing about the prospect of meeting a new friend etc. I felt that I had climbed a metaphorical mountain and I therefore deserved to little lie down. That lie down resulted in nothing for the rest of the day. I hated myself for it and all the good feelings that I’d previously felt disappeared. My husband arrived home and asked me what I’d done in the afternoon. I lied. I made up some nonsense and then felt even worse about myself. Sorry for the long-winded response, but suffice to say, your post was very timely and so thank you. I need to remind myself not to take the foot off the pedal … until it’s actually, properly bedtime. Katie

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    1. Well, it can work both ways. Sometimes the momentum of doing something bold and brave can then spur us on to do another, and another. Other times it’s taken so much effort we do need a lie down! Either way, you still have the boost in confidence from getting out there and doing it.

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