Up until a few years ago I was a PRO at procrastinating. I am pretty certain I could procrastinate procrastinating. Nothing was getting done and it was getting to be a real problem. I knew I had to do something to change so I put my procrastinating time to good use.
I started reading everything I could on how to make better use of my time and really get things done. Through my research I learned that you should start with one area of your life where you can form a habit. Then work on that until you are consistently getting that task done. Then move onto the next task and the next and so on.
It can take a lot of time, but it is well worth the effort. I’m still not a 100% where I want to be and probably never will be, but I am much more organized and productive.
Just like my art, I am a work in progress. Which brings me to how all of this relates to art.
Procrastinating is a Symptom. Most artists have periods of “artists block”. Times where they lack motivation or inspiration to paint. A lot of us have full time jobs or family commitments that keep us from our art. These are transient things. They come and go with the seasons of our lives.
But for some of us it’s not an artist’s block or time constraints that keep us from creating. It goes much deeper into our psyche. We creatively find excuses not to paint. The lighting isn’t right, I don’t have the right supplies, I need to defrost the fridge, make those “important” phone calls, the stars aren’t aligned right.
We invent all of these excuses and procrastinate for one reason. Fear.
Most often it’s the fear of failure that keeps us from doing what we love. The fear of not being good enough or talented enough or smart enough. Everyone has faced that fear once in a while. It can take a lot of positive self- talk and support to get past this fear.
But, sometimes it’s actually the fear of success that keeps an artist from creating. After you have sold your first painting, the euphoria starts to wear off and you begin to wonder if you have used up all your creativity on that one piece of art. Did the customer buy it just to be nice? Did you ask too high a price? Can you keep up with demand if people want more? Can you handle the stress of marketing and dealing with galleries and shows?
The fear starts to set in again.
When I was repeatedly getting stuck in fear of failure and self-doubt, I looked for ways to help me get unstuck. With methods that I found helpful; I have developed a strategy to overcome procrastination.
Schedule 15 minutes of time each day for whatever it is you have been wanting to do. Allow yourself this much time. This is not a large chunk of time. It is doable without causing much anxiety, so I call it the “fearless fifteen.” After this time has passed, you may find things are going well, and then it can be hard to stop! Once I get to it and start painting for example, it’s hard to put the brush down.
Acknowledging and accepting and saying to myself, “I have this fear that I want to overcome because it is blocking greater joy and fulfillment”. That is the first step. Next, I begin to take action in moving past the fear by using mindfulness techniques to help to create distance from any anxious thoughts. One technique is simply paying attention to each breath, and slowing it down, while in a comfortable posture. Count slowly through each breath in and out: count 1-2-3 to inhale, 2-3 to hold, and then count 3-2-1 to exhale each breath; repeat enough times to refocus, create calm, and clear your mind.
After scheduling time, acknowledging the issue, committing to an intention, and refocusing thoughts, the next thing to do is just start. This is key. It’s important to avoid the tendency to spend time ruminating about “what-if’s” or anything else by simply moving forward. Prepare your space and applicable materials and tools, and begin. The biggest motivating factor for me is the big white canvas on my easel.
I tell myself that it is my canvas in my studio. My art is mine. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. Art is my therapy. It is my “why”. It does not matter what people think about my work or why they buy it.
All that matters is that I am creating every day.
Overcoming procrastination takes commitment to practice. Like yoga, art, music, or anything that takes practice, it also takes discipline to keep it a part of daily routine. Discipline usually begins with determination, but eventually motivation will follow. Commitment to this practice is essential, and worth the effort. It allows potential for success, happiness, and for your life to flourish.
So go ahead, schedule your Fearless Fifteen today!