Ever wondered why is it so difficult to start a certain task that you kept postponing? How often do you fill your day with “displacement activities” of lesser importance in order to justify your inability to actually get on with that task or project? Keeping the project going and successfully completing it is actually very easy but starting it is a different story.
In most cases the real obstacle lies within the mentioned above “successfully completing it” part particularly if the task consists of different elements and requires certain skills and careful time management and planning. The end result is inevitable however, thinking about it as a completed project is usually what’s stopping us from starting in the first place. What if my idea does not work? What if it does not look as good as I would like it to? What if people won’t like it? Could it be that “perfectionist paralysis” is the real thing? According to the Urban Dictionary Perfectionist paralysis is inability to start a project due to the fear of not getting it right (Urban Dictionary. 2015). There are various other Creative Blocks in forms of resistance that lead to procrastination.
Here are five tips that always worked for me during my studies at the Arts University:
1. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail
Cliché, but it works every single time! Planning and preparing is the key to any task however big or small. Whether you make a short term plan in your head for an immediate task or have to take up and prepare for a bigger project.
First make a list of deadlines. Then make a list of general tasks in titles, they will then become your section titles. Break down each section into smaller items until you have completely exhausted your list of things to. Create list of smaller “in-between” deadlines. Then find a calendar/weekly (or monthly) planner that works for you (there are plenty of those available to download online or offered as part of your software) and start working your way through the list by putting the titles on each day of your planner and don’t forget to cross reference them by putting the page numbers so that you can easily refer to them later when the time comes.
2. Baby steps
By splitting larger tasks into smaller sections will help you deal with each of them almost effortlessly and every time you complete a small task you will get closer to the completion of the entire project. If a task involves your going to the store to buy stationary, for example, put it in your task list as “Buy a note pad” as this will be another step toward completing your general task list. Also, as you spread your smaller tasks over a few days, you won’t need to worry about them until that day comes, this way your mind will feel less cluttered. You may also find that by writing down the tasks that there aren’t as many of them as you thought. Keeping it in your head can sometimes feel like you have hundreds of things to do at once.
3. Give it up
If something does not go the way you want it to, give it up, temporarily. Start a different task or perhaps re-word the title and the task list. Sometimes you will find that replacing words can have a very positive affect on the way you may approach a subject. Also, do not be ever afraid to give up your ideas. Creative projects are combination of various skills and trials and testing. If one idea does not work, do not despair, try another one. Remember, Rome was not built in a day.
4. Does the idea of working from home really work?
Sometimes the thought of working from home may sound quite appealing. But do not be fooled as you will most certainly fall back into the procrastinating mode. Take yourself out of your comfort zone. Go to a place elsewhere with the purpose of working on your tasks. For example if it is a university assignment, go to your university studio or library and you will find that your time there will be more productive. Firstly, you went there for the only purpose, to work and secondly you will be less likely distracted by the chores or comforts of your home.
5. On your marks, get set, Go!
Finally, if you still feel like you have difficulty starting a task, allocate a certain time of a day in a week (not more than 20 minutes), pick up a piece of paper, write down the title of your project (make up one if you don’t have it yet) and start writing down your thoughts which will include the things that you think have to be done for your project. You will find that after a while, thoughts will start flowing all by themselves and you will realise that you have just spent an hour actually working on your project. Once you start, you will find that you cannot actually stop!
One last tip: whilst it is good to see what others are doing, if they are working on similar projects, do not compare your work with theirs. They may be going through exactly the same things as you are, only concentrate on what’s in your own boat. We all work at different pace, we have different skills. It is only you who decides what best works for you.