Beat procrastination by keeping things simple

Getting on with your creative work is the most important thing you can do. But it’s also one of the hardest.

It's hard because we can be held back by fear. We lack confidence and are unsure of our ability to do the work. We're scared of failing. We're afraid of what others will think.

The list goes on.

So we put things off, make excuses and procrastinate.

When I first started painting, I would spend ages looking at art supplies. I felt unsure of what colour paints to get, or what type of paint, or which brushes I needed.

Then I started to worrying about how much time I should I spend sketching, or which art books I should read. I worried about the best source of light for painting and what style I should concentrate on.

And on and on.

I was constantly questioning what I was doing, trying to make sure I was doing things the right way.

The problem is, there is no ultimate right way, no perfect path.

But one things for sure; overthinking things will hold us back. If we feel confused and under pressure, we will start to close down and stop working.

We need to avoid procrastination and the paralysis it can induce.

So how do we stop procrastinating?

From a practical point of view, one of best things you can do is to keep things simple. You have to work out what to concentrate on and where best to spend your energy.

Spend some time thinking about what you want to achieve, and what things might be holding you back.

When you know what your important work is, you can simplify your actions to help you get on with it.

Here’s some ideas for keeping things simple:

Don’t over-complicate things

It’s important to keep your creative process simple.

Don't set out to do too much. You’ll end up feeling like you’re not getting anywhere. Remember to keep your goals achievable.

Stop worrying about the things you're not doing and concentrate on the things you can do right now. It doesn't always matter whether it’s better to do something this way or that way. The main thing is that you actually do it.

Concentrate on your core work so you don’t waste precious time and energy on the wrong things. Set time aside to work on it and try to be consistent by working at regular intervals throughout the week.

Once you’ve cut out any distractions, all you need is the right tools at hand to start work.

Use less

Take some time to think about what you need to do your work or start a project. While it may seem like you need lots of different tools to get something done, the truth is you don’t.

What’s the least you need to start off with? A pen and paper for writing. A pencil and sketchbook for drawing. Paints, a brush and something to paint on, a laptop to work on, etc.

It’s very easy to get bogged down thinking about what you need to have in place to be successful. But you’ll usually find you need very little equipment to get something done.

What you need to do is the work.

So remember, done is better than perfect. Find the least amount of stuff you need to get started and go to it.

Start with what you have

In most cases you will already have what you need to start a project.

You may feel you need to take a course or read a book first. Or, that you have to wait until you have this or that piece of equipment. This is just another way of putting things off and procrastinating.

Things will never be perfect - right now, you have what you have. So start.

You have enough skills and tools to start something.

Stay flexible in your approach and accept that their will be setbacks and failures. This isn’t a problem though, it’s all part of the learning process.

Pare everything back to the basics. Start from where you are and accept that you can’t wait for everything to be perfect before you do. 

Bang for your buck

When you’re low on energy and time is at a premium, you need to think about where you concentrate your efforts. This means that for whatever effort you put in, you need to be making the biggest impact you can.

Before you start work, think about where best to spend your energy. What, at that moment, is going to move you forward the most.

A good idea is to try is the one thing to-do list.

Each day write down one thing that you can (realistically) achieve. Don’t put your important work off; make sure you write down the one thing that will bring you closest to your goal.

Try and cut through all the distractions, decide your best course of action and then act - tick off that one thing.

Stick to what works

When you’ve been working for a while, you’ll notice that you get into a rhythm. You’ll find ways of working that are right for you and allow you to get things done.

It’s important that you don’t change things for the sake of it. It’s OK to keep doing what you’re doing if you’re happy and comfortable with it.

You'll know if something feels wrong and you need to change what you’re doing.

Sometimes you reach a point when what you’re doing is not working. Maybe you feel you’ve plateaued and have stopped moving forward.

If this happens, don’t be afraid to change things up or try a new direction.

By simplifying what you do you remove the things you’re unsure about. This leaves you with the things you can do, the important things that will move your work forward.

All you have to do is show up and do the work for your set amount of time.

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