10 Ways for Creatives to Reduce Procrastination Without Planning

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General / Improve Online Efficiency / Personal Development

Procrastination, whether lacking in energy to finish a project, or being distracted by email, is stopping us from working effectively on our creations and projects and is taking valuable time away from promoting the work we have.

Many of us want to cut down on time spent on wasteful activities, and much has been said about how to reduce procrastination. Despite this, many of us still procrastinate! I think a lot of this has to do with the suggestions to plan what you do, and this is putting us off taking action.

Drawing from my own experiences as a writer and illustrator and the web, I’ve come up with a selection of ways to reduce procrastinating without the need to plan.

1. Take a deep breath and just start

Don’t waste time planning and thinking about it. This is simply another way to avoid actually doing tasks. If you intend to plan, most of what you need is in your mind anyway, so get started and things will tend to fall into place.

2. Expect discomfort and suck it up

Many people put something off because they expect a task to lead to negative emotions, including boredom. Realize that not everything you do will make you feel good, then do it, then feel great when it’s done.

3. Turn off the computer

Personally, the computer is my main source of distraction, and I’m sure others feel the same way. When I was writing my book, I wrote it physically in another room, and got so much more done than had the email and Google been flashing away in front of me. It might seem obvious, but avoid distractions like these and you’ll get more done.

4. Be more decisive at dumping things you don’t need

Be quick to remove/throw away email, paper, even desk clutter that you simply don’t need or will distract you. Cut out this hesitation to trash, and you will have more time to do things that matter.

5. Approach large projects in smaller chunks

For large jobs, the only planning you need to do is in deciding to start working on a small step within the wider project and simply doing it. Your plans for projects become taking action with the smaller aspects of it, instead of meticulously preparing the entire thing at once.

6. Quit the self-deception

A lot of us will dream up excuses for not doing things, such as ‘I’ll be in a better mood to do this tomorrow’. Simply be honest with yourself on what needs to be done and be free of irrational thought, and the job in hand will become much clearer.

7. Do the things you don’t want to do first

Get finished what you are dreading or dislike doing before you do anything else work-related in the day. Even committing ten minutes to the task will help you get the ball rolling for the project.

The best way to get unwanted jobs done is to set a timer, say for thirty minutes, that you spend working solely on this task. When the time is up, you can reward yourself with what you prefer doing.

8. Alternate your tasks

If you face a tough or dull task, do something you enjoy before and after it. This will bring a sense of harmony into what you’re doing and has the effect of cancelling the negativity associated with certain tasks.

9. Understand your body clock

I’m sure you’ve all got some sense of what times of the day suit you for working more effectively. Tailor your day, and the times your working energy levels are highest, to the work you do. Don’t feel that because others say one is freshest in the mornings that you should work in the morning. Do what suits you.

10. Rest

Aside from getting regular and appropriate levels of sleep each night, don’t ignore the importance of taking defined breaks away from your work.

Obviously a break will replenish energy and keep you feeling fresh. However, one of the real benefits of taking breaks that I’ve personally found, is in gaining the sensation of starting something every time you return to what you were doing. Knowing that you are starting something, even if it is in the last stages of a project, will bring to your work a renewed sense of enthusiasm.

What do you do to cut down on wasting-time?

For a similar article, see: 6 ways to save time promoting yourself on the internet.

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The Author

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

31 Comments

  1. I like this a lot! Thanks so much, there are some good tips in there! I also suggest that if you get fraustrated, walk away from the project. Going back to it later will may help you not to procrastinate but get a fresh idea and start over. 🙂

  2. If I am working on the computer, I will shut down all communication and web pages for hour long bursts. You get a lot done that way!

  3. Great tips! Sometime you just need to get away from things for a while to reset your mind.
    Also agree with Nina. Exercise works wonders on your mind and helps to regain focus.

    • Alex Mathers says

      Exercise is definitely a good one to get feeling good, feeling motivated, and ultimately lowering procrastination. Even a little exercise in short bursts helps me. Thanks for the comments guys, keep them coming!

  4. The internet is the biggest distraction for me… No distractions in this area means no browsers open, no twitter apps and no chat.

  5. Reading this post (although having great tips) was actually procrastination for me. I was doing something, got distracted, ended up this site, and posted this comment.

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  8. Great article. Helpful things. As a graphic designer who pretty much works all day on a computer. Those distractions are hard to get away from. But I try to switch settings or go to a coffee shop to work instead. Helps me focus more on the task at hand.

  9. Someone mentioned hour-long bursts, but for truly odious, boring tasks (on the computer) I do timed bursts of just 15 or 20 minutes. I’m always amazed when I start getting antsy after only a few minutes – no wonder some things never seem to get done when I fail to apply my attention for long enough.

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  11. Excellent tips! I recently had one tip given to me which I now use, before checking your emails, do one important task. 🙂

  12. Pingback: Wise Elephant: Design and Influence » Blog Archive » Ways for Creatives to Reduce Procrastination Without Planning

  13. This is a great article. I love quick motivational tips that help keep me sharp and aware of the fact that I am a human…not a machine.

    • Alex Mathers says

      Thanks for the recommendation, Maaike – I’ll def look into it. Alex

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  15. Thanks Alex, this article was found just when I needed it!! I spend way too much time browsing on the web… but sometimes I find a jewel, like this text. All good motivational points you have here. I will keep them in mind! No 3 is a tough one… but necessary! Thanks for the tips!

  16. Just discovered this blog today, I’m loving it. It is right along the lines of what I’m working towards now. I’m with you on writing physically first (i just got a used typewriter for that purpose) but I’ve also found that once you just start writing, even on the computer, you sorta get sucked in and the distractions melt away.
    Really helpful article! I really like the site design too.

  17. Best advice I’ve ever heard “Take a deep breath and just start.” Usually the getting started is the hardest part of all.

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  19. Protecting the Innocent - I'll post it later! says

    I’m going to apply everything in this article as soon as I find a moment to read it. I could do it now, but I … should do it now…but … I am running out of excuses. I think that I am going to go to another site and obsess about something else. Easier to do that than actually do any work…

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