How To Deal With Procrastination

Procrastination is a form of self-regulatory failure that a lot of artists and designers have. But you can improve this issue and get more productive with your creative work! This blog post gives you insight into a meta-analysis (a statistical analysis that combines the results of multiple scientific studies) with the answer to why you put off work and how you can deal with it. I give you an assignment on what you can do, to improve your problems with procrastination.

Reasons for Procrastination
  • You tend to favor tasks that are more pleasant in the short term. Consequently, you are more likely to procrastinate long term work.
  • The more unpleasant a task is (or if you dislike it), the more likely you are to avoid doing it. You will procrastinate when it is too effortful or anxiety-producing.
  • Procrastination decreases as the task is near completion or as a deadline approaches.
  • Jobs you characterize by lower liberty, task significance, and feedback will likely increase procrastination. 
  • With frustration, resentment, and boredom comes procrastination.
  • Fear of failure doesn’t help too. You are more likely to put off difficult and boring tasks when they expect to be evaluated.
  • Low self-confidence is a cause of procrastination. You are more likely to give up on your efforts when encountering an obstacle.
  • Depression can cause low energy levels which result in procrastination.
  • Procrastinators tend to dislike structure or routine and typically will start with the more pleasurable tasks, while non-procrastinators prefer to sequence those last.
  • If you tend to choose short-term benefits over long-term gains, you are more likely to put off your tasks.
  • Availability of distractions is one of the top reasons contributing to procrastination.
  • The more times a task requires a choice that you have to make, the more likely it is that you will procrastinate. 
How to deal with Procrastination
  • One way of decreasing procrastination for a given task is to increase your expectancy of success. Develop self-efficacy!
  • Tasks should be constructed to be challenging but still achievable. Break big tasks into tiny little tasks and try to do them one by one. Make them fun! Reflect on how a task could be more joyful for you. Maybe the fun part comes after the annoying task is done, try to focus on that.
  • Surround yourself with cues that confirm your goals and banish any sign that reminds you of temptation.
  • Stop distractions! For the time you are working, put your phone away. Use apps that will prevent you from procrastination. For my web browser, I use “StayFocusd”. I also use “DF Tube” for a distraction-free use of YouTube. Figure out what is the most distracting part of your day and stop it while you are creative.
  • Try to make your tasks less of a choice. Use Habits. Work at the same time of the day. Start with a crafted routine and do it every time before you do your tasks. 
  • Make a list of long term benefits if you end the task successfully. Pin it somewhere where you see it every day. I have a corkboard in front of me at my place where I do creative work.
  • Why is this task you are putting of right now significant in the whole picture? Try to remember why you do it. 
  • Use external pressure. Like a friend or just your social media followers.
  • Internal pressure works too if you give yourself a deadline. But not everyone can achieve their deadlines.
  • Try to get feedback for your work. 
  • If you have a lot of different tasks, do the most annoying task first. The fun part of the day will be at the end. It can function as a reward too!
  • Frustration with your tasks or the fear of failure can have a huge impact. Mindfulness can help with that. I made a little comic about that but I will dive deeper into this topic with more posts later this year.

My Experience With Procrastination

When I draw a picture I have times where I want to procrastinate. It appears often at the same time in my process. Some days are tough and it is difficult to overcome this problem. Other days it is easier.

I like to draw and sketch ideas for the picture I want to make. It is the most fun part because I like doodling around. When I decided what I want to draw I start sketching it roughly. But every time I struggle when I need to clean the picture up with a better line drawing. When this happens I try to remember the benefits if I do not procrastinate on this task. Sometimes it is a self-made deadline I give myself (I draw every Monday one monster, so it needs to be done on a Monday). With Instagram, I give myself a bit of pressure. I think to myself, that all my followers want to see the monster (even if this is not true). One of the most fun parts for me is, when I can ink the drawing or when I can color it. This pushes me, to clean up my pencil sketch. And after a few minutes, when I started the cleanup, I come into a flow and finish the task with ease. This resistance is there, always. You just need to go through it every time and learn what works for you.

Assignment against Procrastination

Source: Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychol Bull 133: 65-94. Psychological bulletin, 133, 65–94. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.133.1.65

STOP! Take a break!

Regular breaks contribute to recovery, well-being, and productivity and are necessary to be able to work productively for a prolonged period. Many people demonize taking breaks as a loss of work-time. But this is not true. If you take regular pauses, you have many advantages regarding your work.

Why breaks are important:

Break Illustration
  • A pause in your work is a source of regeneration, to stay physically and mentally healthy.
  • The better you have your breaks under your control, the healthier and more efficient you will remain.
  • Increases the subjective well-being and the ability to concentrate.
  • Increases learning and problem-solving performance.
  • You make fewer mistakes after a break.
  • Working is more fun with proper pauses.
  • And extremely important for creative people: breaks increase creativity!

My personal experience:

Personal story

How to do breaks and what to do while doing it:

How to take breaks illustration
  • Every 45 minutes to one hour take a 5 to 15-minute break. After two hours of work take at least a half-hour break. Throughout the day, all the breaks can be as long as one and a half hours. But this is not a big deal, because the pauses allow you to work more productively and with more concentration, so you can easily catch up on the time you “lose” with breaks.
  • Look away from the screen, if you are working on digital devices.
  • Stand up and move. Stretch a bit!
  • Drink water or eat something healthy.
  • Do a mindfulness exercise or meditate.
  • Take a walk or go out into the fresh air during a longer break.
  • You also can do anything!
  • Important: Do not think about your work! Detach completely from what you did before the break or intend to do after the break.
  • With the use of so-called micro-breaks, which last less than a minute, you can take a short break between the larger breaks. Look away from the screen or your work and get up for a moment, move around a bit, and then get back to work. Do this little micro-break whenever you feel like it. They can take only a few seconds.

How to remember to make breaks:

Breaks are often forgotten. You are too much in the flow or maybe you think that you have to stay productive at work.

How to remember to make breaks Illustration
  • Use a timer that rings after a certain time. I used “Brain Focus Productivity Timer” from the Google Play Store for a while.
  • Use time tracking that you always check from time to time to see how much work you still have to do till the break starts. By using this method you will automatically start to recognize when to take a break. I use the App Toggl Track for that right now!
  • Try to make a habit of taking breaks. If you get used to taking a pause every hour, you will start to feel when it is time for another one.
  • Are your eyes tired? Do you feel drained? Are you lacking concentration? Does your back hurt? Pay attention to your body and take a break when you need it.
  • If you work in a team or just have people around you who work with you, you can appoint a “time master” who will take care that all breaks are taken.

What you can do now – A guideline:

Guideline for breaks

Do you have some tips for this topic? Did I miss something important to you? Write it in the comments section below!

References

Blasche, G., Pasalic, S., Bauböck, V.-M., Haluza, D., & Schoberberger, R. (2017). Effects of Rest-Break Intention on Rest-Break Frequency and Work-Related Fatigue. Human Factors, 59(2), 289–298. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018720816671605

Hausmann-Thürig, D. (2019). Vermehrte Minipausen zur Stärkung der körperlichen und psychischen Gesundheit am Arbeitsplatz. (Written thesis from CAS 2018 Gesundheitspsychologische Lebensstiländerung und Mind Body Medicine, University of Zurich)

Tucker, P. (2003). The impact of rest breaks upon accident risk, fatigue and performance: A review. Work & Stress, 17(2), 123–137. https://doi.org/10.1080/0267837031000155949

Best of my productivity-themed Inktober

In 2019 I did my Inktober on Instagram about the topic of productivity. A lot of the tips I gave with those posts are helpful for artists and designers as well. Therefore I decided to post a best-of here too. I hope they can help you!

Don't wait till you can do it Illustration
Don’t put something off because you can’t do it. The “can-do” comes after you work on it for some time! Just start what you want to do and the ability to do it successfully comes with it.
Prevent the cycle of fear Illustration
The cycle of fear is “not doing enough => lack of results => fear” repeating. If you are not doing enough there is no result or progress. With no progress comes fear. Fear prevents you from doing work, therefore you lack results again. It is a loop you will have trouble breaking out again. Remember this and work against this cycle if it starts to happen.
write about it Illustration
It helps if you start writing about the problems you have. Keep a little journal or write directly into your sketchbook. If you begin to struggle start writing about what you think right now and how you feel. Do it for like 10 minutes. After that, it will be much easier for you, or you even found the solution to your problem while writing.
Have lazy days illustration
You are not a machine, you need to recharge sometimes, so plan lazy days when you do nothing. The key is not to make those days the norm. Plan them carefully. The best times are after you finish a project or start a new one. Or just in between when you are stuck.
Don't be perfect Illustration
Over the years I realized that I have more fun doing imperfect drawings. If I would try to do this Inktober flawless I probably wouldn’t finish it. Or I would be stressed as crazy about the whole challenge. So be imperfect and enjoy the ride. You will do more and have more fun!
Breaks are important Illustration
Take your breaks! You can work much more if you do them. Don’t see them as a waste of time because that’s not true. It is a part of your working day as long as you don’t take 15 min breaks every 10 minutes.

You can look through all my Inktober posts from 2019 here: https://www.behance.net/gallery/87529485/Inktober-2019-Productivity