This is perhaps an unconventional article to this blog, and hopefully not too much so. However, it is not a coincidence that this article was posted a day after my intended deadline. Coming into fall break I am finally almost completely caught up, I am reflecting on what went wrong. This semester has gotten the best of me so far, and my procrastination has seemingly taunted me mockingly, even as I genuinely want to do well and excel in each of my ventures.
Like art, there’s always a process, and it is almost always unique. Whether you spend the time doodling, staring out a window, surfing social media, or hanging out with friends way too late, and even when the “medium” is the same, it’s a different experience and each person’s life, or work or art, is altered accordingly. Many seem to equate procrastination with laziness and apathy, but those that just cant seem to start writing until they have sharpened every pencil in the drawer know that it takes a lot of work to procrastinate well.
Procrastination itself, too, can be a catalyst for more art. One putting off assignments or deadlines will find other activities to occupy their time. Many times these might be unfinished projects or low level to do items. This helps justify the procrastination because at least something is getting done. Although it is not visual art, my own procrastination last week led to me spilling a lot of my emotion onto paper in the form of poetry. I even found myself further procrastinating that evening, attending an open mic to read it out loud.
Now, I would never encourage one to procrastinate, but if you are one to do it, there is an art to not letting it get the best of you..
First and foremost, never lose eight of what you need to accomplish. Even if you let it taunt you from the middle of a three week old to do list, it needs to remain present in your consciousness or it will slip through the cracks. Procrastination is a slippery slope, and you can bury yourself so deep in work if you’re not careful that you won’t know which way is up.
Secondly, set deadlines closer than the actual deadlines. Padding your time in this way allows you to keep yourself focused and on track, but builds in a cushion for the people expecting the work from you. Clearly, this requires enough time management skills to do in the first place and some reasonable personal accountability for not just dismissing the deadline as arbitrary.
Third, communicate! It is easy for missed deadlines to look like apathy and if someone is expecting work from you and thinks you don’t care, and it isn’t going to leave anyone involved feeling as though their time was valued. If you are going to be late, say so. An excuse, especially a fabricated one, is likely unnecessary. However, the lack of communication can leave the people expecting your work feeling disrespected and as though you’re not on board.
Fourth, and this is a big one, Don’t take on too much! Sometimes, we commit or agree to do too much, and it affects our energy levels and schedules negatively when we do. If even then, time can be found to do everything, quality often suffers as a result. It is better to reschedule or get a rain check for something that will set you back or distract you from your most important goals.
Last but not least, at some point, you have to stop procrastinating. This is often the hardest step and no one method works every time. Sometimes you have just sufficiently crossed off every menial task except the big one, sometimes the motivation just hits you, but more likely than not you have to convince yourself, whether you believe it or not, that you’ve procrastinated enough.
Like any work of art, too much medium or careless brushstrokes can undoubtedly ruin the whole thing and make a huge mess in the process. Be intentional, try to stay organized, and don’t let the stress of it swallow you whole. Sometimes taking a little time to do something that fuels you makes it easier to not procrastinate, even though that activity may itself feel like procrastinating. Clearly, this is a murky subject that affects artists and scholars alike, so if you or anyone you know has any tips or tricks to avoid or combat procrastination pitfalls, please comment below!