For this Artist Meeting, the organizers invited a procrastination coach. Procrastination is an English word that can best be translated into Dutch as procrastination. Coach Angela van Son specializes in this and during this Artist Meeting did several tips & tricks of hand with the goal of understanding the triggers and causes of procrastination.
Good to know: procrastination is human
The definition of procrastination is, "The voluntary postponement of an intended action, despite the expectation that one will be worse off because of the postponement." The Internet is full of tips, but they will help better if you first learn to recognize the causes and triggers of your own procrastination. Good to know: procrastination is human, and research shows that strict self-criticism is counterproductive. The solution lies in customization, which is why it is important to work on your "personal instruction manual.
To begin, it is interesting to examine how you facilitate your procrastination, or in other words, what other activities you will do instead of the intended task. For example, gaming, scrolling, watching TV, cleaning up or plunging into lower priority tasks. Sometimes putting off the task has a function. For example, cleaning up your studio can be a prelude to the work itself: it is then a ritual to get going and build concentration, and thus a preparation for the task.
Sometimes delaying the task has a function
Are you sleeping in when you planned to get up early? Probably you need a little more rest. If you're on social media a lot, maybe you need contact or inspiration. And if you need the income, it's normal to prioritize paid assignments over free work.
Whether procrastination is problematic is something you can tell especially in retrospect: does it feel like you made a conscious choice, or does a bad feeling prevail because you didn't do what you set out to do? Try not to be angry with yourself. Better to figure out what need or emotion is behind the facilitating behavior.
Whether procrastination is problematic is something you can notice mostly in retrospect
For many artists, it can be difficult to perform tasks outside the core of making art: networking, promoting, selling, applying for grants, maintaining a website and social media. That makes sense: it's often not what you're good at as an artist. What also often happens is that artists linger for a very long time in the preparatory phase before getting started: sketching, thinking about the concept. There may be some form of emotion behind this, such as uncertainty or the fear of failure.
What also often happens is that artists stay in the preparatory phase for a very long time
Common triggers of procrastination are lack of confidence that it will succeed, resistance to the task or process, the goal or reward feels too far away and finally self-regulation problems. Self-regulation is defined as the ability to make good choices among one's behavioral options and to achieve, evaluate and improve them.
Causes and costs
The causes of procrastination do include the fear of success, the fear of failure, a subjective sense of time, resistance to authority, part of identity, another unmet need. Procrastination also costs the procrastinator something. For example, deadlines are often not met, but delaying a task can also come at a cost. Sometimes procrastination leads to self-criticism, guilt, shame or reduced self-confidence. It also leads to restlessness and little time left for other things. At worst, procrastination can send you into a downward spiral and become a selffulfilling prophecy.
The Artist Meeting provided pointers on how to deal with procrastination and how to arrive at a solution. Recognizing, analyzing and addressing procrastination is quite a puzzle. Therefore, ask yourself the following questions to begin working on a solution: What are you doing instead of what you need to do? Why are you doing the other thing? What can you do when you recognize the trigger?
Recognizing, analyzing and addressing procrastination is quite a puzzle
The latter depends a bit on the cause of your procrastination. If it's about lack of confidence, you can try to become more confident or learn to work without it. If it's about resistance to a task, sometimes it's helpful to make it more fun, such as with music or by working with friends.
When it appears that the reward is so far away that it is difficult to start the task, it sometimes helps to make subgoals that bring a reward closer. If you suffer from self-regulation problems, make sure you work in a low-stimulation environment, which can be done by putting your phone away, for example.
On the website of Cultuur+Ondernemen, this article is accompanied by a whole list of handy and practical tips you can use to tackle procrastination. But it also says: accept a certain amount of procrastination, fighting it costs energy.