You have a project with a deadline that is fast approaching. You know your next paycheck depends on the success of this project but you just aren’t motivated enough to be productive. Instead, you find yourself checking social media, watching videos — everything else except finishing the project.
THE DANGER OF PROCRASTINATION
Procrastination can be one of the biggest challenges for a freelance graphic designer. Since you are working online and usually from home, staying focused on the task at hand can definitely be a challenge with so many distractions around you. Many of you probably had the experience of watching a 2-minute YouTube video only to waste an hour or even more in the end. Such is the danger of procrastination.
It’s important to realize that there are only so many hours in a day. Unlike an office job where you still get paid sitting around, procrastinating means a loss of income for a freelancer. In the long run, procrastination will prevent you from achieving success in your freelancing career. In the time you spent procrastinating, you could be picking up a new design skill or advertising your services to get more clients.
And when deadlines start looming, panic and anxiety will often lead to substandard work and unhappy clients, causing your reputation to suffer. No client wants to do business with a freelancer who produces low quality work and can’t meet deadlines. Imagine working so hard at the beginning to build your freelancing career — only to destroy it in the end just because you weren’t willing to take steps to avoid procrastination.
WHY DO YOU PROCRASTINATE?
As the saying goes, knowledge is half the battle. Understanding the causes of procrastination will allow you to make a conscious effort to address those issues and nip them in the bud.
A task might seem too overwhelming, so you put it off in favor of something that’s more within your comfort zone. Similarly, it’s easier to lose track of important tasks without a system in place.
In times of stress, you find yourself losing motivation and overestimate the difficulty of a task. Stress can also negatively affect your physical and mental health, thus lowering your productivity.
As a perfectionist, you are always waiting for the ‘right time’ which never comes. Similarly, low confidence leads to a fear of failure and second-guessing every decision, ultimately stopping you from taking any action.
Lastly, there is productive procrastination, which is the act of doing needless tasks except the one that really needs to be done.
If one or all of the aforementioned features apply to you, consider taking a deep look at how you are working to see if procrastination is something that you need to address.
HOW TO AVOID PROCRASTINATION
An effective way to avoid procrastination is to have a to-do list prioritizing your tasks for the day, week and month. If a task is too overwhelming, break it down into smaller and more manageable chunks. Once you have the tasks and subtasks listed down, set deadlines for each and every one of them to create a sense of urgency. With everything laid out it should be much easier to avoid procrastination and get right down to business.
Apply the same approach to your projects. Make it a habit to establish a timeline with milestones at the start of each project.
Visualization allows you to focus on the next steps you need to take. Also, you are less likely to be overwhelmed by a task if you can ‘see’ yourself completing it beforehand.
See also: Kickstarting Your Design Process
Besides visualization, you might want to follow successful people on social media. Their success stories will motivate and inspire you to take action. Similarly, it’s a good idea to build strong relationships with other designers since they can encourage and provide you with practical advice to avoid procrastination.
In order to break the habit of procrastination, you need to establish a set of rules that you can follow consciously and consistently. For better results, consider a carrot-and-stick approach to induce behavior and motivate you to finish a task on time. For example, you can reward yourself for every job well done but withhold such rewards for procrastinating on a task. A similar approach is to leverage more enjoyable tasks by withholding them until the less desirable ones are completed.
Sometimes it’s better to just do it. A task might seem overwhelming but turn out to be not as bad once you actually get down to it. Of course, inertia can be hard to overcome (as proven by Sir Isaac Newton). One suggestion is to dedicate a few minutes just to kickstart the task. Once you get started, it will probably be easier to get into the groove of things.
If you are working from home, it can be hard to avoid all the distractions around you. Consider changing your work environment, especially during key projects. A library or coworking space are great choices, since you will surround yourself with productive and like-minded people. Also, be sure to get enough sleep every day since it can be hard to stay focused if you are sleepy and low on energy.
As for distractions online, there are many handy tools available to help you stay focused such as SelfControl. Some people even go so much as to delete or deactivate their social media accounts. It’s an extreme measure, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made in order to achieve success.
Always think about whether your choices and decisions are really getting you closer to success. Otherwise, you have to learn to say ‘no’ to various obligations. Remember, when it comes to success your priorities should come first.
Speaking of goals, ask yourself why you started freelancing in the first place. If you are really looking for success, then procrastination should be the last thing on your mind. Otherwise, perhaps it’s time to rethink your goals and decide whether freelancing is really right for you.
By following the tips above you should be able to better manage your time and outcomes. No one has ever procrastinated their way to success and you are no exception — so get back to work right now!