How to Avoid Procrastination
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 is one of the biggest challenges for a freelance graphic designer. Since you are working online and from home, stay focused on the task at hand can definitely be a challenge with so many distractions around you. Even worse, a 2-minute video can somehow turn into an hour wasted — 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. And when deadlines start looming, panic and anxiety will lead to substandard work and unhappy clients.
In the long run, procrastination will prevent you from achieving success as a freelancer. In the time you spent procrastinating, you could be learning a new design technique or advertising your services. Furthermore, waiting until time is running out will result in mistakes and bad decisions in your work.
In short, your reputation will suffer in the long run — and no client wants to do business with a freelancer who produces low quality work and can’t meet deadlines. The freelancing career you have worked so far to build, gone just because you didn’t 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 the issue and nip it in the bud.
A task might seem too overwhelming, so you put it off in favor of something within your comfort zone. However, in many cases it’s all in the mind; stress can make you overestimate task difficulty. Similarly, it’s easier to get stressed out and lose track of important tasks without an organization system in place.
Your personality can also play a part in procrastination. As a perfectionist, you are always waiting for the ‘right time’ which never comes. On the other hand, 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.
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 a project.
Better yet, use the to-do list or project timeline to visualize what needs to be done beforehand. 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, take some time 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. On one hand, reward yourself for every job well done; on the other, withhold such rewards for procrastinating on the 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 at first glance, but not be 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 co-working space are great choices, since you will surround yourself with productive and like-minded people. Also, be sure to get enough sleep every day; 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 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 ask yourself whether your choices and decisions are really getting you closer to success. Otherwise, you have to learn to say ‘no’ to various obligations. Remember, take care of yourself before taking care of anyone else.
Speaking of goals, think hard about why you want to be a freelance graphic designer in the first place. If you are really looking for success, then you shouldn’t be procrastinating at all. Otherwise, perhaps it’s time to re-clarify your goals and decide whether freelancing is really right for you.
In the end, the key to avoiding procrastination is to understand why it happens and consistently take action. By following the tips above, you should be able to better manage your time and outcomes. No one has ever procrastinate their way to success — and you are no exception… so get to work right now!