Netflix roulette or procrasti-working?

It has been itching for a while. Or actually, it’s pulling. It’s pulling my behind towards the couch, and my fingers towards my phone. Procrastination. Doing nothing. I can hardly blame the holidays and the heat anymore. The last few days it seems that there is a pure lack of motivation to do my job. Unfortunately, I am not among that handy group of “ procrastiworkers ” – those people who tend to do some other work while procrastinating that one big, angry work task. I often just don’t do anything at all. Even my sketchbook remains blank.

Before my vacation, I attributed the drawing-drought to being busy with my new website. No time to be creative (which I think is a bad excuse anyway, but let’s move on). However, no drawings were made during, or after my vacation. Not even Sunday poems. I can’t deny it anymore. The urge to create is gone.

How bizarre is that? Because I have the best job in the world – if I do say so myself. I can draw for a living. That is why I feel extra guilty if it can’t seem to come out of my hands. Sitting there on the couch with your favorite materials and a nice sketchbook on your lap. And nothing. One more Netflix roulette then? Yep, this also happens to “professionals”. Or at least, it happens to me, and I reassure myself with the thought that other illustrators probably suffer from it too (are you an illustrator and can you reassure me in the comments ?! PLEASE?).

You should let go of perfectionism… right?

The ironic thing is of course: during my workshops I help people to get over this creators block. I almost always help them through with handy exercises, tips and a nice pep talk. I ooze happiness every time a participant sends me a message that they have been so inspired and helped. Greatest messages in the world. That is why I sometimes internally address myself firmly. I recommend that I follow my own workshop tips. This often helps a bit. Momentarily. But this time I feel that something more is going on.

What is stopping you?

This time the lack of motivation is caused by a deeper need for innovation. It’s not that I “just don’t know what to draw”. The problem is that I am looking for a new style, a new calling. Just to set the bar nice and low , so to speak.

About 3 months ago I already started doing Toolbox Tuesdays, in an attempt to experiment more with the huge mountains of material that were gathering dust at home. Drawing live with you was a joy every week, but after 10 weeks – and being busy, and vacation – I am looking for something different. What, then? Well, if I didn’t procrastinate like I do, I could have probably told you by now. (By the way, you can still watch all 10 live sessions here , with here the associated material lists .)

Time to get rid of that stupid procrastination habit. Therefore, here are my 8 tips against procrastination. Obviously, I didn’t reinvent the wheel in this – some might sound familiar to you. But if you work the way I do, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of it once in a while. Not only for you, but also for myself;) Here they are:

1) Analyze what is holding you back. In my opinion, this can often be reduced to 2 things. Either you are afraid of failure, or you are not sure where to start. For me it is often the latter. If you know what is bothering you, you can better match the solution!

2) Chop the task into small pieces. If, like me, you are bothered by not knowing where to start, it is a great help to cut the task into small pieces. And I mean really tiny. As in: “take a pencil” or “look up this and that mail”. Really works. Recommended by the way: in the productivity course by Charlotte van ‘t Wout I learned to time these short pieces. Makes a world of difference. Not sponsored;)

3) Set the bar low. Handy for both fear of failure and the mini-steps. For example, I make a deal with myself that I have to put my phone on flight mode for at least 10 minutes, get my drawing supplies ready, and put at least 1 line on paper. Small effort, right? That starting threshold is the most difficult. Before you know it, you will be drawing (or doing your taxes) for an hour. And isn’t that the case this time? 10 minutes is fine. Your task is done, and you can be happy about yourself again. (see also tip 8)

4) Don’t see success as an end goal. For me, “ Instagram ” dangles above my head like Damocles’s sword. “I’m going to draw something now. It can be anything. But it would be kinda nice if it was good enough to post on Instagram – because then I would not have wasted 2 hours drawing ‘just because’, but I would have actually done a useful work task ”= not a good starting point for a nice session of experimenting.

5) Set a fixed time to do it. In my case, it’s something fun, namely experimenting with drawing. You may want to read more, or work out, or you might want to keep track of your administration (yuck). Fun or less fun, set a fixed time for it. One (part of a) day, or, for example, half an hour before your “normal” tasks.

6) Go where your curiosity goes. It’s always easier to work from enthusiasm. Is there anything related to your task that makes you happy? Can you perhaps do that in advance, and from there get motivated for the rest of your task?

7) Zoek een buddy. Toen ik het boek las, ging er een wereld voor me open. Blijkbaar was ik een obliger, die opbloeit bij deadlines en sociale controle. Ik snapte opeens hoe ik mezelf extra kon motiveren: door het aan iemand te vertellen! Voor mij als obliger werkt dit perfect, maar wellicht dat jij als rebel of questioner er juist slecht op gaat. Hier kun je testen binnen welke van de 4 tendencies jij valt. Geloof me, het helpt (en als je hier aan twijfelt ben je waarschijnlijk een rebel ;) ).

7) Find a buddy. When I read the book ‘the Four Tendencies’ by Gretchen Rubin , a new world unfolded. Apparently I was an obliger, who thrives under deadlines and social pressure. I suddenly understood how I could motivate myself just a little extra: by telling someone! For me as an obliger this works perfectly, but you as a rebel or questioner may hate this. Here you can test which of the 4 tendencies you fall within . Believe me, it helps (and if you doubt this, you are probably a rebel ;)).

8) Be kind to yourself. Perhaps the hardest one of all. Instead of getting angry and frustrated that it didn’t work out yet another day, take yourself outside and treat yourself to a long walk. It’s tricky, but oh so important. Talk to yourself as if you were talking to your best friend. Give it a try.

My personal recipe against procrastinating

One tip may suit you better than the other. Either way, I will approach it as follows in the coming period. After I analyzed my behavior (tip 1) and discovered that I want to find a new creative style, I have decided to use every Friday as “play-day” (tip 5). I’ve been trying to do that for a year and a half now, but this time assistant Yvette offers a big incentive for me: I have to report to her every week (tip 7). The fact that tomorrow morning I can dive into my rainbow candy closet of material again (tip 6) without having to come up with anything beautiful or useful (tip 4), already makes my toes wiggle. I no longer fear this period of demotivation, but see the possibilities. And I wish you exactly the same!

Will you let me know in the comments what you run into? And maybe also which tip would benefit you?

Ps. Still need a helping hand? You can only join this week at the online course Sketch Journaling , where Nienke and I teach you everything about letting go of perfectionism while drawing.