(First published on The DIY Musician blog.)
Musicians are master procrastinators; here’s how to stall like a boss.
If you’ve ever done gymnastics, one of the things you learn early on is how to fall. Not because the coaches and teachers want you to fall, but because you’re going to fall. You may as well learn how to do it without hurting yourself. I take this same view with procrastinating. It’s inevitable. So why not develop some skills to procrastinate like a boss?
We procrastinate from doing The Thing we know we need to do for a variety of reasons that can usually be rolled into two categories: The Fear or The Overwhelm.
We stall when we are subconsciously (or consciously) afraid of possible outcomes from us actually doing The Thing. What if they hate this song? What if I DO get this gig and can’t bring the house down? What if I email them and they say no?
Not confident in the emails you’re sending? Then grab this free music pitching checklist.
Either way, The Fear is usually the #1 thing that stops us from being unstoppable badasses in our music careers.
The Overwhelm is when we have no idea what to do first, where to start, or how to do The Thing. We are left anxious, nervous, and wanting to crawl under the covers. The solution? Get into action despite how you feel about it, or ask for help. Break down The Thing into manageable bit-size mini-Things, and you’ll be on your way.
Procrastination coping skills
Now. That all being said, sometimes, on occasion, procrastination still shows up, and that is perfectly OKAY. Since it’s going to happen, let’s make the most of it.
Here are some of my favorite master procrastinator skills matched up with the kind of procrastinator I may be at any given day.
- The Productive Procrastinator: I’m one of those people who normally works well with an impending deadline. Which makes it much easier to put off The Thing that is due until the last-ish minute. I’ll avoid doing The Thing by doing other things I need to do but aren’t high on my priority list… like vacuuming up a week’s worth of shedding dog hair. I lean into this even more by setting myself up the night before; I’ll empty the vacuum, leave it out (and maybe even plugged in) to really make sure that if I AM going to procrastinate, I’m going to make the best of it.
- The Relaxed Procrastinator: As an independent musician and freelance composer, I am always ALWAYS ready to reply to an email, ready to jot down a new lyrical idea, and always looking for the next gig, collaboration, or connection. The urge to procrastinate can be very strong and lead me straight to a hammock or couch. Whether lying outside for a half hour, taking in a few episodes of This Is Us, or walking my dog while calling a friend, the Relaxed Procrastinator gives me the break I should have scheduled. When I do decide to give in, I put a time limit on it (so I stay on track) and I don’t beat myself up about the break I’m taking.
- The Digitally Distracted Procrastinator: You know this one. You look at Twitter one more time. Design one more room in your House Design app. One more round of Candy Crush (do people still play this?). We whip out our phone or open our social media tabs when we get stuck or are stalling doing The Thing. To make the most of this dangerous delayer, be conscious of when you start to wander to your digital vices and take a quick second to ask yourself why you’re wandering and how can you make the most of it? If you’re scrolling around on Facebook, head to that musician group to read and comment on a few recent posts. Watching videos on YouTube? Find another indie musician’s newly released music video and share it with your social networks.
- The Unpleasant Procrastinator: This is when you are so stressed out about The Thing and find yourself pacing around, snapping at your significant other or roommate, complaining about your bandmates or client, or generally just fuming. The only fix here is this: STOP IT. Sit down and do The Thing. You’ll know when it’s time to do it… when you absolutely LEAST feel like it.
Each procrastinator shows up when there is something else going on for us: The Thing to do needs to be broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks; we are lonely; we are afraid of the outcomes; our little voices are saying “you’re not good enough/worthy/deserving/etc.” Whatever causes an encounter with our Procrastinator, the trick is to acknowledge it and then choose whether or not you will let it stick around, for how long, and how will you partner with it to make the most of your time together.