Marc Henry Johnson: My 30-Second Artist’s Hack To Beat Procrastination
- March 2, 2021
Greetings fellow creatives and writers. Today I want to cover a quick tactic on overcoming procrastination and actually getting your projects started or pages written each day. So usually, when you’re trying to create or write and you’re procrastinating, you’re spending your whole day being anxious about not creating or writing, ironically.
Actually, creating anything of value often leaves you worried that you’re going tp sit down and you feel like you’re not gonna produce anything good- so you’re just stuck in this anxiety all day. This trap leaves you constantly thinking about your delay and inaction in the back of your mind, but you’re not actually getting any work done for all the mental stress you put yourself through. Over my 30-year career in Hollywood and the media, I’ve come to think we have this idea in our heads that getting productive and creative is going to be some absolutely grueling process, but most of the time that has not actually been my experience.
What I found is that the worst part is really that first 10 to 30 seconds of sitting down and getting focused and starting that first sentence or two. Or that first draft or comp you put together. This act of simply beginning is what really, I think, you need to focus on.
You don’t need to look at it like you have to commit to a whole hour or some other span of time with a long of duration of frustration and pain. Instead, commit to trying to figure out how to get into the zone, and once you’re in that zone, then you can start working through It as long or as little as you like. The big point here is that you’re no longer thinking about the fact that you’re trying to get started and practicing mental avoidance.
So to begin, just start thinking about writing or drawing, and also thinking about your story and thinking about your vision. Doing this restricts you from thinking about how this is challenging and trapping you into being overwhelmed. So really it’s about that first 10 to 30 seconds, strangely enough.
So what you need to do is just focus on getting past those first 10 seconds or 30 seconds of sitting down opening up your script or pad or notebook or software and starting your project or story. You will find that when you can do that very simple thing of giving yourself permission to start for only a few seconds, then you can break the ice of procrastination.
Actually, you can use that first few seconds to then slingshot you through to the next 30 minutes or the next hour or the next few hours! This is only limited by your ability to give yourself momentary permission to act and I think what you have to do is just break down that bad belief without thinking too much about it. Just act, if only for a few seconds.
At this point also agree with your inner critic that you are allowed to make non-stop mistakes and false starts. No penalty and no judgements from that ugly voice inside your head. Don’t let your inner critic make you think you’re gonna hate everything you create. You can shut that destructive inner voice down by saying that you’re only committing to a few seconds or a couple minutes.
This tentative and slight expenditure will often reduce the mental cost and allow you to act freely. You’re only investing a few moments here, not hours or months, right?
So right now some of you are thinking, great dude, but these few fleeting moments are only just the beginning of sitting down for a long time to come. But remind yourself that you are allowed to go on as long as you feel. When you allow your brain to get in that non-judgemental zone, you start moving.
So you need to break down the bad belief that this is going to be this hour-long grueling process and realize that it’s just that first few seconds of sitting down and getting started and actually getting your brain into focus mode.
So here’s the tactic that’s gonna help you sit down and write or create a little more each day, rather than telling yourself to commit to two hours today or 8 hours.
So do it now. Go sit in front of your computer for 30 seconds and get in the zone- and if you can’t get into that zone within the first 30 seconds then tell yourself that you can also have permission to get up and pause, no pressure.
If you can’t figure out anything in that first 30 seconds, you can get back up, but I guarantee you that if you remove your distractions you’ll most likely get a foothold on this delayed project. Huge tip: Keep your phone turned off while you attempt this.
The next part of this hack is to imagine what the first step is- is it writing 1 page? Is it sketching in pencil without any details filled in? Good, keep it simple and then decide what step 2 will entail. Keep step 2 even more easy and simple than step 1.
For example, if you’re a writer you can decide that step 1 is writing just one page while step 2 is about writing just one paragraph at the top of page 2. And then you actually think ahead and write the easy page 2 paragraph first. This way, writing page 1 will feel a lot easier if step 2 is already completed.
This will have the effect of getting you on to starting page one, starting that first sentence and then that next sentence, and maybe that next two sentences, and maybe that next line of dialogue and then you’re, going to start getting in that zone and you’re now working with building momentum and then you can actually have a good writing session. Or drawing session. Or music session.
So if you’re struggling with procrastination, if you’re struggling to sit down and just get started, give yourself that 30 second window and no judgements. If you don’ t create a thing in that 30 second window, then get up and do something else- stop stressing and come back when you’re less distressed- but do it today.