How to avoid procrastination — The answer is finally here. Part Two.
Jan 15 2016
NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. Click here to read part one!
Last week we sorted through some common reasons people have for procrastinating when it comes to furthering – or beginning – their voice-over careers. But recognizing “reasons” for what they may really be – excuses – is only a start to the solution. Here are some practical things you can do, based on way, way too much practical experience.
Procrastination can be a good thing or a bad thing. If you’re not prepared to make your move – particularly if you (and your demo coach) are not able to produce a competitive demo that expresses your particular capabilities, goals and personality – it’s good to wait. A poorly produced or lackluster demo, or one that doesn’t truly represent your current capabilities, can destroy a career before it gets rolling. But meanwhile, keep at the process of developing your skills. Make that first demo a goal. The fact that you’re not ready to record it should not be an excuse to take things easy. After all, having no demo will also keep your career from getting off the ground. That would be bad.
Specific things to do in order to make more time and get things done:
- Focus on the important things. You can’t do everything in life. Successful entrepreneurs focus on the things that will make a difference to them, and to reaching their goals. If you want to make a lifelong career out of voice-over, that’s Goal #1. Even if you intend to do VO only part-time, it’s a primary activity. If you have a secondary activity that you only dabble at – maybe it’s the guitar, or writing your novel, or whatever — you may have to give up that secondary activity for awhile. (But also see below.)
- Prioritize your errands. There are some things you must do. Pick up the kids from school. Shop for groceries. Get a healthy dose of exercise. Take a shower. Take that package to the Post Office. Ask yourself which are essential … and which are options, or just fun diversions? What can you do without? Do without it for now!
- Do your errands efficiently. Even some of the remaining “essentials” can be minimized to take less time – for example, you can get stamps delivered to you, and arrange for a package pickup. By buying food staples in greater quantities, you can cut back on the number of shopping trips. Or try out a grocery delivery service. Order drugstore items online. Arrange a carpool for the kids. Look at everything on your schedule in this light. What? You don’t have a schedule?
- Make a schedule. Some creative writers take care always to get up early in the morning and write. It doesn’t matter so much what they write, it matters that they do. Some require themselves to write a certain number of words by noon, and then they stop for the day, regardless. Take a cue from them. Schedule your daily VO practice session at a certain time each day. Same for your marketing and auditions. Schedule your other daily activities, too, according to what works for you. Some people are better able to focus before 9 a.m. Some are more creative in the afternoon. Personalize it as you like. Just having and following a schedule is the important thing. It’s so tempting to get online and read Facebook news or interesting articles, but before you know it, a couple hours have past. If it belongs in your day, it belongs on a schedule. Only then will you know when to stop. And here’s an old computer programmers’ tip that might help — get yourself a kitchen timer, to remind you when to change tasks or take a break.
- Make a list. We know someone who once had dozens of things on his mind that he wanted to buy. If had actually bought all of them, he couldn’t have afforded them. Then he made an actual wish list. Guess what? Many of those things no longer seemed so important. They could wait. Putting them on his list got them off his mind.
- Allow yourself a guilty pleasure. Got a time-wasting vice that you just can’t give up? Maybe it’s social media, or drawing, crosswords, a certain TV show, or playing a video game. Include it on your schedule. After all, a broad knowledge of performance arts, popular culture and the world at large can expand horizons and your capabilities in your voice-over career. But in allowing this, combine the list, schedule and priority steps into one. Decide which of your vices is irresistible, and put it on your schedule. The very process of listing it and setting a time limit helps get it out of your system. Even though you’ll spend less time on it, you’ll enjoy it more, because of no regrets . When time’s up, focus again on your voice-over career.
- Break your big project into little ones. For example, instead of planning to write a whole demo’s worth of scripts in a day, plan to write just one. Put it on your schedule. That makes it a more predictable amount of time and relatively easy to commit to. You might then be on a roll and write more. But if that then intrudes on the next important task on your schedule, consider putting it off till scriptwriting comes around on your schedule again (e.g., tomorrow). Or formally rearrange your schedule. That’s not procrastination; that’s organization.
Remember, knowing what you should do, and wanting to do it, even intending to do it, is not the same as doing it. Well, duh! Yes, it’s an obvious statement, but until you state it and admit it yourself, you have an impediment to progress. Your goal is still theoretical.
Make it an actual goal. Identify it, turn it into practical tasks, schedule them, and start in. Don’t put it off till February. Do it now.
With some people, the reasons for procrastination lie deeper. Possible underlying causes include serious stress, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), lack of sleep or improper sleep, anxiety, clinical depression, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). If you’ve tried all our tips and still can’t get your act together, it might be good to chat with a healthcare professional. One way or another, there are things you can do.