I procrastinate; therefore I am (maybe)

May 03, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

A couple of months ago I started the next level of my degree course.  It’s been an interesting ride so far, but the new unit promises to be much more involved creatively.  In addition to this, the course is structured differently from the previous units, which I knew would present me with some issues.  The main issue would be the dreaded procrastination.  

When I don’t fully understand something that I have to do, I procrastinate to the extent where there have been times I just haven’t started.  It’s not fear as such, but a need to completely understand the parameters that I am to work within.  Once I get started on something, I usually fill in the blanks as I go along.  During the first few units of the degree, I found that I would slowly make my way through the first assignments and hit my stride about halfway through the course.  By the end, I would be completely comfortable with the subject just before the unit ended and the whole cycle started again.   Procrastination, as Dickens put it “is a thief of time”, the main effect being that it increases pressure when we have a deadline we must meet.

It takes many forms but the main driver behind putting things off is a concern about a potential negative outcome.  In my case, it’s about worrying about being on the right track or somehow ‘getting it wrong’.  My most recent example was the preparation for the first assignment of this new course.  The subject investigates the concepts of photographic genre and the conventions that each follows.  If we consider portraiture, there are many approaches to representing our subject or model using their facial features, expression, stature, clothing etc. that are consistent across the genre.  Some of these are rooted in art history, but some are unique to the medium of photography.  Looking at each of the main genres involved a great deal of reading and individual research.  The question that kept going through my head was ‘how much is enough?’  At what point should I draw a line under this work and write the essay that constituted Assignment 1?  The answer was, of course, entirely up to me which was the main issue.  Not knowing when to stop the one task and start the other led to my procrastinating.  I found lots of other less important things to do and before I knew it, three weeks had gone by.  It was my fellow cohort members that snapped me out of it as I was able to relate what I was doing to how they were approaching the assignment.  I finally got the assignment finished and a great weight lifted from my shoulders.  It’s not a pithy success story, though.  I continually struggle with procrastination for the reasons mentioned earlier and I don’t have a magic bullet for avoiding it.  There are a few things that I have learned recently that have helped, though.  I include them here, on the off-chance that they help you in some way. 

The first lesson learned was one that generally applies to people who manage their own time; having a plan.  When I say plan, I’m not talking about a grand ambition like making that first million or retiring at 55.  Planning in this case is merely a schedule of what to achieve during the day.  In my case I have learned that progress, no matter how apparently insignificant, is still progress.  If I make my objectives achievable each day, I stand a better chance of getting something done.  The second was that the world is full of distractions, some positive and some not.  To the procrastinator, a distraction diverts attention from both the task and the worry related to it.  It’s easier to avoid something challenging by cleaning that camera/reading the news/looking at that funny cat video on Instagram.  Most of us carry around a device packed with distractions which we find difficult to ignore.  The same distraction issue occurs with people, who can easily derail the plan for the day without knowing it.  I still need to be better at saying ‘no’, even if the distraction is a potentially enjoyable or interesting one.    The final lesson was to stop worrying about failing.  In the creative world, it doesn’t matter if that internet pedant corrects you or someone trolls your work when they don’t like it.  The fear of people hating what we do almost paralyses us from a productivity perspective.  Remembering that we do it for ourselves helps quash that anxiety, even if it doesn’t completely go away.  

All easier said than done and for me, definitely work-in-progress.  My advice would be to plan small objectives and don’t forget to reflect on anything you achieve, turn off your phone and practice the ‘can we do that some other time?’ smile.  Definitely don’t read ‘the comments’ if you do stray onto social media.  I am committing to doing these things from now on…or will that be next week?  Who can tell…


If you’ve been procrastinating about getting to know that new (or new to you) camera, why consider some beginners’ tuition?  There is everything you need to get started, the key is just…well, you know.  Check out the Tuition tab on this site or drop me a line at [email protected] for more details. 




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