Good evening, dear readers! In this week's blog post I want to talk about procrastination.....the very thing that caused this blog post to be so late.
It's the bane of all of us, from cosplayers to writers to students to professionals. Across the board people struggle with procrastination. It drives us nuts and drives the people around us nuts as they can't figure out why we're not just starting on that project already. I certainly haven't figured out how to destroy my habit of procrastination, but for this week's blog post, I want to look at the roots of procrastination and give some tips that have helped me combat it.
1. The root of procrastination is not laziness. I've seen different theories about the roots of procrastination. This article, using Netflix as an example, points out that people go for instant gratification over long-term planning. Is it instantly gratifying to start that project you know will take weeks to accomplish? No, it's way more instantly gratifying to start playing a video game or watch an episode of Family Guy. And as this article says, procrastination is "a neurotic self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth." I strongly recommend reading the article, especially skipping down to the section titled "The real causes of procrastination." It goes on to say that, for procrastinators, failure and criticism are very painful, and the prospect of encountering either one makes the procrastinator hesitate to do anything reflecting his or her abilities. In a nutshell, procrastinators are often perfectionists and hesitate to start for fear of messing something up.
2. Find the root of your procrastination. I procrastinated doing this blog post because I couldn't figure out what to write about. I discarded topic after topic after topic, pushing most into the realm of the future because I thought "How in the world could I possibly tackle that? I'm not ready. I'm not good enough." I read over the posts I've made already and cringed, nitpicking details and seeing mistakes that may or may not even be there. I thought, "If I tackle this or this, I'll muck it up. If I write about this, I'll just be ranting. If I work with this, no one will find it interesting. If I go this route, I'll bore everyone to tears - including myself! What can I do???" The root of my procrastination with many cosplay-related issues is the fear that some sloppy stitch will be seen, or that I'll cut this wrong, or I'll pin it wrong, and it will be a failure. I don't want to mess it up, and - even worse! - I have money invested in it.
3. You found the root of your procrastination. Now tackle it! Remember the bodice I made for Belle? I was TERRIFIED of making that bodice. I had to work with boning, and interfacing, and bias tape, and all these things with which I had NO experience. I just knew I was going to suck at it and ruin it. So, I bought twice the amount of almost everything that I needed. No embarrassing trips back to the fabric store. And then I told myself the inner lining and interfacing shell wouldn't be seen by the world. Pfft, it's always hidden by being against my body, and the absolute inside of it won't be seen ever once I sew the outer shell on! So I could make that part without fear of failure, because the only one who'd ever know was me. No one else ever had to see or know I'd messed up if I did. I was able to do that. Then with the outer shell, all the stitches were on the inside. They wouldn't be seen either! In this way, I talked myself through each step and convinced myself there was nothing to worry about one piece at a time.
4. Buddy system. What honestly helps me the most is being with someone else who is working on something creativity-oriented. I can hold them accountable, and they can hold me accountable. I like to sew with friends because it helps me actually get stuff done and not just re-watch an episode of Ouran on my laptop. It also helps, if you can't have a friend physically there, to just call and talk to them on the phone, or message them online, or something like that. You can have them text you every so-often to ask if you're working on your project. It doesn't fix the problem, but it helps. My sewing goddess - you know who you are - is my biggest resource. If she says "Have you finished this?" and I have to shuffle my feet and say "Erm....well no, I mean I got distracted....." then I feel terribly guilty and I start work on it promptly. Being around her helps me get things done. I sewed almost my entire Belle skirt while I was with her because she is my security net when it comes to cosplay. I felt like I'd be okay as long as I was with her because she could help me if I ran into a snag.
5. Plan ahead. Yes, planning can be a form of procrastination. I know it, because I do it. But I find that if I plan that I will cut all my fabric on Wednesday and I force myself to stick to that plan, I am able to be productive. If I let myself slide by, I'm met with more guilt than before. If you plan to meet a friend and sew all day, then you have another person to hold you to your goals, and you know in advance that you'll be working on the project that day. Routine sometimes helps as well. Getting in the habit of working on something during a particular part of the day, every day, can help ensure that at least a little of it gets done. Additionally, if you start well in advance, your procrastination won't do as much harm. I started on my Belle bodice six months before Otakon and often procrastinated for several weeks at a time, but it got done way in advance.
6. Don't let yourself slide. If you plan to work on something a particular day, put all the fail-safe measures you can in place and have a friend hold you accountable. Don't brush it off unless an emergency comes up. And no, an emergency is not "Ehhhhh I just wasn't feeling it." That doesn't count folks, sorry. (Also, "Oh my gosh this movie will only be on Netflix today!" doesn't count as one either.)
7. Know that you're not in this alone. Procrastination is something that many people suffer from, and it's a serious problem. Procrastination, perfectionism, feeling inferior - these are universal things. You're not the only one. If nothing else, there's me, fighting procrastination daily.
So, dear readers, it is with this that I must leave you. Remember that it is in understanding the enemy that we take the first step in besting him, and we are one step closer to understanding and besting this opponent. We will fight procrastination together! And in all honesty, I fight this battle daily. I'm a perfectionist. I was a very smart kid, got straight A's without trying through high school, graduated valedictorian of my class with a 4.0 GPA, and was punished for getting C's on tests and quizzes. I grew to hate failing and having anyone disappointed in me. I'm terrified of not living up to the expectations of others. I bolt rather than facing that I've hurt someone I love because I can't deal with the fact that I'm not as perfect of a friend as I want to be. So I put off starting things because I don't want to mess them up. I don't want to screw up something that really matters to me. I love sewing, and crocheting, and writing. But I hesitate to start things because I don't want to fail. You're not alone. I fight this battle too. Tonight, I may have only won by a slim margin, but I still won. This post is up. You're reading it. And hopefully, you're a little better armed than you were before. Good night, dear readers, and good luck.