Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ask a Creativity Coach: Procrastination

Plan to attend the May 18, 2013 Artist Survival Kit workshop "Artistic Practice: Motivation, Discipline and Busting Creative Blocks," at the Multi Arts Center in Stillwater, OK. Romney Nesbitt will be one of the presenters. More information and registration available at

Dear Romney,

Everyone I know struggles with procrastination.   What’s the logical explanation for this common problem?

Looking for answers

Dear Looking,

Piers Steel’s new book The Procrastination Equation, gives the best explanation for why humans procrastinate.  Procrastination is an unwillingness to endure short-term pain for long-term gain combined with impulsiveness. A short quiz in the opening chapter will help you identify your procrastination behavior. Steel lists three reasons we procrastinate: expectancy, value and time. 

EXPECTANCY: you delay starting because you fear the worst.  Why put forth the effort when it will probably fail? 

VALUE: the less you value a task, the harder it is for you to start it. This is why the post office is open until midnight on April 15!

TIME: the task will “take too much time” and can be done “anytime.” Motivation happens only at the last minute.

Here are the solutions.

To solve an EXPECTANCY problem: remember your past successes, surround yourself with people who are reaching their goals, be specific about your goals, see the gap between where you are and where you want to be and develop a daily plan of action steps to get you from here to there.

To solve a VALUE problem: reframe the way you view the task (from no value to some value), reward yourself when you complete an unpleasant task, check to see if you have truly overcommitted your available hours, create a pleasing work environment and use your high energy times for your most valuable work.

To solve a TIME problem: see your future as concretely as you see the present, define the steps of a task so you won’t blow things out of proportion, create a series of short term deadlines to keep your motivation high, reward yourself with small treats to curb your impulsiveness and log in output (what have you completed in an hour) rather than input (time spent). 

Take the test in the book to see whether your problem is expectancy, value or time then put these solutions to work in your life. Try one tip per week. You’ll see your output increase and your stress levels decrease.

Romney Nesbitt is a Creativity Coach and author of
Secrets From a Creativity Coach (available on  She welcomes your comments and questions at Book her to speak to your group through OVAC’s ARTiculate Speakers Bureau.

This column originally appeared in the May/June 2013 issue of Art Focus Oklahoma.

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