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I’ll think of a title later…

Filed under: Blogs,Thoughts — Andy @ 4:17 pm

April 14, 2010

I’ve been wanting to write an article about the curse of procrastination for a long time. However, of course, I procrastinated about that so long, several other people have. Rather than just repeating what’s been said, I’ll point you to John Perry’s website, structuredprocrastination.com who, aside from summarising it all very well, also makes a valiant job of attempting to turn the whole thing to his advantage.

What interests me is the fact that procrastination is almost universal in people who are normally described as “creative types”.Why? Douglas Adams used to famously avoid having to write by having baths. Several a day, in fact. Apparently his publisher once commented that he never once managed to hit a deadline…but he always smelt really nice.

As designers, we are surrounded by some very dangerous distractions. Computers. The most tempting, time-sucking creations ever made are, by a cruel twist of fate, the very things we are also supposed to use to get our work done with.

I took games off my Mac years ago. It just had to be done. However, since then the internet has sneaked up on us. Facebook, Twitter, the hundred blogs you feel you need to keep up with. Email, iChat. All of these toys with their shiny, glossy icons inviting you to come and play, and all with built-in justifications: Facebook could be helping you meet your next client. Blogging is a great marketing tool. Email is easier than phoning someone. That retro video PhotoShop plugin you just spent ten minutes downloading will, if mastered be great for some job in the future. Probably.

But it’s not all computers. There are endless possibilities for analogue procrastination as well. Never is our office tidier or more organised than when a big project has just begun. Well – you need to clean up, clear a space, get organised for the new work. And go and get some crisps and chocolate to see you through. Maybe the skirting boards need levelling off a bit. A new shelf to put all the new work on. Anything, in fact, to avoid doing the actual work itself (which, of course will be great when it is done, so no need to worry, really).

Wikpedia has some really scary things to say on the subject. Phrases like “psychological disorder”, “mental health” and “low self-esteem” kind of made me decide to go and do something else and maybe read that page later.

My own theory is that creativity is somehow in need of a jump start which can only be achieved with a buildup of adrenalin. Designers need the utter terror of a looming deadline in order to kick into action whatever part of the brain that supplies us with the instinctive solution to a problem without all that tedious thinking and planning that normal people have to go through. Also the act of thinking of something completely unconnected to what you are supposed to be somehow allows a hidden part of your mind to work away undisturbed and to quietly deliver the answer – usually at the strangest of times.

You could say rather than a negative aspect, procrastination is practised by people who have a supreme confidence in their own abilities. People who know they’ll always think of something at the last moment and know enough about how their own heads work to just let it get on with it automatically.

Either that or creatives are just people who are good at working out the bare minimum of work needed to complete a task so they can fill the rest of the day on Facebook.

Who knows? Not me. Anyway, there’s a deadline looming here so, naturally, I’m just going to fill the screenwash up in my car and maybe go and buy some crisps.

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