Musician's Procrastination Toolkit: Reverse Procrastination and Get More Done

You see your instrument in the other room. It’s sitting in the corner waiting for you to start practicing for the concert next month. You think about all the work ahead, how imperfect you will sound in the beginning, and the repetition and boredom you must wade through. Your mind wanders to the couch beneath you and how comfortable and inviting it feels.

You spot your phone on the table. It looks more fun than the instrument in the next room. So, you start Snapchatting, Instagraming, YouTubing, binge watching, iMessaging, and Facebooking. You call your friends, parents, spouse, children, classmates, and the third cousin on your mother’s side who went to summer camp with you in first grade. You go for a run, cook, clean, walk the dog, and even clean the lint from your dryer.

You Procrastinate with a capital P, and start your journey into what we call the “Procrastination Cycle."

Procrastinating, Stressed, and Overwhelmed

Procrastination is a reactive choice of inaction. When we procrastinate, we are ruled by our emotions to a task. Tim Pychyl, author of The Procrastination Puzzle, hypothesizes that we procrastinate work due to any of the following reactions: it’s boring, frustrating, difficult, ambiguous, unstructured, the process isn't fun, or we find no personal meaning in it.

But procrastination doesn’t work alone.

The Procrastination Cycle is a trifecta of emotions and behaviors you journey through that includes procrastination, stress, and feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes procrastination leads to mild stress but, if practice is delayed too long, you can feel completely overwhelmed in short order. If you doubt your abilities, you may procrastinate, then feel stressed, then overwhelmed.

Staying in the Procrastination Cycle too long can lead to increased anxiety, panic attacks, and even depression as you feel less in control of your future. Your prolonged procrastination can also make you feel isolated from others because you may worry about letting people down.

Procrastination-Stress-Overwhelm graphic.jpg

Procrastination Is a Choice

Procrastination is a choice that is grounded in your worry about the future. You are worried that you will fail. You’re worried that you will run out of time: time to finish the task, and time to still do things you want to do. Some tasks will require a sacrifice in other areas, but the sacrifice is temporary.

Here are some simple tips for troubleshooting procrastination, stress, and feeling overwhelmed.

Tips To Reverse Your Procrastination

If you’re feeling stressed, daily planning your practices can be too spur-of-the-moment. Sometimes the time you really have available to practice is on Tuesday afternoon instead of Friday morning. Planning by the week will help you see the best times to practice so you feel fully engaged instead of rushed or tired.

If you’re currently procrastinating or on the precipice of it:

  • Consider the impending stress if you choose not to get in the practice room.

  • Figure out something musical you can achieve in 5 minutes; 10 minutes; 15 minutes, etc.

  • Release your current attitude about the practice at hand. You wouldn’t be assigned it if someone didn’t think you could achieve it – whether the person assigning it was a professor, instructor, or yourself. YOU CAN DO IT. JUST START. If you’re feeling overwhelmed:

    First and foremost, BREATHE. What you’re feeling is temporary and will not last forever. Embrace the calm of breathing slowly and deeply.

    Visualize a time when you mastered a difficult piece of music and try to recreate the feeling of satisfaction, joy, pride, or happiness you felt at that time. Try to feel it in your body as if you returned to that very moment.

    Break Free From the Procrastination Cycle Today

    Keeping immediate, short, and long term perspectives in mind shows us the unending cause and effect of procrastination, thus offering a way to choose action over inaction.

    Today is a great time to rededicate yourself to your personal mission and musical aspiration by setting goals and committing to the work needed to reach them. No matter your age or experience, you can break free from the procrastination cycle. Get started today.