Who doesn’t procrastinate? It’s a natural human tendency, given that the thing we need to do may be making us anxious, may feel too difficult to accomplish, may come with risks (like the risk of failure or the risk of exposure), may involve us stretching in uncomfortable ways, or may come up against everyday resistance and blockage.

You have an ambitious painting in mind. But you know that it will tax your drawing skills. Plus, it’s a complicated composition. Plus, it will use up a lot of your expensive pigments. Plus, its subject matter is on the controversial side and may get you snide comments and other forms of pushback. Plus, it’s time-consuming and you hate the idea of spending months on a project that may not pan out. Plus, you have a worry that the idea is a bit silly. Plus, it feels unlikely to sell—who will want a painting as huge as the one you’re contemplating? Plus …

Who wouldn’t procrastinate, thinking all these half-paralyzing thoughts? Virtually anyone. So, what can you do in common situations like this one? While you are working through these worries, your best course of action is to procrastinate by being productive. Maybe facing the painting in question is simply an impossibility at this moment. Then pick something useful to do from your no-doubt long list of necessary tasks and do one of them. Contact that gallery owner. Update your website. Work on that other painting. Be productive. That’s the very best way to procrastinate!

These may prove to be among your most productive times. Oddly energized by not having to face the task that is making you anxious and aware that you are giving yourself the gift of attending to items on your to-do list that you hadn’t anticipating getting to, you may find yourself zipping through tasks that had themselves been sources of paralysis and procrastination. Updating your artist statement had been taking forever—now you get it done in a flash because it is experienced as ever so much easier work than facing that huge painting.

You could procrastinate by drinking too much, by watching too much television, by endlessly surfing the Internet, by embarking on a misadventure, or in any number of other unfortunate ways. You’ve probably tried them all and know better. Now you have a simple, effective and healthy approach to procrastination: you will procrastinate by being productive. This is a grand idea and one that has worked beautifully for me. I hope that you add it to your repertoire of excellent self-coaching skills.

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