Since the beginning of civilization, Man was challenged in many different ways. In the darkest of nights, in days filled with peril, an entire world of unknown things and somehow we survived. Within each challenge, we found in time the solution to each problem until our present days. But why did we do it?… to survive? Is our survival instinct what makes us look beyond? I cannot imagine our antecessors procrastinating, leaving it all to the last minute. “Oh look there’s a lion over there, let’s just run when he gets here”. So why do we only work our ass off in the last day of a delivery? Does the fear of the “unknown” leave us blank until the “ it’s now or never” adrenaline shot?
We all have experienced last minute creativity. At our day job or at school with our assignments, only at that last moment all the ideas decided to burst out and the motivation reached it’s highest level. But why? Moreover, how could we use this in our advantage? The problem starts with the excess of things in our mind that take the focus away from what we really want to achieve. The difference between an average day and that last day on the calendar is that in that final day it’s all about finishing the work that you left on stand-by, that even breathing is about that at that moment. That need to “kill or be killed” gets you to where you never thought it was possible, but sometimes only achieving this state of mind at the last day, will make you fail, or to not succeed as much as you could. Your last day instinct to “survive” does not make you more creative or active, it only shows you what you could have done better with more time if you had planned for it. Most designers say their most creative moment is under pressure, or at the last days but “creativity arises from a constant churn of ideas, and one of the easiest ways to encourage that fertile froth is to keep your mind engaged with your project. When you work regularly, inspiration strikes regularly.” (Glei) Our inner voice tends to overestimate what we can do in a short period over what we can accomplish in a long period of time. That is why we promise we will start tomorrow or after only 5 minutes more of Facebook and then suddenly you realize 2 hours have passed right by. And this is not only about work but also about saving money or starting a diet. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” (Aristotle)
The need for fast results makes us forget what we can achieve in the long term, like the old saying, “Rome wasn’t made in a day” we cannot expect to create our “Rome” in a night. I understand the frustration of the long waiting to get where we want. However, if we do not clear our path in a daily basis, when the time comes we will not be able to get there even with our survival adrenaline shot. It is more important to know your goals than to get to them rashly. Understand what you want, or what you need, study it, and practice it every day. Divide your final goal in mini goals through your weeks and see them as a survival challenges that you need to solve in order to be alive. Like in video games, you don’t expect to start in the final chapter, you get there after going through different levels, normally from small tasks to exceptional ones at the end, so don’t expect to do your tasks in a row. Create your own levels with clear tasks of what you need to do to get to the next one, remember that “A designer is a planner with an aesthetic sense” (Bruno Munari)
There will always be a duality of decisions and when we get the chance to postpone it, we choose to relax. This is all about our physiological needs. We prefer to procrastinate because of different fears such as not knowing where to start, not enjoying doing it, or being afraid of failing. This last one is the most affective, because some people prefer to avoid being labelled as a failure that tried, instead of one that didn’t try, giving them an excuse not involving their skills.
Personally, I have this trick, I make myself believe that the sooner I get it done the sooner I can apply myself in other projects and even receive feedback sooner so I can perfect it with time… to sum it up… I get stressed as soon as I get the project in hands, and don’t rest until I get the main idea in my head. Thinking, Sketching, Searching… doesn’t matter, I do not stop until I get something to start with. After that comes the easy part of the labour. Nevertheless, this instant survival mode gets me there, to the zone. All you need to do is to anticipate in your head the delivery date, and like that you will find time you didn’t knew you had… just like in that last day. Start soon, draw poorly, but draw nevertheless. You can always create an average project, but will never deliver a “blank” project. “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
GLEI, Jocelyn K. 2013. Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind. Amazon Publishing. Las Vegas.
MUNARI, Bruno. 1971. Design as Art. Penguin Books. Middlesex.