Why It Pays to Panic Early (and How to Do it Effectively)


So. We have a whole new year spread out before us. Like a pristine sheet of paper.

We can create anything we like, and it feels like we have all the time in the world.

Pretty good huh?

It’s exciting – but like all opportunities, there’s a flipside

Ask any writer or artist who has spent hours (or days) staring at a blank sheet of paper and they will tell you how paralysing creative freedom can be.

And the freelance life may sound idyllic to those of you who have to report for duty in an office each day, but the freedom to arrange your own time can be just as intimidating as a blank page.

Paradoxically, the more time and freedom you have, the harder it can be to get started.

Think back to one of those days where it felt like you had all the time in the world to get everything done. So you procrastinated – then found yourself at the end of the afternoon, wondering where the time went.

Look back over the past year – did you achieve everything you set out to? Or did you leave some things till it was nearly too late, so you had to rush them? And were there some things that never got finished at all?

For many people, especially creative types, leaving things to the last minute is a way of life. It’s hard to beat the adrenaline-and-caffeine rush of all-night work sessions as the deadline approaches.

And if you’re happy with that lifestyle, I’m not here to spoil the party. Just like skinning a cat, there are plenty of ways to get creative work done.

But if the magic of deadline magic is starting to wear thin, and you’d rather find a less stressful way of working, I have a little tip for you.

It’s a habit I’ve noticed in a certain type of creative person, who seems to have no issue with deadlines, who never seems to procrastinate, and who gets a hell of a lot more amazing work done than the average person:

Panic early.

Look ahead, work out how much you have to do, and how much time you really have to get it all done. And notice how that makes you feel.

I can almost guarantee you’ll feel a twinge of adrenaline. Not a full-blown panic, but enough of a shot in the arm to give you a sense of urgency about your work.

For example. I’m a ‘morning person’ as far as writing is concerned. There’s a window of about three or four hours each morning, during which I’m more alert and can get more written than during any other time of the day or night.

Combine that with the time I devote to working with clients and doing all the other things I need to do to keep my business running (not to mention family responsibilities), and I know that I never, ever, have more than a few short hours a day to write in.

So if I get to ten o’clock in the morning and I haven’t started writing, it’s time for me to panic. Because I’m on the verge of losing an entire day’s writing. Five more minutes could be fatal!

It works a treat. Some days, that flutter of fear is just what it takes to get me past Resistance (and out of Google Reader) and into creative flow.

It could work for you too. At the start of each day/week/month/year, ask yourself:

  1. How much do I want to get done?
  2. How much time do I really have to do it in?
  3. Can I afford to wait another minute before getting started?

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February 23, 2012 Work Awesome