The study and science of procrastination has led us to realize that humans work better–with greater efficiency and pleasure–in smaller units of time. As Natalie Goldberg says in her famous Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within writing guidebook, “The basic unit of writing practice is the timed exercise.”
Although these techniques arise in the business world where production is so valued, the application to art and creative enterprises of all kinds is clear. Several years ago, my brother and I would get together and aim to write five songs in four hours. He came from a project management background, so it’s no wonder he saw connections between the work and creative reward. The interval-timed spaces as giving room to greater creativity. I began using these techniques, calling them “immersions” rather than exercises, in creative writing classes to profound effect.
The science behind why we procrastinate is fascinating, and much we can learn from it (like why deadlines work so well for people). Perhaps we can figure out smart ways to reward ourselves during the breaks too.
And if you want to learn more about procrastination, here are two amazing books on the subject, which I will discuss in a future post.