How To Overcome Procrastination And Remove Creative Blocks

Overcome Procrastination And Remove Creative Blocks With Tiny Creative Goals.

How To Get Out Of Your Own Way

Creative time can be hard to find. Life gets in the way.

As an artist, I want to answer 2 questions: "How to get better faster?" and "How to get out of my own way?".

Life getting in the way equates to procrastination. Procrastination is nothing more than our willingness to postpone our work. As an artist, it's easy to deny ourselves the creative time we need.

Schedule Creative Time

One way to find time to create is to schedule it. Add it to your calendar.

Add creative hours to your calendar. Decide ahead of time when these sessions will occur and treat them like mandatory meetings.

What if you feel like you need 6 hours but you can only spare 1 hour? Break your overall goal down into the smallest possible steps. Do the smallest possible step that will move you in the right direction.

Tiny Creative Goals

Break the art-making or painting process into tiny creative goals. If starting a new oil painting, the steps might look something like this:

  1. Order a painting panel
  2. Apply one coat of gesso
  3. Sand the painting panel
  4. Photograph a new model or set up a still life
  5. Plan the composition
  6. Make the first mark
  7. Begin the underpainting
  8. Finish the underpainting
  9. Begin the first layer
  10. Finish the first layer
  11. Begin the next paint layer
  12. Start putting in details
  13. Turn the form on one specific section
  14. Refine another specific section
  15. Paint the edges of the canvas or panel

If starting a new watercolor painting, the steps might look something like this:

  1. Order watercolor paper
  2. Stretch the watercolor paper
  3. Make the first mark
  4. Finish sketching out the composition
  5. Put paint colors onto the palette
  6. Make the first brushstroke
  7. Apply a watercolor wash over a specific area
  8. Finish the first paint layer
  9. Start the second layer
  10. Refine a specific area
  11. Add the first details

Painting can be a time-consuming task. You may have to really work to find small objectives. Look for creative ways to set goals that can be accomplished in shorter spans of time.

Break the overall painting task down into the smallest possible steps. Aim to complete just one step.

If you complete the smallest step, consider that a win for the day. These creative brief goals add up.

Often we can accomplish more with small steps over time than we can in one large block because large blocks of time may be few and far between. It's easier to find small blocks of time. Small steps allow you to come back to the project with fresh enthusiasm and energy. Small steps reduce overwhelm.

What Causes Overwhelm?

Procrastination can be caused by overwhelm.

We can be overwhelmed by life, overwhelmed by work, overwhelmed by housework, or more. Overwhelm and burnout can get in your way, and prevent you from doing your best work.

When a project seems too big or it's going to take too much time, it becomes overwhelming.

Analyze your painting process. If you can spot the areas that are causing overwhelm, you can work to reduce it.

What Are Some Creative Goals To Get Over Overwhelm?

  • Paint Smaller
  • Consider Alla Prima
  • Switch Art Supplies Or Materials

Consider Painting Smaller

For me, the size of the paintings themselves are a factor. All painting is time-consuming, but large paintings take more time than I have available.

My enthusiasm for the piece wanes long before I can finish the painting so it becomes a drag. Once I recognized this, I opted to paint smaller. It has helped considerably.

If time is an issue for you, consider painting smaller or in a different format. Do whatever it takes to reduce the overwhelm to work on your painting, drawing, or other creative projects.

Try A Different Painting Technique

Consider Alla-Prima which requires fewer layers. Alla-Prima is a painting technique that is popular in Plein Air painting. Paintings are completed in one sitting.

In contrast, traditional oil painting and watercolor techniques require painting in layers. Focusing on painting one layer at a time may reduce overwhelm.

Try different painting techniques.

Consider Different Art Supplies

Look through painting materials to see if there's something that might help you achieve your objective faster or easier.

A new paintbrush might bring joy back into a project.

Use every tool at your disposal to enjoy your work.

Look for time-saving materials and art supplies. If stretching canvas, consider buying pre-made.

Whatever is causing the sense of overwhelm, you must identify it. Then look for ways to simplify it.

Tiny Steps In Art

Segment your time. Vow to take one tiny step for each calendared segment or creative art-making session.

Find the smallest step you can take that will move you towards your goal. A tiny goal could be making one mark on your drawing or touching your brush to your canvas.

aking the tiniest step possible can remove the feeling of overwhelm that fuels procrastination.

If I can talk myself into making one mark on my drawing, I'm likely to continue drawing for an hour or two.

Take the first tiny action to overcome procrastination and move towards your goal.

Remove Friction By Prepping The Night Before

Not being prepared causes friction. It creates extra steps, making the project more complex, and adding overwhelm.

Prepare your painting space the night before. Layout the brushes and paint colors you plan to use. Clean your painting palette. Fill containers or whatever else you may need. Put out paint onto your palette if possible. Remove the friction caused by not being prepared.

Prepare everything and have all put into place so you can sit down and immediately begin to paint.

Tiny distractions help feed procrastination. They can give you an excuse to avoid the work. Remove as many of these distractions as possible by preparing ahead of time.


I believe artists can overcome procrastination with tiny goals. At times when I don't want to paint, it's usually because the project has become overwhelming. Sometimes it's because it's taking longer than I anticipated. When a project takes too long, I can lose the enthusiasm and excitement that I need to complete the project. I first have to notice that I'm procrastinating. I've learned that I can push through procrastination by breaking the massive project down into the tiniest steps possible. If I sit down to accomplish one small step, I'll usually do more than that. Tiny steps or tiny goals get you over the mental hurdle and help you get out of your own way.

Recommended Reading & Watching:

Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg.

Why Hussle Doesn't Lean To Success by Rian Doris https://www.ted.com/talks/rian_doris_why_hustle_doesn_t_lead_to_success

Author: Sonia Reeder-Jones