An Editor's Biggest Struggle: Procrastination

An Editor’s Biggest Struggle: Procrastination

Procrastination. In the first few months of this website I’m trying to publish at least once a week, preferably every Wednesday. This past week I had a shoot out of town Monday-Wednesday. I knew I had a (self-imposed) deadline to hit but procrastinated the days before the trip and ended up not getting a post written. I waited to take action until it was too late.

The same happens in the edit bay. We get an important, large project or task but hold off on it until it is too late. We end up rushing or put it together 5 minutes at a time alternating with 5 minutes of Facebook. Sometimes you just have to stop everything and focus on the most important task at hand.

This morning I could have easily held off writing this post until Monday. But once I took a step back from my day and looked at everything I was doing (messing around on Twitter, taking a class on Lynda, debating about going to the dog park) I realized this post is the most important thing for me to do. So I stopped what I was doing, which was learning Japanese (we can talk about that in a different post!), put on my favorite song of the moment, opened up Word and started typing.

Parkinson’s Law states that, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” If we are given three weeks to complete a project we’re usually going to wait until there’s five days left to start on it. Instead of looking at three weeks to complete a project why not break down all the steps – import, log, string out, etc. – and give yourself mini deadlines.

I’m actually in this scenario right now. I have about three weeks to complete editing my most recent shoot. I know I could crank it out in five days, but it wouldn’t be my best work and I’d be super stressed. Instead I’m breaking it down into these mini deadlines. Yesterday’s goal was to get everything imported. Today it’s to organize all my shots and go through my notes (I haven’t done it yet but have a couple hours blocked off later this afternoon!).

Mini deadlines accomplish two important things. First, they give small, frequent victories. These are ridiculously important because you can see progress on a project. Use a current project log (there will be a future post where you can download my current project log template) to keep track of everything. Don’t just keep track of “string out complete” and “edit complete in review.” Jot down that you finished removing all the ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ from the video. Seeing progress will get you to keep working. There’s nothing worse for moral than staring at a blank timeline.

Second, it keeps us on track and sane. Let’s say this project will take 60 hours to complete. I know I can squeeze that into five grueling days. Instead mini deadlines keep you at a steady pace. We can break the deadlines down into 20 hours a week for three weeks. If we realize this 60-hour project is going to take 80 hours on week two we can adjust our schedules as needed or ask for more time. This is better than asking for more time with a couple days left until it’s due or pulling all-nighters (some of us aren’t that young anymore).

Procrastination is an editor’s biggest struggle. Stop what you are doing and focus on your most important project or task. For me it was writing a post. For you it could be sending a client a thank you email. For video projects, break down your big deadline into mini deadlines. Remember Parkinson’s Law: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

What do you do to keep yourself on track? How do you prevent procrastination in the edit bay? If you know an editor or someone you think could benefit from this post, do them a favor and share it with them. Cheers and I hope to hear your thoughts below!