Creating, producing and delivering great work must happen before we can achieve our goals and break our goals. So what happens when the energy is low? What happens if the output is not there? What happens when the ideas don’t flow and there just doesn’t seem to be time to create? Or when we are held back by procrastination and perfectionism? While many things can stop great work, our own apologies should not be the blockage. Most people make up excuses and most are not real; they are just myths that need to be debunked.
Deborah Hurwitz helps entrepreneurs get past procrastination and perfectionism. As a composer, conductor and recording artist whose projects include Cirque du Soleil’s Iris, Jersey Boys and Sesame Street, Hurwitz manages to produce excellent work for large audiences under self-imposed pressure. She founded Productivity for Perfectionists in 2017 to help artists and entrepreneurs improve their creative output without sacrificing quality. She is now an award-winning speaker, bestselling author, and certified master practitioner of transformational NLP. She coaches perfectionists to their brilliance through her online shows, programs and events.
I interviewed Hurwitz to discover the 6 productivity myths that might be getting in your way.
1. You need long blocks of free time
“It’s a myth that you can only be creative, strategic, or visionary if you set aside hours of unstructured time,” Hurwitz explains, “and it can cause epic procrastination.” Hurwitz believes it is useless to focus your attention on this mystical ‘block of time’. The reality is that the blockage gets smaller as work and administrative tasks impose, even before you start creating, if you are already tired, time is often wasted walking through rabbit holes of ‘research’.
“Delaying action until a time block is available and then failing to make meaningful progress during that block causes negative conditioning. You learn to turn away and avoid yourself.” Neither is conducive to the output you’re looking for. Instead of waiting for big opportunities to produce, take the small ones. Grab a few minutes in a waiting room to jot down some ideas, ignore the television in favor of freewriting. Get up earlier to sculpt, paint or record. Find the time wherever you can to express your priorities.
2. Once you’re doing it right, don’t stop
Once you’re in flow, your work feels good. You’ll be typing away with ideas that come thick and fast, producing page after page effortlessly. This is your jam. But fear whispers that this feeling could disappear. Maybe it took you so long to get here, you don’t dare stop in case you can’t rediscover the mojo. “Getting started can feel great,” Hurwitz said, “but if you keep going until you’re burned out, you experience temporary euphoria, followed by the realization that you can’t pick up where you left off, or even figure out how to get there again.” .”
Hurwitz wants you to look at the bigger picture. “Worrying about not being able to get into the zone anymore creates a fear loop.” Not only that, but the flow state “can be intentionally generated by choice and practice.” Instead of treating flow as a rare sight, remember that it can be abundant. Flow is administered in proportion to your level of calm. So relax and know it’s coming.
3. You must be inspired to do good work
In the creator’s version of chicken and egg, which came first, the inspiration or the output? The myth is that inspiration starts the chain, but that is often not the case. “You don’t get inspired to work, you work to get inspired,” Hurwitz explains. “Come on whether you feel like it or not.” “Waiting for inspiration to strike makes you powerless.” Powerless is not good. Productive and powerful is the goal.
Start before the inspiration arrives. Beat it to the starting line and know it will catch up to you. Maybe you treat this like a game; see in your lowest energy moments what is possible for you to create. If you can write a messy page even when you’re tired, cranky and hungry, just imagine what you can do when you’re in shape. Get started first, the inspiration follows exactly as intended.
4. You need to know what you are making before you start
You can’t see the top at the bottom of the mountain. It is hidden behind loops and turns, trees and clouds. As you ascend, it becomes clearer, until reaching it is inevitable. No one canceled their mountain climb because they didn’t believe the summit was there. They put one foot after the other until they found him. “You don’t need to know the ending before you start,” Hurwitz said. Instead, starting takes you through twists and turns and interfaces, and your work evolves into the art it’s meant to be. This applies to proposals, manuscripts, presentations and articles. Each piece comes from smaller ideas.
“Do the work, see the results, collect the data and repeat,” Hurwitz advised. “The ideas flow and your clarity emerges.” Many software companies have become famous; went in a whole new direction as more information became available. You too can run whenever you want. “The best ideas may not come to you right away”, but you soon learn more. As Rumi put it, “when you’re on the road, the road appears.”
5. The first drafts should be almost ready
If you were to look at the first draft of almost any great sales presentation, brochure, website, or manuscript, chances are it will be drastically different from the final product. Your first draft will mark nothing more than all your ideas in a mess on the page. There is no one whose work would not benefit from an editor. Initial designs are generally messy, so yours can be too. Terry Pratchett describes the first version as, “You just tell yourself the story.” Tim Ferriss edits everything he produces three times, once for himself, once for the reader, once for the haters.
Not being ashamed of your earliest work is a disgrace in itself. It means you have not made any progress. It means you haven’t upgraded, refined and edited all that is necessary. Hardly anyone writes in a coherent way the first time. Hardly anyone speaks in perfect sound bites. Humans are messy, scattered machines that need to be recalibrated every now and then. Your first draft can be terrible and still turn out great.
6. You’re too slow or it’s too hard
Believing you’re too slow is a line in comparison. Too slow compared to who? Hurwitz works with professionals, “who think it should be easier. They think they are not doing it right and that others are completely on top of it.” They are stuck in comparison and forget that we are all different. Hurwitz reminds her clients that “being productive while creating is not easy, and everyone goes through these challenges.” Rather than this feeling being permanent, she advised, “you get better with consistent effort and good habits, and the right tools and practices make all the difference.”
The pen, the keyboard, the few minutes left. The spark of an idea or the commitment to get started. The tools don’t have to be fancy and just one might be enough. Slow progress is still progress. Easy is not the goal, feeling challenged means getting somewhere. Quick and easy refers to McDonalds, not the Mona Lisa. Be comfortable with slow and hard so you can get past procrastination and become productive.
Believing in the productivity myths, Hurwitz said, “creates a painful downward spiral of energy that my early mentor, Dr. Gina Hiatt, called the punishment paradigm.” This is where initially “perfectionism and procrastination lead to paralysis,” a cycle that is hard to escape once ingrained. Believing that everything has to be perfect in order to start is a harmful belief that will reappear over and over until all progress is stolen. However, if you believe that you only need a little bit of time to execute, that your first design can be crap and you get inspired once you start on the path and not before, you could create one masterpiece after another .