Hello Animation Procrastinators! You know who you are. We all do it, cleaning up your desk before a big project, watching your favorite TV show when you know the deadline is tomorrow, but as artists we need some semblance of organization in our lives to really achieve our goals and aim towards our dreams. Paul Allen, veteran mentor and pro animator from Reel FX gives you awesome advice on how to stay motivated to finish your animation. A must read for all animation slackers!
– The Animation Mentor Crew
When I was in high school, I had a teacher who’s favorite saying was, “Procrastination is the thief of time!”.
What is procrastination? Wikipedia defines it as: “…the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the “last minute” before a deadline.”
I procrastinate. You procrastinate. Everyone does it to a greater or lesser degree. Most people may not realize they are getting themselves into a situation where “OH NO, THIS IS DUE TOMORROW!!”. Then, the rush is on to get everything completed.
I used to think, “I do my best stuff with the pressure of a deadline coming up, it forces me to be more creative!” I was fooling myself. The more time you can devote to whatever it is you are trying to accomplish, the better off the end result will be.
What it comes down to is organizing what you are trying to do. I am not the most organized dude in the world, but I’ve learned over the years that a little bit of structure and routine can go a long way to making work a lot less stressful.
- Step back and look at everything you have to do.
- Make a list.
- The Internet is not always your friend.
- What is the most difficult thing on your list? DO THAT FIRST!
- Don’t skimp on pre-planning.
- Break it down.
Do you have a lot of tasks on your plate? I have found if I ‘step back’ and look at everything I need to get done week to week, it becomes much clearer what my priorities are.
Making a list of everything I need to get done, and when they need to be completed. If you like to write things on paper, get a notepad that you can carry with you and keep the list updated. Keep the pad in a visible area, I put it right by my keyboard. Make a text file called ‘TO DO LIST’ and keep it open in the background, constantly check and update it.
NOTE: As you can see from the image at the top of the page, someone decided to tattoo a blank list form on their forearm. Not necessarily what I’m recommending, your mileage may vary!
Facebook… Twitter… Tumblr… funny cat posts… favorite websites… before you know it, 3 hours have gone by, and you still haven’t started pre-planning your assignment. Then the stress starts to set in. Do yourself a favor and shut off anything that can break your concentration. That doesn’t mean you have to go ‘cold turkey’ from social media, just make sure to schedule your time to where most of it is dedicated to what needs done, set an alarm for 2 hours, then take a timed 15 minute break to check email or whatever. Then get back to work!
You have your list made, but it is very tempting to try to chip away all of the ‘easy’ stuff. Don’t fall into that trap. The ‘easy stuff’ sometimes can end up taking longer than expected, or you do them slower than needed, then the big, important thing on the list suddenly ends up rushed. Dig into the biggest thing first, you’ll do a better job with it and take a ton of stress off yourself.
I’ve made this mistake in the past. My list seems overflowing, everything needs done right away! Relax… take a breath… Now, do the pre-planning that whatever you are tackling (the biggest task, right?) and be thorough! A good pre-planning pass will make any job, big or small, so much easier.
This big task seems undoable! Where do I start?!? This feeling can cause people to ‘freeze up’ and waste valuable time. Once again, stay calm, step back and list out everything step-by-step. I’ve found that once I have listed out what is going on in the shot, that is half the battle for breaking down what the next steps need to be. For example, you need to animate a ball bouncing. Ok, what does a bouncing ball look like in real life? Jot down to find or record some reference. How long does it take to drop to the ground? Write on your list to study the timing and spacing.
Procrastination can be a huge stressor in people’s lives, but you don’t have to let it ruin your mood and affect your work or learning. Making lists of what needs done, attack the biggest item first, shut off consistent distractions, and break down each task. Once you get in the routine of doing these for every task, you’ll soon feel in greater control of your time and creativity!
Paul Allen is an 18 year animation veteran and predominantly works at Reel FX based in Texas. You can see some of this work in The Book of Life, Free Birds, and The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron. He is also a veteran mentor at Animation Mentor since 2006. He currently teaches Advanced Body Mechanics and has also taught Animation Basics.