Are you putting off your preparation?

Procrastination is the bane of so many people's lives but it's not an indication you are lazy, or stupid. It's not 'just your way of doing things' nor is it a really great strategy (although deliberately putting a gab between starting and finishing is brilliant for maximising creativity and producing inspirations).

It is an indicator something more is going on; and once you work out what the something more is, suddenly the procrastination can disappear!

Podcast 23 Title

The Courageous Performer Podcast

Believing in Yourself

If you would like to transform your approach to performing so that you can feel confident (even without being able to guarantee the outcome!) then go to to find out how to work with me.

Read the episode transcript here:


So the question I want to ask you this time is, "Are you procrastinating over your preparation?" Now this might not be you, you might be someone like a good friend of mine who, whenever they get a task, they just do it, they have the sense of urgency, and they just get it done.



That seems so much like a million miles away from where I could ever be. I'm much more likely to procrastinate, and I've been talking about this a lot with my small group programme, and with my Courageous Club, and with my larger group programme, because so often, when we procrastinate, we put it down to being lazy or stupid, or just it's part of our personality. Or we might even try and claim it as a good thing saying, "Well, I just work better when I leave things to the last minute, my brain works faster, click, click, click," you know, and that sort of thing.



In reality, when I dig underneath what is going on for people, when they procrastinate, almost invariably, it turns out to be some level of vulnerability, they're feeling about the task at hand, it might be that you find you actually procrastinate more important tasks more than you would do little tasks. And this is because when we put pressure on ourselves, we have a natural tendency to resist that pressure, we have a natural tendency to push back against it.



Plus, also the other side of it is when we say "This is really important, I've got to do a really good job." We then are nervous about not doing a really good job. The more we say, "Well, I've got to do a really good job, and I've got to get on with it and give myself time to do it," the more important we're making the job, and funnily the less capable of doing a good job we are making ourselves feel. If you think about something, if you are a procrastinator, and you think about something you're procrastinating over. Now, ask yourself, how do you feel about that task? Does it make you feel nothing like you're perfectly competent of doing it, you just can't get off your arse to do it? Or is there some element of it where you think, no, this is really important, I've got to do this?



And if you start to think about the language you use around these tasks, that is also really interesting. What we tend to use is what I call smog, smog words, words of obligation and shame. I call them smog words, because it stands for should, must ought got to, there's also have to and need. And there are probably others as well to let me know if you can think of another one. And they are words that we use to try and get ourselves to do something when we feel resistance. Or when we feel like it's really important to do.



The funny thing is with the words should and ought, there's almost an implicit "But" at the end of the sentence, "I should really go and tidy my kitchen, but I'm just going to sort out the sitting room first, but I'm just going to do this, but I'm just going to sit and watch telly." There's almost an implicit understanding that we're not going to do it.



So although we use these words, to try and force ourselves to do stuff, they actually stop us doing it, because they also induce a certain amount of feeling like a child in us, "You should do this, you ought to do this, you need to do this," which makes us feel inadequate. So the methods we use to try and stop procrastination can often as not make it worse, because they make us feel more inadequate, and less capable of doing the job at hand. And that is is I mean that's the real irony of it. So we feel vulnerable that doing these jobs, so we put them off, and then we apply pressure that makes us feel even more vulnerable, and then we put it off even more. And so you can start to understand why procrastination is a trait that gets worse and worse over time.



Until you start digging into the reason, until you start digging into there being a reason and the belief that there is a reason and it doesn't just talk about you being useless, you being hopeless you being, this being your strategy, this being your way out that you need fear as a driver to get your arse in gear. Fear can be a driver definitely. But it's not one that leaves a positive legacy. When we use fear as a driver, it damages our self esteem and it can be, certainly when we're turning it on ourselves when we're making ourselves fearful, when someone else is making us feel fearful, it triggers that feeling too, but it's in a different way.



But when we're doing it to ourselves, we're bullying ourselves, and that can bring out the rebellious child in us, we go, "Nope, not going to do it, we're going to watch telly instead." Or it can bring in this fear of doing it well enough fear of getting it done, pressurising ourselves to do it, and do it well, which makes it more daunting, and we put it off again.



So have a think about your language, and one of the words I've been using in my Instagram posts recently and Facebook posts, is this word "Wise." And wise it a really interesting word, because we like to use it around other people, we might secretly hope that we're wise. But it's not something we would say necessarily about ourselves to other people, "Oh, I'm a very wise person," that just feels like setting yourself up for failure. You know, pride comes before a fall and all of that. It's much easier to call ourselves an idiot, or lazy or stupid.



But the truth is within us, and this is what I love about the life coaching way of viewing things, we have the answers within us, we really do know the next best step if we think about it. So pause and ask yourself, what will be the next step you could take, that will be the wisest step for you to take. Pause and give yourself space to allow the answer to bubble up to the surface of your brain. Because when we think about doing something wise, it for a moment sets aside what we think we're capable of, or what we think we should do. It declutters the mind for a moment, and we just go what would be the wisest thing to do right now.



And I find that often is not a really good answer, and I said the right answer, but I don't actually mean the right answer, because I don't believe that there are absolutes in this. There's just the best answer we can have right now with the information we have. So it just allows a good answer to bubbled to the surface. And then we can say, "Okay, well, I think I might do that."



So it might be that I've been putting off my practice, and I say, "Well, what's the wisest thing to do right now? Actually, I'm just going to put down my phone, or I'm going to put down writing these emails. And I'm going to practice for five minutes," and then I find myself practising for an hour. Or what will be the wisest thing around these emails? Actually, I think I'd feel really good if I got them done. And, "What would be the wisest thing about this preparation?" "Well, I could just write out a plan, an overarching plan for what I want to do."



And once we take the pressure off, and allow our agency to come back in, allow ourselves to feel like adults, it can be so much easier to choose a really good step to take rather than avoidance putting off, or even doing something that might make us feel better in the short term, like watching telly or like going and doing something completely different. And instead of thinking about the short term feeling, we think about the long term implications of what we do and don't choose to do.



So there are three things I'm suggesting you might think about this time. One is are you procrastinating? And how do you feel about the thing you're procrastinating over if you are? Two is instead of picking up the stick to beat yourself over the head because you're procrastinating, have a think about why you might be finding this task daunting. Why there might be something about either doing the task, completing the task, how the task will be judged, when you have completed it, your capacity to do the task, any one of these things. Is any one of them making you feel vulnerable? Because if so, it's not surprising, you're putting it off, because it's so much easier to fail next week than it is today. And the third thing is have a think about the language you're using to try and get yourself to do these things. Are you encouraging yourself into the adult headspace? Or are you beating yourself up, and bullying yourself and making yourself feel even more vulnerable about the task and even less capable of completing it successfully by the language you use? And how could you treat yourself like a wise kind friend and use different language?



So one is how do you feel about the task you're procrastinating your procrastinating over? Two is what's the reason if any, that you feel vulnerable about it? And three is, is your language making you feel more vulnerable than you might otherwise feel?



So have a think about that and let me know how you get on. Thank you for listening. I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice.