How to stop procrastinating is something I have been struggling with for many years, and it is only very recently that I have cracked it (well almost). So here are my tips for overcoming chronic procrastination.
– Heads up, this recording does not have great sound quality (it is on my list to get a proper microphone) but as I have been putting this one off(!) I am putting it out there as it is.
Here’s a link to the SMOG workbook I refer to
Hi, I’m Hattie Voelcker, from findyourtruevoice.co.uk, and today’s vlog is on procrastination.
It’s no word of lie to say I’ve been putting this one off, but more on that later. Procrastination has been a big feature in my life, it’s been the bane of my life many, many years and it’s only been recently that I’ve understood a bit more about why I’ve procrastinated, and how I can address this in my life.
That’s what I want to talk to you about today. Two simple thoughts that will help you address procrastination in your life.
Now we all view procrastination in very negative terms because not only does it stop us achieving what we want to achieve but it can have a really bad impact on our self-esteem as we don’t do the things we want to do or feel are important to do, we feel bad about ourselves.
To put a lighter note on it, there are positives to procrastination and I recently watched a TED talk that was all about the relationship between procrastination and creativity. So there are those people who don’t procrastinate at all, and he called them pre-crastinators, amongst those it was discovered they have lower levels of creativity. Amongst those who procrastinate a bit, they had higher, much higher levels of creativity. The thought behind this was that if you start something and then don’t complete it immediately, it gives your brain time to mull it over. To mull over your thoughts, clarify the idea, refine it, and come up with different ideas, better ideas even, when you’re not doing the task, because it’s in your head and you’re thinking about it.
However with chronic procrastination, creativity again goes down. You have lower levels of creativity. So a little bit of procrastination is good, but chronic levels (which is where I used to be) are not so good.
So let’s talk about the ways of addressing this. Now for me the first thing to think about is what is causing us to procrastinate. Often we worry that thinking about what’s causing us to procrastinate might, if we dwell on that it, make us procrastinate even more and it will become more real. That is not my experience. When people look at what’s stopping them procrastinating, they actually have an opportunity to put the fear in perspective and address it in its real size, as opposed to the big thought and fear that it can become when we don’t look at it.
The main reasons that I have, and my clients have, for procrastination are:
• Fear of failure – we fear that if we try it it won’t succeed and so we put it off not wanting to fail.
• That we might discover we’re not as good as we think we are or we hope are.
• That we might discover that actually we no good at all.
• That other people might discover that we’re no good, and this is a relation to impostor syndrome, where we fear that people will discover that we’re no good. We believe we know this already.
• Fear of negative judgment, fear that people will judge us harshly, whether or not we do well, they might just judge us harshly
• That we don’t want that feeling of inadequacy. We want to feel adequate and we are worried we won’t.
There can also be an element of self-handicapping and I’ve talked about this before. Self-handicapping is where you set up your parameters so that people will, you will, judge yourself more kindly because you’ve set up limitations for yourself. So many times I’ve heard singers say “I haven’t had a chance to look at this”, “I’ve had laryngitis,” “I’ve been really struggling recently,” “I’ve been really busy,” “There’s been a lot on my mind,” or “This is new to me,” “This is something someone else has set for me.” All of those types of thoughts, the idea is if you set up those parameters, if you exceed, them then everybody goes “Wow you’re amazing, you did this all of this despite x, y & z,” and if you don’t and you don’t perform well, well then it wasn’t because of you, it was because of all the things you’ve talked about.
What I usually find is the reality is that people believe they’re no good, so they set up these parameters, create situations of limited time, to save face. So a lot of this has to do with self-esteem.
As I said, sometimes just identifying this fear can help you shift something and help you get on with what you want to do because almost always that fear won’t be as big when you say it out loud, to yourself, or to others, as it feels when you’re trying to not think about it.
So my first bit of advice is identify what you’re procrastinating and then offer yourself some understanding. Now that may come as a surprise because often we feel that if we offer ourselves understanding it will just give us more reason to procrastinate, that we will be giving ourselves permission to not do what we want to do, or think is important to do.
That’s not what I find in real life. In reality what I find is when you offer yourself some understanding, then you feel braver and more capable of addressing those fears, because you’re not feeling like you’re stupid or ridiculous for having those fears or thoughts.
What I find most people do, instead of offering themselves some understanding, is they have that idea that they should “Just pull themselves together” “Pull their socks up and just get on with it.” That is what I did for a very long time. I was very successful at doing things, I would pull myself up and I would just bloomin’ well get on with it, but I wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t comfortable, I didn’t feel empowered. I didn’t feel like I was in control of my life, I felt like it was in control of me.
This idea of pulling yourself together and just getting on with it, when we say that to ourselves, we’re treating ourselves like children. So is it any wonder that we respond as children?
When I tell my children you should tidy your room, you need to tidy your room, they don’t tidy their rooms! If I want them to tidy their rooms in this scenario, I have to use some extra pressure and like bribes or threats of consequences and sanctions if they don’t. The reason they don’t do it, is because it’s not on their priority list. It’s on my priority list, and when I use bribes or sanctions they’re not doing it willingly, they’re complying, reluctantly, either because they fear the consequences or because they wanting something else. They would still avoid doing it if they possibly could!
As I said the reason I’m having to parent them this way is because it’s on my priority list not their priority list. A better way for me to parent, a more effective way for me to parent them, is if I can find a way to put it on their priority list. For example telling my middle son, who is football mad, that footballers eat vegetables and they have a healthy diet because it makes them fitter which makes them better footballers. By going online and finding the diet that footballers have, and showing it to him. Then he goes, “All right then.” It goes on to his priority list and he wants to do it, and then he does it willingly and happily and there’s no fight. So when I take time to put it on their priority list, the results are way more effective, and so much better.
It really isn’t any wonder that we talk to ourselves as children when we are procrastinating because that’s our experience. Likely as not, that’s how you were parented, and it can in the short term be incredibly effective. As I say, I used to achieve a huge amount by just saying I should pull my socks up. But in the longer term it can affect our self-esteem, and it doesn’t help them procrastination. So how do we move away from this habit and this experience? How do we treat ourselves as the adults we are?
We’re not children misbehaving or not doing as they’re told. We’re grown-ups. So how can we feel that we can trust ourselves to behave as grown-ups?
For this it helps to look back at the task again, and sometimes that task just isn’t on our priority list! It could have stemmed from societal or parental pressure. Either historical or current. My Mum’s still around and there are still pressures coming from my Mum in the nicest possible way, and Iove her dearly. We can then ask ourselves the question, “Is it really important or useful to me, now, to do that?” and we have the right to say “No.” We have the right to say “It’s not important tidy my kitchen now, it’s more important I do X or Y, something else.”
But if it is important to us, or if it’s part of the process of getting something we want, we can change the language we use. We talk to ourselves as children because we fear that we’ll behave as children and not do what we ‘should’ and this actually makes things worse, not better.
If we can trust that we are responsible adults, capable of making sensible decisions then this removes the drive to treat ourselves like children. It allows us to identify and address the fears or reasons we’re not doing the task at hand without worrying that that will give us permission, our child permission, to carry on not doing it. We can trust that the adult will then make a sensible, reasonable decision.
If we can remember why we planned to do it in the first place. We can put it back on our priority list and when it goes back on our priority list, we’re more likely to do it happily and willingly, because it’s on our priority list. It’s not on society’s priority list, or our parents’ priority list. It’s not something we think we ‘should’ do, it’s something we feel is important to do, we want to do.
I’ve said this before but I have a SMOG workbook, which is all about the language we use, and how we move from doing what we should to doing what we want, or is important for us to do, and how that that is very effective at encouraging us to do all the things that we want to, and we feel are important to do.
It’s also good to remember that a little procrastination isn’t so bad. That in enhances our creativity. In fact, in relation to this blog, I have been putting off for a long time, but that has allowed me to clarify my thoughts. Had I done it two weeks ago, when I first thought of doing, it then it wouldn’t have been the blog it is today.
So I can forgive myself for the procrastination, and I can move on. I did it today willingly because it is something I wanted to do, and it had moved onto my priority list.
So I hope you that you’ve enjoyed today’s blog despite the interruptions in the wind. I’m Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice. To find out more about me go to findyourvoice.co.uk.
Thanks very much.