September 21, 2018

Procrastination Busting

After about 3 years of threatening to do it last Sunday was the first Positive Balance Wellbeing Retreat Day. Dadaah!

30 fabulous ladies (and a couple of enlightened gents) joined us for a day of broadening and deepening their wellbeing practices. It was a lot of fun, seeing people connect with those they had seen in class for years but never spoken to, and to see everyone learning new things and cool things (spoon bending anyone?!). I was thrilled with how the day went and the positive feedback we received. .

My main thought by the end of the day however was “Why the hell didn’t I do this before??!”. It was a lot of work for sure, but it was so obviously what people needed (and I knew that) but it had taken me forever to get round to making it happen. Why?

Good old procrastination that is why. It’s no stranger to many of us, that we will put off and put off doing something, even though we know it’s something we really want to accomplish. I had a coaching client call yesterday when I was mentally planning this blog post and say “ you know, I have been planning to come to yoga for about 15 years (FIFTEEN!!!) I think I should just do it, when does the next Beginners course start?”. Imagine how flexible and strong and chilled that guy would be if he had taken up his yoga habit 15 years ago?

There are 3 key “reasons” (excuses / lies) we tell ourselves when we procrastinate. The interesting thing is that the underlying emotion for all these justifications is exactly the same. Fear. Plain and simple. Realising that procrastination is simply fear in disguise can be very liberating. See if you recognize the following:

Fear 1. I can’t do it yet it won’t be perfect

Perfectionism is a killer of great ideas and splendid plans. It literally stops us in our tracks. The website doesn’t get launched, just draft after draft. The course doesn’t get taken through fear of not being able to do it ‘well enough’. The house doesn’t get painted through fear of making a mistake choosing the ‘right’ colour.

Solution: Making a decision that to start something or launch something as it is (maybe 80% good enough, but not perfect) and use that to get feedback on your performance and then tweak and improve from there. Accept that perfectionism kills plans and that 80% good enough is better than 0% of perfect because it never actually happens. You can always tweak things as you go.

Fear 2. I can’t do it yet I don’t have time

If, to paraphrase the Spice Girls (probably the one and only time I will ever do that, so why not) it’s something that you want, that you really really want, then you have to choose to make the time. Life is busy. Time doesn’t magically just create itself in your diary. You need to make space for it. This is what I call The Obama Principle. He makes time to work out every day. He’s a busy guy. Busier than you. But it’s a priority to him so it happens.

If the thing you are procrastinating on is a priority for you then you need to JUST DO IT. The rest of life will flow around it. Some less important stuff will drop off the list. If you are waiting for a “good time” it will never come. Just take action and let the rest of your life flow around it.

Solution: Book that holiday. Go see the bank about house buying options. Reserve your place on that course. Schedule the retreat day. Just do it and force the flow of your time around it.

Fear 3. I can’t do it yet people / I might not like it

Sure, they might not. No one might buy the thing you are selling / like your wood sculpture / approve of you joining the circus. But if it’s the thing that you want, that you really really want, then your own approval is more important than any external praise. Trust your own judgement and leap!

Once you have identified the fear(s) that is driving your procrastination there are a few tools you can use to keep that procrastination at bay:

1. Make it public

Tell everyone you are running the marathon in 6 months/ going to lose 20kgs/ go back to university. The public feedback and encouragement will help you to keep to your commitment and prevent you from backsliding into procrastination. This was essential for the retreat. Once I had put it in the newsletter I could not backslide on that commitment to you all.

2. Set a timer

Murphy’s Law: work expands to fill the time available. Avoid ‘project creep’ and the project taking over your entire life by setting timed boundaries. Eg. I am going to research circus training schools for one hour and then I AM GOING TO MAKE A DECISION and move forward. Be strict. You best work will be in the first section of time anyway. Be okay with not seeing every single possible option but learn enough to make a decision (even if it is a 80% perfect decision not a 100% perfect decision). Decide and move. Keep the momentum going.

 3. Big Project: Small Steps.

How do you reach the top of Everest? Lots of small tiny steps, one at a time. Keep putting one foot infront of the other. Just keep inching forward. Research paint samples. Buy the paint. Hire the ladders. Rope in the friends. Order the pizza. Clean the walls. Paint the house one wall at a time.

That project you have been procrastinating on for ever is usually a big project, if it was small and easy you would have done it already, so accept it will mean small steps, lots of the, joined together. Start stepping forward.

4. Reward Yourself Large

Big projects that we procrastinate on are not always the most fun projects. Clearing out the garage say. So: bribe yourself. Rewards are not just for small children. Make the task as ‘better’ as you can (eg. put on some banging music, get your teenager to help) and then give yourself a big reward on completion. A round of golf. A family meal. Whatever is a big enough reward to break the intertia of procrastination. Something that gets you excited.

We will be doing another retreat this year for sure (public announcement: got to do it now!), but I am determined to just make it happen this time and not end the day thinking “Now why didn’t I do that sooner?”

Have a look at your mental list of stuff you have been procrastinating on, maybe for years, decades even. Decide if its something you really really want. If it is then start stepping forward, imperfectly but with conviction.

Let me know your thoughts below! I love to hear from you. Was this helpful? What are you going to start make happen that you have been putting off?