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Procrastination as Information

When clients admit to procrastinating on an action in session, they are usually shrouded in shame and embarrassment. As if somehow they are a failure, because they’ve been procrastinating.

Does this sound familiar:

procrastination, resistance, action

I DON’T WANNA!

It feels like there’s a part of you that knows you “should” be doing this action and that part even wants to be doing it.  But there’s another part of you that’s like a whiny 3 year old, stomping your foot, saying, “I don’t WANNA!”  You beg and plead with that 3 year old inside of you, but you just can’t get into action.  And the more you push against it, the stronger the resistance.

Some of my clients think that, as their coach, I can fix them, force them, make them take action.  But here’s the thing – they’re not broken and neither are you. And the more you push against resistance the stronger and more powerful it becomes.

Procrastination is a symptom of something.  It’s not evidence that you’re broken.  It’s evidence that your unconscious is staging a rebellion.  And in order to bring your unconscious back into alignment with your conscious mind – you have to understand what is causing the rebellion.

Why shaming doesn’t work

Imagine if you went to a doctor and told him you have a sore throat.  And instead of the doctor examining you and running tests and prescribing treatment, instead, he told you that you were bad and wrong for having a sore throat.

Would that fix your sore throat?

Wouldn’t you just feel bad about yourself and still have a sore throat?  And yet, that’s exactly what you’re doing every time you beat up on yourself for procrastinating.  It doesn’t work.  Cut it out!

Procrastination is a symptom

Procrastination is the key to finding out what your unconscious is trying to tell you.  So instead of shaming yourself – start investigating. Become Dr. House and investigate what is causing your procrastination.  Get curious.

What is the root cause of your procrastination?

What Causes Procrastination?

There are many different reasons for procrastination.  And if you tend to procrastinate on a lot of different things – you may have different reasons for each thing.  Here is a list of common causes and some suggestions to counter them:

  • Your goals are unclear – you’re not sure why you should be doing this thing

Get clear on your goals – what specific goal does this action serve?

  • There is a learning curve for this action and you don’t know how to do it

Find someone who can show you how.  Take a class to learn how.  Google it!  Take the action and be willing to do it badly while you’re learning.

  • The action is too big, too vague or too general (overwhelming)

Break it down and get specific.

  • You have a lot of different actions you need to take and they all seem of equal priority or importance

Make a list and knock them out one at a time – if they are truly of equal priority, just pick ANY one.  Learn how to manage conflicting priorities.

  • No matter what you do, it’s never enough.  And you’re not allowed to play until you finish your homework!

Celebrate each accomplishment, each baby step.  Make sure you take breaks to play, exercise, just breathe. Not allowing yourself to celebrate is a recipe for burnout. This is critical!

  • The action feels like a big risk and you’re afraid to take that risk

First ask yourself, “Is this true?” In other words, is it really the risk you think it is? You may find that your fear of the risk is making it seem bigger. Get support or coaching around overcoming your fear.

  • When you imagine taking the action, you anticipate that it will be difficult or frustrating or even just boring

Just do it for 15 minutes – you can stop after 15 minutes.  Put on some really great music. Reward yourself for having done it by doing something really fun next.

  • When this action is complete, the next obvious action is either invisible (if I do this, then what?) or really scary (if I do this, then I’ll have to do THAT!)

Very often the next step will become clear when this step is done.  And you don’t have to do it alone.  Work with a coach to help you through the scary stuff and figure out what’s next. And remember – just focus on the action in front of you – the next action will be dealt with when it’s time to deal with it!

Diagnosing Your Procrastination

Do some of the above suggestions ring true for you? Here are a few more questions that might help you uncover the underlying cause of your hesitation and/or resistance.  First, don’t ask “why”!  “Why” just gives you reasons to procrastinate more!

  • When I think about taking this action, I feel ______________ (fill in the emotion word – anxious, sad, angry, etc.).  What am I thinking/believing that has me feeling ______________?
  • When I imagine taking this action, I think it is going to be _______________ (easy, hard, frustrating, boring, overwhelming, etc.)
  • How long will this action take me?
  • What are the specific steps to accomplishing this action?
  • What fear, concern or consideration is stopping me from taking this action?
  • What will taking this action do for me?  What outcome do I desire from taking this step?
  • What outcome am I afraid of, if I take this action?  What’s the worse case scenario? What if I do nothing?  Is that worse?
  • If I break this action down into its smallest component steps and just contemplate the first of those steps – how does that feel?  Can I take that baby step now?
  • Am I celebrating each baby step or am I only allowed to celebrate when I have the big goal and I’ve done it perfectly?

Sometimes simply asking some of these questions can actually clear you enough to get into action.

Procrastination can fundamentally undermine all of your time management systems.  So figuring out what is causing you to procrastinate is a critical first step in managing your time well.

What are you procrastinating? Share what you discover about your own procrastination in the comments, or ask for help figuring it out!

 

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Is Action Your Missing Piece?

action, results, goals, law of attractionIn my fifteen years as a business coach for the professionally creative and creative entrepreneurs, I’ve seen a lot of incredibly smart, very talented people struggle to bring their dreams to fruition.

When I first started – I believed that this was largely due to a lack of knowledge in business fundamentals and business skills. Which is why I created the Artists Marketing & Business Academy – to help you close that knowledge gap.

And while I still believe that’s part of the problem, I’ve come to the conclusion that you could have all the knowledge and skill training and still struggle.

Because there’s a piece missing – and that’s ACTION!

What is Action?

Much to my surprise – it turns out action is a pretty complex word with many different meanings. But here are the ones I think are most useful for this conversation:

action

1a: thing done, a deed
b: the accomplishment of a thing usually over a period of time, in stages, or with the possibility of repetition
c: behavior, conduct
d: initiative, enterprise

2: an act of will

Merriam-Webster.com

LIVE ENCORE PRESENTATION – MAY 4TH

So, its what you do, right? Not what you say, not what you think, not what you wish, but what you actually DO.

You may remember a movie that came out several years ago — The Secret — which showed this guy sitting on his couch dreaming about a car – and then magically that car appears. I’ve always found that to be a misleading and possibly destructive portrayal of the Law of Attraction. Which led me to begin tweeting this:

The Law of Attraction without action is just the Law of Attr! Put the Action BACK!

It seems so simple – then why do we struggle so much with getting into action, staying in action, and choosing which actions to focus on?

What Blocks Action?

And why is it that some people seem to be completely stuck and stopped by these obstacles and others appear (at least from the outside) to be unstoppable?

You might think, “Well it’s just a difference in personality.”

Or, “It’s just easier for them than it is for me – they don’t have this problem with resistance or procrastination.”

Perhaps you even think, “I’m just … broken.”

Poppycock! I say!  Utter HOGWASH!

Okay – you might notice that this is a pet peeve of mine – you’re not broken. They’re not better than you. And it’s not some character flaw that you have no choice in!

What stops us is a bit different in each person.

  • It may look like procrastination.
  • It may look like analysis paralysis.
  • It may look like perfectionism.
  • It might feel like resistance, fear or overwhelm.

And it’s a useful exercise to examine what that dynamic is for you.

How do you know its time to stop? How do you know its the right time for some procrastination? (Wonder who’s tagged me on Facebook…) Understanding what your triggers are that begin this spiral into inertia or active resistance can help you disrupt that pattern. But understanding the pattern isn’t enough – you have to then have the tools to shift out of the pattern into something more productive.

What Allows or Even Motivates Action?

I believe that the primary difference between the folks that get stopped and the ones that seem to be unstoppable in their action is in their response to that stimulus. It’s not that they don’t get overwhelmed or experience fear. It’s not that they never question their choices or play the “Yeah, but…” game.

It’s that their response to that happening is to move forward into action.

You can think of it as simply rocking backwards and putting your weight in your heels. Or rocking forward and putting your weight on your toes. Try it – stand up and rock your weight backward just enough to sink into your heels. Then rock your weight forward to just slightly come up on your toes. Can you feel the difference? Can you feel the need, the desire, the irresistible urge to step forward when you rock forward?

So, when something seems to knock you off balance. When you feel stuck or stopped or resistant. When you are overwhelmed or stuck in perfectionism. Stand up and lean in.

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