Five things your procrastination may be telling you
Maybe you can relate to this.
You have to do THE THING. It is a good idea. Completion results in some benefits that you want. It fits into the bigger scheme of what you’ve got going on. I don’t mean something like carrying your recycling pile to the big bin in the hall. I mean something that requires a little more thought or effort, like a writing project you’ve promised someone, or a painting a room in the house.
You can’t get started.
It’s not a matter of time management. You have a good system for working through your priorities and checking off your to-do lists. And it’s not that you don’t have the time, because you can get all kinds of other things done while you’re in denial of what you really ought to be doing.
You look forward to being able to move on to other things that must wait until THE THING is done. You’ve talked myself through all the positive reasons why you should do it and all the pain points you’re enduring while it remains undone.
Repeatedly, and to no avail.
And at this point, it’s frustrating and maybe even causing you some embarrassment. By now family or colleagues are asking for it and excuses are running thin.
Even worse, you’ve started, but ground to a halt somewhere, so that the unfinished thing is taking up physical space as well as mental space. You step or reach around it every day and wish it wasn’t there.
The task remains stubbornly undone. Despair and self-loathing move in.
This last number of years I’ve become less tolerant of losing time when it comes to accomplishing what is important to me. One of my business mentors, Ed Gandia, offered a list of reasons people procrastinate, and this more than anything has helped me to navigate through my procrastination and resume productivity. After a few times through the list, I’ve taken some liberties with Ed’s line items and now have a series of questions tacked in a handy place for when I get stuck.
Why am I doing this?
When I get really honest with myself, I can often identify reasons I want to do this that don’t fit into the bigger scheme of how I want to curate my life or build my business. For example, if someone else told me it’s the solution I need—when it’s my only reason to undertake and I have no other resonance with it—that’s not going to be enough to sustain the effort.
Do I know what I’m doing?
When I’m trying something new, as in writing about a new topic or trying a new marketing tactic, I may find that I need more detailed information before I jump in.
Am I convinced I can do this well?
Perhaps I want to do something that is way outside my expertise. I have plenty of help, but I need courage to jump in there. Or maybe it’s just an area in which I always face infernal doubts. When I realize that my confidence is the issue, I know what I need to do to fortify myself internally—make sure I have all the information I need and coach myself through the imposter syndrome.
Am I taking on too much?
The project may be just too big to contemplate. You’ve heard the old proverb about the best way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time. In the case of getting things done, there will always be some way to break huge jobs up into medium-sized portions, and reduce those portions into smaller to-do lists that I can tackle with ease.
Do I have the internal resources for this?
Ed Gandia calls this energy. When I consider this, I have to back off and look at my life as a whole: all the things I am doing at the time, all the plates I am spinning. The truth is that I can do justice to only so many pursuits at one time. Quality time with my family is always number one, and the household needs to remain in a state of livability instead of distraction. The time I have left is for business and personal interest. My subconscious can find a way to point out that something I’ve got going on now will suffer if I undertake this other thing.
The manifestation of procrastination is usually my subconscious telling me that something is off internally. I’ve come to be grateful for procrastination, as it always makes me return to my vision and strategies. Checking the tactics and revising that ones that don’t align has brought me to my goals quicker and with less stress. The pieces I lay aside I never miss, while the projects that I carry through bear the fruit I intended.
I’m losing less time to procrastination lately. Once I do the internal checklist, it’s usually a simple matter of applying good time management and executing.
Lana Wildman is a business ghostwriter located in Kansas City, Missouri.