There's no one who used to be better at the art of procrastination than me! I was really really skilled at it. I used to beat up on myself about it. A lot. But then I decided it was societies problem, not mine.
So I took a long hard look at the issue and realised that there is a wisdom in procrastination. It's an angel in disguise. So if you want some changes in this area, you need to know how to talk to that angel and see the beauty beneath his guise.
1. Take out the shame First, take the shame out of it. A society built on industrialization praises productivity and shames the "live-and-let-live" approach.
Productivity is equated with self worth - being a "good or bad person".
But procrastination is neither good nor bad in itself.
2. Address the concerns of your unconscious mind Sometimes putting things off is the unconscious mind vetoing an idea that it's afraid of. So it's important to listen to the concern and address it, consciously.
3. Self acceptance - what's the meaning that you give procrastination that is not useful now? If you are wanting to be productive in order to be accepted by others or to feel worthy of love from yourself or others, then your subconscious would veto that idea since its connected to your higher self who knows that, as you are a beautiful child of the universe, you are worthy of love - whether you are productive or not!
4. Trust your gut-brain That's just an example. Maybe it's a different root cause. Such as, maybe your unconscious mind knows you need extra rest for a big day that is coming up. Even if there is nothing on the calendar, we do have an animal instinct at the gut level and for all you know, tomorrow could throw up some big challenges. So, trust your gut to now whether you need to chill right now, or get to action.
5. Hidden health issues that your gut-brain knows about, but your head brain doesn't yet About a year ago I discovered a dental issue that had been slowly occuring over 10 to 15 years - the dentist reckoned. No one had picked up on it. But it turned out it had been slowly draining my batteries and energy levels with a low grade infection. As soon as that was cleared up, I felt this tingle in my fingers and toes and all this extra energy. It's still in the process of being resolved, but it's certainly been interesting to notice the effects on motivation.
I was able to forgive myself for not being as motivated as I would have liked. I did rest a lot and I put it down to external stresses - I was dealing with a big natural disaster - earthquakes and property repairs, parental health issues and caregiving, full time work, a new relationship etc. So now I realise it was totally appropriate that I rested a lot when I did.
When my father's business was taken over in his forties and he couldn't find a job again, for some reason he didn't pick up again. My Mum stuck by him and went out to work. He stayed at home and seemed to sink into a vague land of daydreams. The assumption was that he was grieving over what he had lost. That was when I was 3. When I was 16 it was discovered he had a brain tumor. Fortunately, they operated and replaced the chemicals that he was not able to produce himself. And he returned to life - warm, animated, and functional again. He lived another 20 years and got better with each year that passed.
I know he was frustrated with that lack of motivation. He was a positive thinker and used to write affirmations down everyday. They probably kept him going.
But also, after reflecting on his situation, and my own less serious one, it has occured to me that the power of positive thinking can have a downside - we need to check in with our bodies and really get to know what being fully alive feels like, so that as soon as it changes, we can take action.
The lesson for me here is that sometimes procrastination belies something else under the surface and what helps with that is not self admonishment, but self love and concern and checking in.
Your gut has access to information that you may not be conscious of yet. It's important to ask it questions about the timing of things. Should I rest now, or chill out a bit? Should I schedule that appointment for Thursday or Friday? Should I clean the garage out now, or just let it be for a few months and deal with other priorities?
Head based thinking can try to force us to do stuff and over ride our emotions and our values. The head is great for coming up with plans. But it's important those plans meet the highest values of the heart, and that the opinion of the gut is taken into account - since that gut feeling can warn you to adjust the plan, or come up with a totally different one with out needing to know exactly why.
Time will tell - one day you will probably find out why. The question is, do you want to go through the experience of ignoring your gut? Or the benefit of trusting it?
6. Respect the wisdom of your unconscious mind, and talk to it with reverence. Talking to the unconscious mind is like coaxing a kitten out from under the house after it's been yelled at.
You need to validate each concern, respect its wisdom and logic and understand it's trying to help your higher good even if its methods seem strange at first.
I read a lot of memes on facebook and instagram, especially from the self-help industry along the lines of "Just do it" and "Time waits for no one".
Personally, I think these are useless bits of advice, since, if it was that simple, you would do it. If it is not happening for you, then you need to have some quiet time and uncover what is going on with your unconscious mind. A walk in nature, the forest or the beach, or sitting quietly in your room and just ask it to show you what's going on - in words, or in images, or in signs over the coming days. Ask it to lead you to the answer and thank it for it's help.
Back this up with reading some books or getting some mindset coaching or doing an online course in self hypnosis or something. It's important to equip yourself with some tools so you can run your three brains effectively - head, heart and gut. You could start by googling the three brains or "m-braining".
7. Notice the sensation Where is the sensation of procrastination in your body? Does it have a sensation? Or is the sensation actually anxiety?
If that is the case, then once again, take time to notice what the concern is, or fear, and list some ways to address it.
Whatever the sensation is, notice it's location in your body, it's temperature, weight, whether a certain colour is associated with it when you think about it, whether it's moving or still.
Begin to play with those "settings". If it is still, imagine it spinning or vibrating, moving up or down into a different area of your body. Notice if it's better or worse or how it's different now. Make the colour lighter or darker. Adjust the temperature to hotter or colder. Notice the words that go with it and imagine turning a dial and as you do they speed up or slow down.
You should notice a shift in feeling state or mindset. Maybe this will result in you getting on with the desired task. If it doesn't, then it could be useful to get a session with an NLP coach to clear emotional blocks that are in the way and to replace them with goals that meet your values and feel compelling to your brain so that you want to do them.
In the end you could think of your thoughts and motivation as a garden hose filled with water. Even if you turn on the tap, if there is a kink in the hose the water will not flow. If it's blocked with dirt or cement it may not flow. If the problem is the council has not hooked up the pipe to the mainswater on the street, then there won't be any water.
The plumber may come along and tap the tap with a hammer, or step on the hose with his foot and hey, presto, the water starts flowing again. And you may think - "Hey, that looked easy". And you could learn how to do that too.
The question is whether it's important to you to LEARN HOW to get in the flow again, or whether you just want to get in the flow now.
If you live in an old house where the fuse keeps blowing, you may not want to replace the switchboard and wiring, if it's safe not to do so. But it's nice if the electrician shows you how to flick the switch and which switch to flick so you can turn the lights and heaters on again.
I take the approach of that electrician with my clients. I teach them as much as they want to know in the time available. Because empowerment is important to me.
But if it's just a small problem in an otherwise marvellous life, then one or two sessions can be enough. Or even just reading an article like this.
On the other hand, if all the fuses keep blowing out every five minutes, it can be useful to start over and rewire the whole thing. And that can be fun because you can install more powerful lights, perhaps put in more plugs in more convienient places and just get a whole lot more joy out of running that marvellous mind of yours! Yes - I'm mixing my metaphors. And that really gets results for people who want to change... evolving metaphrs - another topic....
Whatever you decide to do, I'd like you to consider that really, there's nothing broken with you when you procrastinate. Actually, there's usually a lot of wisdom in it.
I mean, if you put off going to that meeting, you might miss out on a horrible argument and just get to hear about it later. And that's not so bad, right?
Your gut will know what's right for you.
8. Your personality and core values
Maybe you are procrastinating because it's not important to you, fundamentally, to do that thing. It might be important to someone else. Maybe you think you 'should' want it.
Get rid of 'should'. Right now. As a colleague of mine recently said - and she is a very polite person - "Obligation is like s*%ting on yourself". Excuse the french. But, I realised she's absolutely right. You need to do you.
One way to do that is find a win/win that meets your needs and the other persons. But first you have to let them know that doing that thing for them, in the way they want it done, is not working for you right now. And explore other solutions so you can both get what you want.
And it may be that you are not a task-orientated person. By this I mean that doing a task for it's own sake is not something that tickles your fancy. Maybe it's more important to you to know why you are doing something, or that it fulfills some personal value of yours such as helping the environment or animals or people or creating beautiful things.
That's where personality tests can help to some extent and it's why I encourage clients to explore them a bit. If you are a dreamer, and you were brought up in a family of pragmatic people, it may be you have internalised some shame around being who you are. So not only do you find you put off doing what they want you to do, but you are not getting on with what's important to you either.
So, begin the conversation now and honour your procrastination - find out the positive intention behind it! What's the good thing that it's wanting for you. Don't stop at the first five answers. Think of the salmon swimming upstream all trying to get home to 'breed'. Some get stuck in a stagnant pool. But if that tree log is moved out of the way, they can get back into the main stream and join the others.
So, begin that conversation and let society and it's judgement just float away for a while.
You're the most important priority right here, right now!
And let me ask you to consider this question...
What are your real dreams in life - and what's stopping you right now from getting on with them?