5 Steps to Overcome Procrastination

Worth Reading – from off the Web! – Tiny Buddha, by Sandra Wozniak https://tinybuddha.com/author/sandra-woznicki/

“You have criticized yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” ~Louise L. Hay

I dreamt of starting my own business for years. Ten years, exactly.

While there are a few reasons it took so long to take the plunge, procrastination is at the top of the list.

It’s hard work to change careers, uncomfortable to leave a steady paycheck, and nerve-wracking to think of failure.

Even after spending months and years learning, studying, and getting certified, when it was no longer a matter of having the skills, the uncertainty of success was enough for me to keep kicking the can down the road to start marketing myself.

I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of not being perfect. I was afraid that people would think I was a joke. And I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be capable of all the work it entailed.

So I dragged my feet and kept passing my work off to “Future Me.”

I did this for everything, though.

“Tomorrow Sandy” can do the dishes. She’ll take care of scheduling that doctor’s appointment. Oh, and sign her up for that tough conversation I need to have with my mom too.

At one point I recognized that I often procrastinated because I needed everything to be perfect.

  • I wouldn’t work on a craft project or cook a new recipe unless I knew it would come out flawless.
  • Or I would keep tweaking projects at work up to the last second and beyond, at the sacrifice of getting more work done.
  • Or I would agonize over every text and email I sent, often opting not to send any message unless I knew exactly what to say.

But, as you can see, I’ve come a long way from that version of me.

I’ve since started my own business (and I’m loving it!), and I’ve pulled my best tools together on paper for how to stop procrastinating—even though I actually procrastinated on writing this post (ironic, I know!).

Today, I didn’t let my fear of “good enough” hold me back from sharing actual, helpful advice and mindset shifts to get moving and stop staying stuck.

Because when we’re stuck, we start telling ourselves stories. So that’s where we’ll start, with this story we tell ourselves about why we procrastinate.

What We Think Procrastination Is

We have this misconception that procrastination is laziness.

But procrastination is an active process. You choose to do something else instead of the task that you know you should be doing.

In contrast, laziness is not caring. It’s apathy, inactivity, and an unwillingness to act. It’s an “I could, I just don’t wanna” kind of attitude.

But when you’re procrastinating, you feel even more stressed because you do care about getting the task done. You’re just avoiding stress and having difficulty with motivation.

Because that is why we procrastinate.

What Procrastination Really Is and Why We Do It

Procrastination is a stress-avoidance technique. It is an active process to temporarily avoid discomfort.

We subconsciously are saying, “Present Me is not willing to experience this discomfort, so I will pass it on to Future Me.”

(We do this as though we’re asking a stranger to do the work for us. Researchers have seen on fMRI that when we think about our future selves, it lights up the same part of the brain as when we think about strangers.)

The really cool news is that by working toward overcoming your procrastination habit, you’re building your overall resilience to distress.

That is how I define resilience: a willingness to experience discomfort.

Examples of Procrastination

Procrastination is tricky. Sometimes it’s obvious that we’re doing it. Sometimes we don’t quite realize it (like when I had to water the plants right then and there instead of writing this blog post).

So here are some examples:

  • Scrolling through Instagram instead of getting started on important tasks
  • Putting off work assignments until the last minute
  • Wanting to start a new positive habit (dieting, exercising, or saving money), but repeatedly delaying it while telling yourself that “I’ll start soon
  • Wanting to start a business but wasting time in “research mode” instead of taking action
  • Doing an easy, less important task that “needs to be done” before getting started
  • Waiting until you’re “in the mood” to do the task

5 Steps to Stop Procrastinating

Now that we know what it is and why we do it, let’s look at how to stop.

1. Motivate yourself with kindness instead of criticism.

What really holds us back from moving forward is the language we use when talking to ourselves.

(Listen to your inner dialogue- it’s too revealing! I would never talk to another human being, dog, or plant, for that matter, the way I sometimes talk to myself!)

Thoughts like:

  • I don’t want to.
  • It will be hard.
  • I don’t know how to do it.
  • It might not come out as good as I want it to.
  • I’ll probably fail.
  • This will be so boring.

This is what we think that drives us to procrastinate. I mean, really, when you read those thoughts, they just feel so demotivating, right?

This negative self-talk has a good intent. It is trying to save us from discomfort.

Unfortunately, it’s achieving the opposite because it adds to the stress by making us feel bad.

If you speak to yourself with kindness, just as you would a friend, (or child) it will feel so much more motivating.

So think about what you would say to that friend. It might sound like:

  • I get it, it will be uncomfortable, but you’ll be done soon and then you can relax.
  • Once you get started, it will be easier.
  • You can do it!!
  • If it doesn’t come out perfect, at least you’ll have practiced more.
  • If you fail, you’ll have learned so much.

2. Create a pattern-interrupter.

That negative self-talk has simply become part of your procrastination habit.

Because that is what procrastination becomes—a habit—and habits are comprised of a cue, a routine, and a reward.

  • The cue is thinking about a task that needs to be done.
  • The routine is to speak that negative self-talk that leads to procrastination.
  • The reward is less stress. (Not no stress, because avoiding the task is still somewhat stressful because we know it eventually needs to be done.)

In order to break the habit and create a new one, you need to introduce a pattern-interrupter.

Mel Robbins has a great one she calls the 5 Second Rule. When you think “I should do this,” before the negative self-talk starts in, count backwards, “5-4-3-2-1-GO” and move.

I find this helpful when I’m having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.

If I’m having trouble getting motivated to do something difficult like write a post about procrastination, my pattern-interrupter is “I can do hard things.” Not only am I interrupting the pattern, I’m motivating myself positively as well.

If I’m having trouble doing a boring and tedious task like my taxes, I use something like “I’m willing to be uncomfortable now so that Future Me can be at peace.”

3. Break down the task.

One of the big drivers of procrastination is feeling overwhelmed. “Overwhelm” happens when we’re looking at a project in full scope, either not knowing where to start or feeling like all the work involved will be too much.

If the next task at hand is too big, or if you don’t know where to start, your first task, really, is to either 1) make a list, or 2) figure out the smallest thing you can do first.

For example, I have social anxiety and going to the gym was overwhelming to me.

So I broke it down into:

  • I just need to put gym clothes in my car, that’s it.
  • I just need to drive to the gym. I can turn around if I want once I get there.
  • I just need to walk in the door. I can always leave.
  • I just need to get changed in the locker room I can do that.

Honestly, I never turned around and went home. Because once I’d taken the small, easy step, the next small easy step was doable.

Which leads me to the next step…

4. Just commit to five minutes.

Studies show that if we commit to five minutes only, 80 percent of us are likely to continue with the task.

Five minutes is nothing. You can do anything for five minutes.

There is an 80 percent chance you’ll continue working once you put in those five minutes, but even if you don’t, you’re still five minutes closer to your goal.

And, you’ve taken one more step to breaking the old habit of not starting. It’s a big win-win!

5. Reward yourself or make the task more enjoyable.

Another problem with looking at a big task in scope instead of the next five minutes is that the reward is too far away or not satisfying enough.

When you’re trying to lose weight, twenty pounds is weeks and months away.

Or, when you’re putting off your taxes, if you aren’t expecting a return then the reward is “not going to jail.”

So bringing in more rewards sooner will fast-track creating the new habit of getting started.

But also, making the task itself more pleasant will make it a less monotonous task.

  • To write this post, I put on my softest bathrobe and got a tub to create an Epsom-salt foot bath under my desk while I write.
  • I’ll be starting my taxes in the next few weeks, and I already plan to have a glass of wine and super fancy cheese and crackers while I sit down to do them.

What Would Open Up for You If You Stopped Procrastinating?

We spend so much more time avoiding the discomfort of a task than we do stepping into what it will be like once the task is complete.

If you were to stop procrastinating, what would open up in your life?

  • Would you start your business because you’re no longer afraid of experiencing any discomfort if you “fail”?
  • Would you simply enjoy life more if you weren’t in a perpetual state of stress because there is a list of things you’re putting off?
  • Would you finally lose weight or get in shape and feel good once you push through being able to get started?

The Bottom Line

Procrastination is an active process to temporarily avoid discomfort (it is not laziness!)

By overcoming your procrastination habit, you are building your emotional resilience.

Notice the negative, demotivating self-talk and motivate yourself with kindness over criticism.

Create a pattern interrupter before the negative self-talk starts weighing you down.

Commit to just five minutes and you’ll either keep going to do more, or you’ll at least be five minutes closer to done.

Reward yourself or make the task more enjoyable so there is less discomfort to avoid.

About Sandy Woznicki

Sandy is a former anxiety-riddled, insomniac stress-aholic turned coach. She helps career-driven women and working moms master their stress and anxiety, to motivate themselves with kindness instead of criticism, to face life’s challenges with Graceful Resilience, and to start truly enjoying life without all that unnecessary worry. Her coaching and free resources like the Stress Detox Mini Course help women to take back control of their lives to live more fully and freely.

Edited for readability

How To Make Stress Become a Friend

Worth Reading From Off the Web — Excerpts from https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend

A major study concluded that people who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to be negatively affected, and, in fact, had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.

The researchers estimated that over the eight years they were tracking deaths, 182,000 Americans died prematurely, not from stress, but from the belief that stress is bad for you.

That is over 20,000 deaths a year. Now, if that estimate is correct, that would make believing stress is bad for you the 15th largest cause of death in the United States last year, killing more people than skin cancer, HIV/AIDS and homicide.

Okay. Some bad news first. People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful for your health

So this study got me wondering: Can changing how you think about stress make you healthier? And here the science says yes. When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.

How to make stress your friend

Symptoms of stress — pounding heart, sweaty palms, hyperventilating, etc., — what if you viewed them instead as signs that your body was energized, was preparing you to meet this challenge? That is what one group of participants were told in a study conducted at Harvard University. Before they went through the social stress test, they were taught to rethink their stress response as helpful: That pounding heart is preparing you for action. If you’re breathing faster, it’s no problem. It’s getting more oxygen to your brain. And participants who learned to view the stress response as helpful for their performance, well, they were less stressed out, less anxious, more confident, but the most fascinating finding to me was how their physical stress response changed.

Now, in a typical stress response, your heart rate goes up, and your blood vessels constrict. And this is one of the reasons that chronic stress is sometimes associated with cardiovascular disease. It’s not really healthy to be in this state all the time. But in the study, when participants viewed their stress response as helpful, their blood vessels stayed relaxed. Their heart was still pounding, but this is a much healthier cardiovascular profile. It actually looks a lot like what happens in moments of joy and courage. Over a lifetime of stressful experiences, this one biological change could be the difference between a stress-induced heart attack at age 50 and living well into your 90s. And this is really what the new science of stress reveals, that how you think about stress matters.

So the next time your heart is pounding from stress, think to yourself, “this is my body helping me rise to this challenge.” When you view stress in that way, your body believes you, and your stress response becomes healthier.

Now I want to tell you about one of the most under-appreciated aspects of the stress response, and the idea is this: Stress makes you social.

To understand this side of stress, we need to talk about a hormone, oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a neuro-hormone. It fine-tunes your brain’s social instincts. It primes you to do things that strengthen close relationships. Oxytocin makes you crave physical contact with your friends and family. It enhances your empathy. It even makes you more willing to help and support the people you care about. But here’s what most people don’t understand about oxytocin. It’s a stress hormone. Your pituitary gland pumps this stuff out as part of the stress response. It’s as much a part of your stress response as the adrenaline that makes your heart pound. When oxytocin is released in the stress response, it motivates you to seek support. Your biological stress response is nudging you to tell someone how you feel instead of bottling it up. Your stress response wants to make sure you notice when someone else in your life is struggling so that you can support each other. When life is difficult, your stress response wants you to be surrounded by people who care about you.

Because of this hormone’s social component, your stress response becomes healthier, and you actually recover faster from stress. I find this amazing, that your stress response has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience, and that mechanism is human connection.

For every major stressful life experience, like financial difficulties or family crisis, that increased the risk of dying by 30 percent. But that wasn’t true for everyone. People who spent time caring for others showed absolutely no stress-related increase in dying. Zero.

And the harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.

Read more at:

https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend

How To Overcome Our “Not Good Enough” Voice

Instead of going down the beaten path of self-blame and self-punishment for not being “good enough”, we can rewire our brains to think and behave differently.

The theme of unworthiness shows up in all areas in life. As kids, we proudly show off our high marks and perfect behaviors knowing they will earn us praises and approval from adults, and as adults, we constantly judge and punish ourselves for our lack of wealth, success, relationships and others’ good opinions of us. In my healing and coaching practice, the most common story that is told over and over is the one of “I’m not good enough.”

That was the story of my life as well, for over 3 decades. Having grown up in an Asian culture in the 80’s where being an overachiever was encouraged, the accepted, even celebrated method to motivate children was to subject them to harsh criticism and belittling (ie. “who do you think you are”, “you are nothing until you prove your worth so you can be something”, etc.) As a result, I not only internalized the disempowering belief that “I am not good enough” but I also made sure it dominated and manifested in every area of my life — without fail.

As powerful as any belief can be, it is only a belief, and we can choose to liberate ourselves from it – simply because it isn’t who we are.

If you are constantly battling with a similar story, I invite you to read and practice the following steps to take your power back from that self-limiting belief.

Signs, Signs Everywhere

For many, the first sign might be a negative feeling. These feelings are intelligent communications from our bodies to indicate to us whether a belief is in or out of alignment with who we are. How we feel at any moment is filtered by our thoughts and our thoughts derive from our existing beliefs. When our beliefs are no longer serving us, our feelings – being the language of the soul in a very literal fashion will give us a little (or large) kick to raise an alert. When I am in a coaching session, whenever a story comes up that is out of alignment, I always ask my clients how the belief makes them feel. The answer is always along the line of “it makes me feel crappy.”

The signs can range from physical ailments such as lack of energy or tension in various parts of the body to mental and emotional symptoms such as procrastination, depression and anxiety; or they can be a combination of conditions from all levels including feeling a tight knot of anxiety in the stomach that is often accompanied by digestive issues.

Our beliefs also have clever ways to disguise themselves as positive, socially approved motivations and behaviors.

Perfectionism is one of them. For the longest time I unconsciously chose to tell the story of “I am a perfectionist” which allowed me to get away from the harsh voice of “I am not good enough.” After I ruthlessly put myself down for every little perceived failure, I finally realized my perfectionism was only a sugar coated version of “I suck.”

Another common disguise is altruism, or people pleasing behavior. We convince ourselves it is noble of us to place others’ needs before ours as well as compromise our own happiness because it earns us praises such as compassionate, kind and selfless. Some of us have the tendency to give ourselves up or lose ourselves completely in relationships. Our society has a very powerful reinforcement system when it comes to encouraging selfless behavior without addressing the fundamental notion that our first relationship is always the relationship with ourselves. Without loving, cherishing and respecting ourselves, there is no relationship with others. When we do not know how to value ourselves and make the highest choices for ourselves, how can we honor others as loving, deserving and worthy?

There is certainly nothing wrong with giving our best in circumstances and relationships. However, it is helpful to always do a little honest self-inquiry and ask ourselves how each decision makes us feel. And if it does not feel uplifting, what belief is underneath that decision?

When we practice consciously acknowledging our old patterns every time by listening to what our bodies are trying to tell us, we are stepping out of the unconscious and reactive way of living so we can compose a response that allows us to freely create based on who we want to be rather than recreate past scenarios of who we were told to be.

Instead of going down that old beaten path that leads to nothing but a stinking swamp, aka the self-blame and self-punishment for not being worthy, we can choose again and create a new path. The more we can catch ourselves on auto pilot, the more we can rewire our brains to think and behave differently.

Decisions, Decisions

Edited for emphasis

Read more here: Self Criticism? How to Overcome Your Inner “I’m Not Good Enough” Voice

5 Ways To Transform ANGER into Something Good

“And God said, “Love your enemy,” and I obeyed him and loved myself.”

~ Khalil Gibran

We all get angry from time to time. Even the most enlightened of us would be lying if they said they didn’t. Anger is often a natural response to horrific situations. For example: the on

ly moral response to innocent people getting bombed, whether by military action or terrorist action, is anger.

The question is this: is your anger controlling you (lizard brain), or are you controlling it (evolved mind)? Are you merely a puppet to the emotion of your anger, or are you able to turn the tables and become the puppeteer? Are you a victim of your emotions or a hero with emotional intelligence?

Most of us act the way we feel. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. We do have a choice. With enough discipline we can feel the way we act. For example: we can “feel” afraid but “act” courageously. Similarly, we can “feel” road rage but “act” calmly. With enough practice we can eventually feel the way we act, even in response to something as extreme as terrorism.

 Through such emotional alchemy, transforming anger into a higher emotion really is a choice. The key (as with the following five ways) is practice, discipline, and making emotional intelligence a habit. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

1) Transform anger into strength

“In almost every bad situation, there is the possibility of a transformation by which the undesirable may be changed into the desirable.” ~ Nyanaponika Thera

Anger can give you profound strength: in mind, body, and soul. It’s your responsibility to focus your anger enough to harness this strength. Focused anger becomes sacred anger. But this first requires honoring the anger for what it is, and for where it stems.

We too often suppress our anger, or avoid it, or pretend we’re not mad. But such suppression festers and all too often leads to a blowup farther down the road. In order to avoid such a blowup it behooves you to put your anger into focus. Put it under the microscope of your emotional intelligence. Analyze it. There is passion in anger. And where there is passion, there is love. And where there is love, there is strength.

So when it comes to anger, choose furious dancing over uncomfortable depression, or even comfortable suppression. Negotiate with your anger in order to transform the passion at its center into strength. Embrace it. Accept it. Wrestle with it, gently. Dance with the fire. Then waltz it into something worthwhile. If it burns you up, rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

Life is too short to live it second-guessing your passion. Be fierce. Dance furiously despite the anger that seeks to burn you. There’s almost always strength hidden there. Like Deepak Chopra said, “The secrets of alchemy exist to transform mortals from a state of suffering and ignorance to a state of enlightenment and bliss.”

2) Transform anger into exercise

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” ~ Mark Twain

That passion at the center of anger can also be transformed into powerful energy: Qi, Prana, Pneuma, Mana. Use it in the park, in the arena, in the field of play. Twain said anger is an acid? So be it. Transform that acid into fuel. Use that fuel for the fire of becoming a better version of yourself. Use it in your kung fu. Use it in the gym. Use it playing sports. Burn it out of you so that it doesn’t burn you out. Whatever you do, don’t keep the acid of your anger bottled up. You are a sacred vessel and acid erodes even sacred vessels. Put it in your vessel’s fuel tank instead, and then burn baby burn! Spar with it. Shadow-box it out. Better yet – shadow-box with your inner shadow. Now that is some meta-catharsis, right there.

3) Transform anger into art

Again, the key to alchemizing anger, is harnessing the passion at its center. This most definitely applies to transforming anger into art. Anybody who has ever read poetry by Sylvia Plath or writings by Friedrich Nietzsche can attest to that.

If you gaze upon Picasso’s Guernica and tell me he didn’t paint that with a focused rage against the ignorance of war. Or take Banksy’s political art charged with righteous anger against tyrannical oppression. Transforming anger into art is a kind of rage enlightenment: a self-actualized creativity discovered through the channeling of anger into a heightened state of awareness, where rage becomes a fire that cooks things rather than burns them. With just the right amount of focus, at just the right temperature, the passion at the center of anger can, and often does, get turned into some amazing art. And there’s absolutely no reason why you cannot do the same. Forget talent. Forget genius or giftedness or skill. So what if others can do it better? Nobody even has to see it.

Create art with all of your passion. Channel your deepest anger into art, and watch in amazement as it alchemizes into soulful poetry.
Like Nietzsche powerfully said,

“Of all writings I love only that which is written with blood. Write with blood: and you will discover that blood is spirit.”

4) Transform anger into civil disobedience

“Love does not imply pacifism.” ~ Derrick Jensen

Use your focused anger like a surgeon’s scalpel slicing open the Achilles Heel of the violent and immoral system that has been propped up over you without your consideration. Use your focused anger like Jesus flogging bankers in the New Testament. Jesus saw an immoral system unfolding before him, so he dug deep, tapped into his righteous anger, and practiced civil disobedience despite the orthodoxy of the time. There’s no reason why you cannot do the same. As Howard Zinn said, “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.” Deep, focused anger can be a boon of sacred energy if we learn to use it wisely and courageously. This kind of sacred anger lifts us up and compels us to empower the powerless despite the powers that be, or to inspire the poor despite the overindulgences of the  rich. The type of focused anger that would rather live a life of uncomfortable freedom than a life of comfortable slavery. Such anger is sacred precisely because it instills in us an unstoppable courage. The kind of courage that declares to the overreaching powers that be, “I will not stand idly by while you decide who lives and who dies. I am unstoppable; another world is possible. And I will do everything in my power to build it, whether you approve of it or not.”

5) Transform anger into a good sense of humor

 The best way to achieve an emotional state flexible enough to be able to use anger as a transformative tool is to practice and to cultivate a good sense of humor. A good sense of humor flips all scripts. It transforms “the jokes on me” into “so what, it’s funny.” Powerful stuff.

In fact, a good sense of humor is so powerful that it is the only thing more powerful than power itself. I mean, a good sense of humor is immune to power constructs. It subsumes them. It transcends power precisely because it is able to laugh at power and not take things too seriously. A good sense of humor takes nothing too seriously, especially not power. And when the passion at the heart of anger is effectively transformed into a good sense of humor, the person cultivating it is truly a force to be reckoned with. No power in existence can stand in the way of a person with a good sense of humor. No authority. No king. No queen. No government. No army. No God. Not even death, because a good sense of humor laughs it all away.

It’s all water off a ducks back, and you’re the duck! Such sacred laughter puts all things into proper perspective. It’s all an illusion. It’s all a game. But, and here’s the rub, it’s a sacred illusion. It’s a sacred game. And you are the infinite player interdependently playing it all out. The cosmic joke becomes self-actualized. You’re no longer the butt-end, nor will you ever be again, for you have attained the almighty rank of The One Who Laughs.

Like Alan Watts said,

“Life is a matter of oscillation. Life is vibration. The question is:

How are you going to interpret that? Is it tremble, tremble, tremble;

Or is it laugh, laugh, laugh?”

Read more at: https://fractalenlightenment.com/36114/life/five-ways-to-use-your-anger-more-effectively | FractalEnlightenment.com