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

Overcoming Perfectionism

One woman’s story:

“There’s nothing perfect about me, and I’m okay with that… now.

As early as grade school I wanted perfection. I remember asking my mom to buy me a stack of lined notebooks and colored pens. I spent hours neatly labeling each notebook by class, date, and assignment deadlines. If I made one mistake, like a jagged cursive letter or a misspelling, I’d rip out the page and begin again on a fresh sheet. This was a tiring task but it was also a compulsion — I insisted that everything had to be neat and orderly. Or else… ??? Or I’d be out of control, scared, and overwhelmed.

When my parents divorced I was shocked because they rarely fought. I had no idea for how to deal with my intense emotions. I couldn’t do anything to stop it, and I intuited that anger wasn’t a acceptable in our family, especially for women. It wasn’t ‘Christian’ enough or loving enough… or good enough.

I felt a burning inside. But I never let it get too hot. I played the good child, the loving daughter and sister, but my life was out of control.”

No matter the root causes of your perfectionism or your desire for it, know that it’s actually a desire for love and acceptance, even if from yourself.

Perhaps you inaccurately concluded that the only way to be loved was to do everything right.
Maybe you feel the need to challenge yourself to ‘be bigger’ and ‘do better’ in your work and your relationships. That’s not a bad thing. But there’s a difference between striving for growth and wanting to reach perfection.

  • Overcoming Perfectionism Requires Surrender

  • Perfectionism is about fear — fear of criticism, of losing control, and so trying to control everything So as to avoid being rejected – by anyone or anything. One mistake could mean abandonment.
  • Striving for growth, unlike perfectionism, is about (lovingly) pushing ourselves to be the best person we can be, given the current situations in our lives. Growth is okay to strive for. Perfectionism is not.
  • Surrender is about accepting where we are in any moment, knowing that we are a work in progress. It requires self-forgiveness.
  • Tips to Manage Perfectionism

  • 1. Laugh
  • Having a sense of humor about ourselves and our actions, especially embarrassing or disappointing experiences, doesn’t have to be a form of defense or protection. Humor can heal or at least create enough dopamine and endorphins to get us through the tough moments. (“What a nut!… Silly me!“)
  • 2. Forgive Yourself
  • Forgiveness is actually an act of kindness to the self and it’s not a bad thing. Forgiveness releases us from fear-based thoughts and emotions. It is the gateway to surrendering our perception of control over our lives and over the reactions of those around us. In AA they say, ‘Let go and let god’. Acknowledge our powerlessness to control the universe. (Actually, what a relief!)
  • 3. Know the facts
  • Learning to let go of controlling every detail of your life is called —- ‘wisdom’. The fact is, perfectionism isn’t even possible! And look at the amount of judgement required in deciding what ‘perfect’ is to begin with! Impossible. And miserable. Even if you tell yourself your perfectionism is only about yourself, the truth is, you are judging everyone and everything you deem ‘imperfect’. Miserable for you AND everyone else around you.
  • One person said about her compulsion for perfectionism:
  • “It’s scary sometimes, and there are days when I want to organize and reorganize my desk instead of facing what’s really bothering me.”

  • But those difficult, uncomfortable, and challenging moments pass much quicker when you simply exhale, and surrender to whatever is really going on in the moment.
  • And a sweet sort of softening occurs:

  • If I can accept myself, I can learn to accept others.

  • Isn’t life better that way?
  • She goes on to say,
  • “I may still compare myself to that social media dynamo who effortlessly attracts a huge following on Facebook or avoid looking at myself as I pass a store window for fear of being disappointed by my reflection, but now I just smile and keep going, knowing that this too shall pass.

  • Be kind. Be at peace. Become WISE!

  • Quotes from Erin Dougherty‘s blog.
  • 3 Ways To Break Free Of Perfectionism

    Worth reading – from Off the Web!

     “You’re imperfect and you’re wired for struggle but you are worthy of love and belonging.” ~Brene Brown

    There’s nothing perfect about me, and I’m okay with that… now. This wasn’t the case for most of my life, though. In fact, I’ve been a perfectionist for almost thirty years. I’m not counting the first five years of my life when I was free to be as messy and magical as I wanted.

    In third grade I asked my mom to buy me a stack of lined notebooks and colored pens. I spent hours neatly labeling each notebook by class, date, and assignment deadlines. If I made one mistake, like a jagged cursive letter or a misspelling, I’d rip out the page and begin again on a fresh sheet.

    This was tiring but it was also a compulsion. Everything had to be neat and ordered or else—or else I’d be out of control, scared, and overwhelmed.

    Before my parents divorced, they rarely fought, but my father’s frequent absences and his coolness toward my sister and me sparked a firestorm in me.

    Expressing anger wasn’t a thing in our family, especially for women. That simply wasn’t Christian enough or loving enough or good enough.

    So I denied my anger and my sadness and, most of all, my fear that my family was breaking apart and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

    Inside I burned like coals after a long night’s fire. I never let it get too hot. I played the good child, the loving daughter and sister, but my life was out of control. Thus began my long dance with perfectionism.

    I tried to be a perfect girlfriend, perfect student, and perfect employee, all the while denying the expression of my full self, imperfections and all.

    At parties, I perfected the art of banter and hosted like no one else. All was accounted for, each detail a way for me to control life.

    I never realized that perfectionism was an attempt to avoid all rejection,                                       all criticism, and all failure.  It was a matter of life or death.

    Perfectionism saved me from drowning, but it didn’t help me to swim. I was treading water, staying safe, and desperately trying to control my reality, which is never truly possible. What I realized later was at the heart of perfectionism is the desire for love and acceptance.

    Life is a practice and when we practice we make mistakes. The desire for love and acceptance are universal desires. There is no shame in mistakes, just an opportunity to learn and to grow.

    No matter the root causes of your perfectionism or your desire for it, know that it is a desire for love and acceptance and there is another path to get there. Maybe your family only showed you love and attention when you did everything right.

    Maybe you feel the need to challenge yourself to be bigger and do better in your work and your relationships. This is not a bad thing. But there’s a difference between excellence and perfection.

    The One Thing You Need to Know to Overcome Perfectionism –  Surrender

    … to the moment, to change, to messiness or imperfection. Surrender is about accepting where we are at in any moment, knowing that we are a work in progress.

    Excellence, unlike perfectionism, is about lovingly pushing ourselves to act, think, relate, and create from the highest part of ourselves.

    Perfectionism is about trying to control the outcome in order to receive love and acceptance.  It’s all about fear.

    Surrender gently tug us toward our own center of perfect humanness. Surrender also invites self-forgiveness, an act all perfectionists need to practice daily.

    3 Tips to Manage Perfectionism

    1. Laugh.

    About anything. Do it often. Having a sense of humor about ourselves and our actions, especially embarrassing or disappointing experiences, doesn’t have to be a shield or form of protection. Humor can heal or at least create enough dopamine and endorphins to get us through the tough moments.

    2. Forgive, forgive, forgive. Most of all, yourself.

    Forgiveness is actually a selfish act. This is not a bad thing. Forgiveness releases us from fear-based thoughts and emotions. It is the gateway to surrendering our perception of control over our lives and over the actions of others.

    3. Surround yourself by free spirits.

    If you can’t find anyone like that in your circle of friends, then read about them or watch movies about dreamers and risk-takers—people who’ve failed or made huge mistakes only to overcome them and create an even better life than they could have imagined.

     • ~ •

    After thirty years of perfecting perfectionism, I’ve finally learned to let go of controlling every detail of my life. It’s scary sometimes, and there are days when I want to organize and reorganize my desk instead of facing what’s really bothering me.

    But those difficult, uncomfortable, and challenging moments pass much quicker when I simply exhale and surrender to whatever is in my heart and in my mind. A softening occurs, and my body finally relaxes instead of being constantly braced for struggle.

    I may still compare myself to that social media dynamo who effortlessly attracts a huge following on Facebook or avoid looking at myself as I pass a store window for fear of being disappointed by my reflection, but now I just smile and keep going, knowing that this too shall pass.

    Edited for readability
    by  Erin Dougherty    Join Erin Dougherty’s mailing list at www.birdsongreadings.com and get a free copy of “Finding Your Personal Mythology.” Or join her Facebook group“The Mythic Life,” all about the everyday hero’s journey.

    What is Codependency?

    When I heard the term for the first time, I thought it was a good thing – like cooperation, co-ops, and interdependency. But in the field of psychology, it actually refers to a style of living that is not so good. According to Melody Beatty, who wrote “Codependent No More”:

    “It’s a condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules which prevent the open expression of feelings as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.”

    Codependents’ have low self worth and look for something outside themselves to make them feel “Okay”.  Some try to feel better through alcohol or drugs while others’ may become obsessed with other people’s problems.

    Codependency develops at home. It’s a strategy for survival in an environment where someone else’s needs were seen as more important than yours. If a parent was mentally or physically ill, or someone was raging around and threatening your safety, or any other extreme personality, you might have learned  to always be focused on other’s needs, never even knowing your own needs.

    I think codependency happens when a person believes their worth is about function and not about existence.

    Let me explain.

    We learn to care about ourselves and others’ based on two kinds of love, modeled for us through our caretakers. One – usually considered “masculine” – comes about from feedback that we do things well. The other – usually considered “feminine” – is created from knowing we are lovable because we exist.

    In dysfunctional homes, our self worth cannot be confirmed.

    Members of these families tend to believe the problems around them are their fault, thus becoming obsessed with trying to fix things that are, frankly, beyond their control.

    You can also become codependent if your home environment doesn’t nourish your spirit. Parents that fail to compliment you, that are neglectful, or do not provide proper supervision to help you feel safe, can lead a young person to doubt their worth or ability to manage life.

    They learn to seek “worthiness” through sources outside themselves.

    Like drugs.

    Like alcohol.

    Like approval.

    Like being perfect.

    I became codependent with my family. I became codependent with alcohol. I had many traumatic events that you might understand, even forgive. But the bottom line is… I thought “I” wasn’t enough to manage these things. So I drank – a lot. I justified it because I had my “boundaries”: never before 6pm,  when I had my kids (I’d recently divorced), and never when I worked.

    But my life, subtly, became controlled by my need for the substance. I’d always know how long I had to wait before I could imbibe; I’d calculate if I had “enough” for … whatever. I became convinced that everything good about me was because of who I became when I drank.

    I was so, so, so very wrong.

    Find a counselor if you doubt your worth, if you have a history of “bad” relationships, if you can’t sleep well because of worries outside your control.

    “You are responsible for helping yourself see the light and for setting yourself straight. If you can’t get peaceful about a decision, let it go. It’s not time to make it yet. Wait until your mind is consistent and your emotions are calm. Slow down. You don’t have to feel so frightened. You don’t have to feel so frantic. Keep things in perspective. Make life easier for you.” ~Melody Beatty

     

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