I have a subscription to a program called Master Writer. It helps me find synonyms, phrases, verbs… basically different words I could use when I’m stuck in my writing.
Looking up a word in Master Writer requires me to load the app in my browser.
Inevitably Facebook or gmail is open when I do this causing me to fall into the rabbit hole, responding to a comment or reading an email. Before I know it, an entire twenty minutes will fly by and I’m shopping for tote bags at Madewell.com.
I willingly allow myself to get distracted like this when I’m struggling with my writing.
It’s an insidious form of procrastination.
There are a couple things going on here:
Finishing my word count isn’t urgent enough to my brain so I lolly gag. The fix has been to shorten my window. I’m allocating one hour instead of two and getting more done in less time.
I don’t like the discomfort of my own bad writing so I shop for tote bags instead. What works is to remind myself that bad writing is how to get to good writing. And I close ALL TABS except Master Writer.
There are a lot of insidious ways to avoid doing things…
Here are the 9 most common forms of procrastination I see + some fixes:
1) It’s Not Urgent Enough
Maybe it’s a project with lots of moving parts or it’s something longer term (like a book) or you don’t have anyone to answer to… you might struggle to make continuous progress on this project or you start and stop (which could go on for years) or you don’t even start.
Try chunking the project into smaller tasks then put those tasks in your calendar for a certain block of time – try one or two hours. Make sure you have something concrete you can say you accomplished at the end of your time. With writing, I shoot for a specific word count.
Get an accountability partner or hire a coach who can help you stay focused, show up for yourself and help you troubleshoot when you aren’t doing the work. I have a writing coach and I have to turn in my writing to her each week.
2. Fear of Failure
Newsflash: Not starting at all is a form of procrastination. If you make failure mean something about your worth you will likely find it difficult to take action on projects that are meaningful to you. In fact you probably don’t even let yourself dream about that shit. My hunch is you stay nice and cozy in your zone of competency where you do things well and rarely feel vulnerable.
Understand that “failure” is information to help you succeed. Throw away all that old programming you carry that tells you that you have to do things well the first time, that some people are just better, or that it’s wrong to dream. That kind of thinking is patriarchal bullshit you have internalized that is keeping you quiet, mediocre (when you’re so not), and pleasing to the powers that be. RESIST that shit.
3. Low Self Worth
Along the same lines… You poor thing! You carry so much shame that the thought of that project triggers all your shit. You don’t want to do it wrong or make mistakes because that makes you feel even worse about yourself.
Somewhere along the way you decided it wasn’t safe to be human. Damn that is a lot of pressure. Remember this: humans hold all of it, the shadow and the light. So doing things poorly is part of the human experience. You expect yourself to be SUPERMAN and it’s just not possible. Forgive your flaws and move forward as someone who makes mistakes.
4. Fear of What People Think
If you have this, I doubt you are letting yourself even get started. You are giving away your power to OTHER PEOPLE. If they approve of you, you approve of you. And hell if you’re going to give them a reason NOT to approve of you.
Start by learning your approval seeking personality type: http://www.approvalquizcom then take my fucking course for approval addicts (email me for the deets). And remember you’ll never be able to control how other people think and you can’t actually read minds (even though you think you can).
Sometimes the thing you want to do is just too confusing, too big or too overwhelming which gives you a handy excuse to not do it.
Admit to yourself that you are using the confusion and/or overwhelm as an excuse and do the very first thing. And ask for some fucking help.
6. You Don’t Want To
There are a couple things going on here. One, you might be forcing yourself to work in your zone of incompetence which means everything you do feels like swimming upstream. The other thing to keep in mind is that even exciting projects that allow you to work in your zone of genius contain tedious tasks. If you expect to feel elated the entire time you have un-fucking realistic expectations.
Stop expecting it to all be rainbows and unicorns and sit in the chair for an allotted amount of time (shorter chunks for the tedious stuff can help) or hire someone to do the parts you dislike. Reward yourself when you finish something hard.
7. You Work Better Under Pressure
Some people need a lot of urgency to get things done. Don’t make it mean you are wrong. This pattern can become a problem though when it gets in the way of your health and happiness. Maybe you find you lose too much sleep and it sucks the next day when you have to take take care of your kids. What worked in college doesn’t necessarily translate.
If you need urgency then play with ways to impose urgency that don’t interfere with your health and well-being. Maybe you make a big move and hire a coach to hold you accountable to do a certain amount of work each week. Maybe you shorten the amount of time you have to finish a task.
8. You are “Too Busy”
A lot people struggle with this one. Most people who complain about being too busy to get important shit done, have crappy boundaries. They believe that having their own needs is not a priority (or shouldn’t be), that their own goals or “frivolous,” or that they just aren’t important. So they say yes to everyone else then seethe with resentment in their free time instead of working on their own stuff.
The other issue here is logistical. If you value yourself enough to make your needs a priority but your not getting to your projects, then you have to learn how to manage your time better and show up when you say you’re going to.
Stop saying yes to everyone else and no to yourself and learn time management — I have a time management online class. You can email me for the deets.
Sometimes perfectionism is an avoidance strategy. If you do it “perfectly,” (which isn’t actually possible btw) you can avoid listening to your inner critic bash you and you don’t open yourself up to criticism from other people.
Some people are just detail oriented and everything takes them a long time.
Go back and read what I wrote under Fear of Failure, Low Self Worth and Fear of What Other People Think. They all apply to you. And if everything just takes you longer, give yourself more fucking time and/or break things into smaller chunks.
The bottom line?
Most procrastination is a way to avoid emotional pain when the reality is that any project worth working on is going to bring up your shit. Expect to feel fear, anxiety, stress, boredom, self-doubt…
These are normal human emotions that go hand in hand with GROWTH. If you are a serial procrastinator you are very good at avoiding the very reason you were put on this planet – to learn, to grow, to expand and to share your gifts.
If you want stop being a serial procrastinator and embrace your humanity and start back on the path of expansion, I can help. THIS IS THE FINAL DAY to get a pre-sale ticket to my LIVE virtual event called Get IT Done and save $300. Click here to learn more: https://beingamy.lpages.co/get-shit-done-retreat/
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