My name is Trish and I am a procrastinator. Not just a put off what I don’t want to do, like cleaning my apartment procrastinator. I mean this blog is due to my accountability partner today and I just now sat down and wrote it, procrastinator. I wait until the last minute for almost everything. I work best under pressure, but sometimes that pressure boils over into a meltdown. Like the time I almost quit college because I waited until the last minute to write a paper (that, by the way, was a large percentage of my grade) and when I sat down to write it, no words would come out onto the paper. I literally had a meltdown and called in reinforcements to help me through it. Those reinforcements came in the form of a friend, my mom, and a nap. After my mom and friend calmed me down and I was able to reset my brain with a nap, I finished the paper, turned it in on time and got a good grade (not an A, but what did I expect?), and finished the class. And if you are wondering, yes I did finished college.
You may be asking yourself, why as a new business owner and life coach would I be admitting to this type of irresponsibility? Well I think most people procrastinate and if sharing the things I still need to work on in my life helps someone else, then share I will. Sometimes we have to reframe the way we think about things in our lives that are perceived as weaknesses (more on that later). I also believe we should be sharing more of our struggles, not just the highlight reel we see on social media. I love a good highlight reel as much as the next person, but I also love to see what people are actually going through and how they made it through. Plus, many times, it is the struggle that bonds people together. It empowers us to reach out and say, “I go through that too."
Through my many years as a procrastinator, I have realized that there are different levels to my procrastination. Maybe you realized the same thing? With these levels of procrastination also comes different levels of anxiety (look for a future blog post about struggling with anxiety). Having this realization has enabled me to work with my procrastination problem verses against it and avoid having the guilt that can go along with it. So let’s dig-in, shall we?
"Procrastination is my sin. It brings me naught but sorrow.
I know that I should stop it. In fact, I will - tomorrow!"
Level one is the easiest to deal with, and honestly I think just comes with adulting. It causes me little to no anxiety. It is procrastinating on the things I just don’t feel like doing. Cleaning my apartment is one of my least favorite things to do. I could know for days that I have company coming over, and my apartment looks like a tornado hit. 30-minutes prior to said company arriving, miraculously I find the energy needed to clean and my place is spotless (Disclaimer: My apartment doesn’t always look like a tornado whirled through, but I travel a lot for work so let’s be real..unpacking kinda sucks). Things like laundry, homework, working out, putting away the clean dishes...this list could go on with all the adulting things we have to do. In the end, everything gets done. Remember procrastination does not mean doing nothing. It means doing them later. And my later can go on for days, especially if there is a Netflix binge that takes precedence - do ya feel me?!
Level two steps up the anxiety a little as it includes other people. It is procrastinating on things that I agreed to do, but should not have. I agreed out of obligation. For example, I said yes to doing an encyclopedia entry for a spa organization’s website I was associated with when I was still a spa director. When I left being a spa director I let them know (or perhaps too subtly implied) that they could give the project to someone else. Unfortunately, they “graciously” gave me extra time to complete the entry. As a people pleaser, I did not want to let anyone down so I agreed to fulfil my commitment. That was my first mistake. Every time I would see this on my to do list I felt the pangs of anxiety as I knew I didn’t want to do it, but had made a commitment. For a year I procrastinated on this project, and went back and forth with the organizer getting extension after extension until I finally wrote the dreaded email to apologize and inform her that I was not going to be able to complete it - EVER. When I finally let her know I wouldn’t be able to complete it, a huge weight was lifted, along with my anxiety. Strangely, the world did not end and she was super gracious about it. That’s the funny thing, we usually create these crazy stories in our mind of what might happen if we break a commitment, so instead we put it off. When in reality the reaction from the other party is usually “Ok, thanks for letting me know.”
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
If there are things on your list that you know you are never going to get done, just take them off - and I don’t mean stuff from that first list that we have to do as adults. I mean the stuff that is on your list that is a choice and your decision to make. If they involve other people, take a deep breathe, have the hard conversation and enjoy the freedom. If it is something that you put on your list like taking a class or reading a book, yet everytime you look at it, it fills you with dread - remove it from the list. You can always put it back on down the road. Taking things off your list just makes room for more important things to get done. Sometimes we have to break a commitment in order to honor ourselves and where we are at in our life.
This last level definitely causes me the most anxiety and it is procrastinating because I am scared of the outcome, like writing this blog. Fear is the one that stops me from doing the things I want to do, that I am capable of doing, but scared of the “what ifs.” It's what keeps it on that to-do list for far too long.
These are some of the “what ifs” that swirl through my mind and creates fear, specifically when it comes to blogging, but could be translated to other things as well:
What if people won’t read my blog?
What if they do and hate it?
What if what I have to say isn’t valid or as profound as what someone else is saying?
What if people think, “Who does she think she is?”
Have you ever “what if’d” yourself to death? Specifically about a big goal or something you have dreamed of doing?
When that fear creeps in, it can and a lot of times does, keep us from acting on those big goals and dreams, maybe forever. I don’t know about you, but I hate seeing that little box unchecked. I also hate letting fear get the best of me and keep me from living the life that I want to live. So, when it comes to being fearful of the outcome, most times I just fight through it (eventually), then realize that I had nothing to be fearful of. I know that some of you might say, you can’t fight through it, but I know you can. Maybe you just need to break the goal down into smaller pieces so it doesn’t seem so big. For me, like with this blog, I found having an accountability partner super helpful (thanks Melissa). We set due dates, which are my best friend when it comes to procrastination, cheer each other on, and hold each other accountable to get it done, even when its hard. It's all about taking that first step to reaching that goal.
In looking inward at my procrastination problem, I actually don’t think procrastination is a problem (ok, maybe sometimes it is). That is of course if your life is still moving forward and your adulting stuff is getting done. I think procrastination can be used as a tool to determine if you are moving in the right direction. It’s an opportunity to check in with yourself and ask where is this procrastination coming from? Is it because it is not a priority for me, or is it because I am scared? Once you have your answer you can decide the next step to take.
Take it off the list OR take some action.
"Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today." -Thomas Jefferson