Gotta question for you.
Do you ever procrastinate?
It can look something like this in real life.
You finally have some time in your schedule to work on that art, work, home or personal project that you’ve been dreaming about.
But what are you doing?
And with every day that passes by you get more and more frustrated with yourself and you begin to believe that there’s something terribly wrong with you.
Why else would you be procrastinating?
Just recently, I was dealing with some procrastination of my very own. After a few years of dreaming about it, I was finally given the opportunity to write for a publication that I truly admire.
But as soon as the acceptance email landed in my inbox, procrastination set in. Instead of moving full steam ahead, I stalled and eagerly indulged every distraction (whether real or imagined) that came my way.
Although it’s something that even the most successful and confident among us deal with, the reasons why ACOAs procrastinate tend to be closely aligned with our fears of rejection, criticism and our typically low to no self-esteem.
The not so good news is this. Procrastination can not only stir up deep frustration but if left unchecked it can keep us pegged to the sidelines of life, worried that it’s too late to change.
But the great news is this. You can work through procrastination. I’m not saying it’s easy but it is possible. And that’s what you’re going to learn all about in today’s post.
I’m sharing some of the tools that I use to work through procrastination when it strikes.
Just a quick heads up here. I spent an entire afternoon researching the many causes and cures for procrastination. I learned that overall, researchers have yet to agree on what it is exactly that triggers procrastination. And a result, the Internet has no shortage of suggestions of how to deal with it. So, it’s up to you to experiment and figure out what makes sense for you in your life.
Just be sure to keep in mind that you’re not alone.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. In the comment section, tell me how you work through procrastination. If you have any additional thoughts or insights to share, on today’s topic, leave those behind as well.
Remember, your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
As always, thanks for reading!
Until next Tuesday,
P.S. Have a friend, family member or fellow ACOA that struggles with procrastination? Share this post with them.
#1 Discover Your Why
In the book, Treating Adult Children of Alcoholics: A Behavioral Approach, Douglas Rubin says this about why ACOAs procrastinate:
Avoidance and escape nearly always produce a delay or termination of tasks the ACOA feels are (a) difficult to do, (b) outside their repertoire, or (c) prone to cause conflict, criticism, or rejection.
So when it comes to tackling procrastination, I’ve personally benefitted from understanding why I do it.
For me, procrastination is rooted in perfection. When I start any task, whether it’s writing this newsletter or showing up for a spin class at the gym, the fear of not doing it perfectly triggers procrastination.
When I start to feel myself back away from a task or indulge the endless excuses that feed the cycle of procrastination, I remind myself that I don’t have to perfect. I remind myself that my job is to just show up, exactly as I am with what I have and give whatever’s in front of me the best that I have to give that day.
In order to work through the procrastination, I have to bring my need for perfection into the light. And once I see it and acknowledge that it’s there, I can give myself permission to proceed knowing that the final product will not be perfect.
Having an idea of why you procrastinate can go a long way in helping you work through it.
So, right now I want you to think about a task or a project that you’re procrastinating on.
For right now we’re not going to focus on completing the task but instead I want you to get curious about why you’re having difficulty getting started.
Do you believe that this task or project is too difficult for you?
Do you believe that you don’t have the skills or know how to complete the task?
Are you afraid of discovering that you don’t have what it takes?
Are you afraid of what will happen if you make a mistake?
Are you afraid that the work you do won’t be good enough?
Do you expect or are you anticipating that your effort will be rejected or criticized? Are you afraid that you won’t be able to handle the rejection or criticism?
The important thing to remember here is that there are no right or wrong answers. All that you’re trying to do is understand what could be lurking behind your need to procrastinate. And once you believe that you’ve discovered this source, I want you to bring it out into the light. Look at it and then give yourself permission to proceed despite it.
Give yourself permission to get started even if the finished project will be far from perfect. Even if you make a thousand blush worthy mistakes along the way. Even if you know that your mom, sister or uncle, boss or co-worker will reject or criticize your efforts.
Do it anyway.
#2 Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Procrastination triples in power when it’s paired with overwhelm.
So one way to avoid overwhelm is to break that task or project down into the smallest pieces possible.
When it comes to working through procrastination – bigger isn’t always better.
The simplest way to break a task down is to sit at your desk with a blank page in your notebook or a fresh doc on your computer and list out all of the tasks that you need to complete to finish that project.
So let’s say you’re thinking about, I don’t know, baking a big, beautiful chocolate cake for a loved one’s birthday.
The first thing you’d want to do is brainstorm your list of tasks. So your list may look something like this:
#1 Find chocolate cake recipe on Food Network
#2 Decide icing flavor
#3 List out ingredients needed
#4 Double check pantry and fridge to see what I already have
#5 Schedule a date for ingredient shopping
#6 Go ingredient shopping
I think you get the idea here. The point is that you want to get all of your to-dos out of your head and onto the paper. And then from there you want to break those tasks down into manageable bits that you can handle.
Look. I know that this idea I’m sharing here is nothing new. But sometimes the answers we seek to our problems are often simple and far from complicated. And every now and then it’s nice to be reminded of that.
So right now, if there’s a project or a task that you need to get started but procrastination and overwhelm is getting in your way, get out a piece of paper, right now and brainstorm your to-dos.
#3 Give Yourself 20 Minutes
Years ago, when I worked in corporate America, my boss pulled me aside one day and urged me to consider investing in a new pair of heels.
At first I was offended but after I thought about it, my boss had a point. My shoes were scuffed and faded and the rubber at the tip of the heel looked like it had been passed through a pencil sharpener a dozen times.
The only problem was that I hated (and still hate) shopping. Just the thought of having to brave the crowds of Manhattan, for even just one pair of new shoes, caused me to procrastinate big time. This was a few years before Amazon and shopping online became a thing.
I shared my overwhelm and frustration with a co-worker and she gave me a simple suggestion that has stuck with me for years.
She suggested that I set myself a time limit for shopping. So instead of thinking that I had to spend hours in a hot and stuffy department store looking for shoes, she suggested I commit to spending just 20 minutes.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of it on my own but her simple suggestion instantly made hunting down a new pair of shoes doable.
And now, I’m passing on her advice to you. When you’re faced with starting a task, give yourself a set amount of time to work on it.
Whenever, I feel procrastination setting in, I reach for the timer on my phone and set it for 20 minutes. And I commit to working on whatever is in front of me for that block of time.
And I know that once my timer goes off, I’m free. But to be totally honest with you, a majority of the time I ignore the timer and keep going.
That’s the thing about procrastination, sometimes we just need to get started, to get the momentum going. And once we do, no matter how small the task is, the urge to procrastinate slowly fades away.
Now, I’ve shared with you what I do to work through procrastination: discover why, break the task down and set a time limit. But overall, the idea here is to keep your approach simple. Remember the answers or solutions that you’re looking for don’t have to be complicated!