The deadline is looming. It’s a big one, and it’s starting to play on your mind.
But still, you can’t get moving on the task. You open your laptop or place yourself where you need to be, and crickets.
Your phone is close by so you pick it up and start idly flicking through your feed.
Then, you feel a coffee is needed to get the energy up.
Next there was that thing you’ve been meaning to look up and never get round to.
After that, you notice your inbox is a mess and dive in to sort it out.
Hours later, you’re no further forward.
That night you wake up, sweating this task that’s not going away, cursing yourself for leaving it till the last minute.
We all get ‘exam syndrome’ from time to time. Putting off what creates most value in our lives because….
Well that’s the big question.
Because of what?
You'd think it might be about a character flaw, some say it's laziness, not enough stress, or just being wired wrong.
None of that is true.
When I dig into that with my clients, we usually land on one of these root causes. They may not initially be conscious, but we always get to flavour of one of these:
- It’s overwhelmingly big / complex - I don’t know where to start
- I’m scared of getting it wrong or failing - I’d rather not risk it
- I’m not comfortable with what’s being asked of me and so I’m putting it off
- I don’t know how to do it and feel stuck
- I’m afraid of succeeding
You’d think the most obvious way to tackle any of these resistances, would be to provide solutions to the problems presented.
For example 1 - it’s too complex / big. Break it down, share it out, do the simplest thing first.
All these are valid and potential solutions.
For example 2 - identify the real risks vs the perceived risks. Isolate the reward and look at what’s in the way of getting it. Again, a perfectly reasonable avenue.
For example 3 - dig deep into your values. Are they at odds with what’s being asked of you? If so, what options might there be to renegotiate the task. Or in extremis, is it time to consider if this is the right role / situation / relationship for you?
For example 4 - how can you show vulnerability and ask for help? What research / skills / knowledge do you need to deepen to get this done? What mentoring or coaching might serve you?
For example 5 - what stories are you telling yourself about your right to have a place at the table? How is that serving your, your colleagues / partner / family / clients?
Playing at the level of these tactics, a lot can shift.
It’s also important to think about what else might be a play.
Are you in a relaxed frame of mind when you’re ready to tackle your task? Are you rested enough? Have you cleared enough mental and physical space to be at your most effective? Are you hydrated, and well fed?
These are the basics of good performance.
In my work, we also explore a far more leveraged level of understanding.
That, if we understand that our feelings are directly mirroring our state of mind and our thoughts, not our circumstances, then we are much freer to take action.
Let me explain.
Most of us, if you asked, would say that circumstances create our feelings. The crazy traffic. The intrusive neighbour. The pain in the backside customer or colleague.
It seems as if these circumstances create our discomfort or stress.
But what’s really happening is that our thinking in the moment, ABOUT that situation is what is creating our feeling.
Our thinking about the situation, not the situation itself.
That small distinction is incredibly important and powerful.
It’s the difference between the person banging the steering wheel and shouting in the traffic jam and the person who’s not phased.
You can bring that same understanding to situations which are seemingly sticky and where you feel you can’t get started.
Knowing your feelings are telling you about your state of mind, gives you freedom to act, irrespective of the circumstances.
It’s the key to moving into action, even when you don’t feel like it.