“I get so frustrated. I know I have these tasks to do, and yet I find myself hopping onto social media or getting a drink or something else. I never get as far as I want. I’m sure everyone else is crushing it.”
I’ve heard so many flavours of this observation/ complaint / self-criticism over the last few weeks.
It’s easy to give yourself a hard time about not being as productive as you think you should be.
This week, I’m bringing a different perspective to this challenge.
I want to suggest there is one very powerful antidote to procrastination and delaying.
When a client talks to me about their struggles with getting going, I ask them about something they love doing.
Whether it’s cooking, reading, gardening, sport, time with friends or kids, invariably, when I ask if they struggle with procrastination when doing those things, they say no.
We explore deeper ‘Why do you think that is?’
Answers usually go something like ‘I’m enjoying myself. I like doing X. It’s fun. I get into the flow.’
I agree with them, that sounds plausible.
I also share with them, this…
My (informed) guess is that they are also really present. Their minds are clear and focused. They're not distracted or distractible. They are 100% in the moment with what they’re doing.
What has this got to do with procrastination?
You see, there are two simple root causes of procrastination, as I see it.
1 You have a distracting thought and buy into it (eg This is too hard; I don’t enjoy this; I don’t know where to start; it’s too complicated etc)
2 You have a distracting feeling and buy into it (eg I feel overwhelmed; I’m anxious about getting it wrong; it needs to be perfect; I’m bored by this task etc)
With both these root causes, the outcome is the same. You down tools or jump onto something else.
Most ‘anti-procrastination’ advice will give you behavioural tools to support you. For example, to do lists, accountability partners, rewards, time limits and focus.
What if there were something far more simple?
Finding your way back into presence.
From presence, you can either fall into the flow of the task or listen to your deeper wisdom and see if it is suggesting you defer.
From presence, your mind is clear and ready to take action.
From presence, you have a kind, open stance towards yourself and your task.
From presence, you accept all your feeling states and are able to move into action.
From presence, none of your experience needs cleaning up, pushing away or changing.
Of course, you might be wondering, that’s all good, but how do I get present?
There are countless ways and it’s always best to find what works for you.
Here are some suggestions:
- Stand up, feel your feet on the floor / ground. Scan up your body to your head and back down again.
- Grip something in your hand - a stone, a fruit, a piece of wood and feel into the texture, weight and temperature.
- Name 5 things you can see, 4 you can hear, 3 you can touch, 2 you can smell 1 you can taste.
- Take a deep breath, hold a moment and exhale, elongating the out breath.
- Do some yoga poses.
- Write in your journal about your current experience.
- Reflect on things you are grateful for right now.
There are countless ways to bring yourself back into the present moment and from that place step into action.
This falling into presence really is the simplest way to get beyond procrastination.