Procrastination is normal, and it's a good thing! (I'll tell you why in a sec.)
We all procrastinate. It’s just a matter of how quickly each of us snap out of it. The more we practice the techniques I’m going to teach you today, the quicker you’ll be able to snap out if it in the future.
Procrastination affects us all. We seem to build up a story of shame, I certainly have, surrounding procrastination, but if we all do it, then it must be normal, right?
Procrastination doesn’t mean we’re bad, or that we’re unable to accomplish our goals. All it means is that we’ve created a story around our goals, and it’s up to us to figure out what that story is and snap out of procrastination. I’m going to help you with that today.
Now even if you don’t do the work to figure out the stories, you’ll find a benefit is some of the tools I’m going to give you. But I highly suggest, doing the work because it’s going to make your life so much easier and you’ll be able to see exactly what’s going on, and you’ll be able to say to yourself when you’re procrastinating, “STOP THINKING,” and get right back into what you need to do.
Today you'll learn how to get out of procrastination and begin taking action on your goals.
Join me for my Masterclass for Lawyers:
How to Stop Procrastinating and Get a Ridiculous Amount Done without Dreading Your Workday or Pulling All-Nighters: 3 Secrets to Consistently Getting Things Done without Using Deadlines or Pressure
- 90x Goal Planner – I've been loving this planner. It keeps me engaged, and the more engaged I am, the easier it is for me to stay on track with accomplishing my goals. (Affiliate link.)
- Procrastination Busting Roadmap (free) – I've broken downs the questions to ask yourself to create awareness about whether you're procrastinating, why you're procrastinating, and what stories you may be creating around your goals. These exercises will help ferret out any hidden reasons you're self-sabotaging with procrastination. Once you have awareness, you can begin to make change.
- Accountability Roadmap (free) – If you're not sure whether you're procrastinating, you'll know for sure after you've answered the questions in this Roadmap. It breaks down how you're spending your time each week, and gives you a handy chart to track your time. If you're spending loads more time on your phone or with the couch watching TV than working towards your goals, then you're procrastinating.
- Meditation Bundle
– I've created 5 short meditations for you to test the waters. These will help you relax, so that you can see procrastination behaviors and the stories surrounding goals more easily.
- Jeffrey Goins free Writing Challenge
So why is procrastination is actually a good thing?
First, procrastination is usually one of the easier self-sabotaging behaviors to recognize.
We notice a bit easier when we watch “just one more” episode of Doctor Who or when we suddenly feel that cleaning the house is super important before we start working on that project we’ve been meaning to get to all week or before we go to the gym to reach out fitness goal.
We may recognize how our body feels when we’re procrastinating: we may get that anxious feeling in our shoulders or a tight feeling in our chest.
When we notice it, that means we can do something about it.
Second, procrastination is a good thing because it helps us recognize that there’s an area in our life we’re not addressing.
We are actively not addressing something. We’re avoiding that something as long as possible. Once we see which area we’re avoiding, we can figure out WHY we’re avoiding it. We can figure out what story we’ve created around that thing that we’re avoiding.
That is incredibly valuable for personal growth.
Third, once we figure out why we’re avoiding it, it can be easier for us to get into action and snap out of our story.
What is procrastination?
It’s a function of our brain stem and cerebellum (also known as our reptilian brain) which automatically regulates functions in our body like our heart rate, our breathing, and how our body responds to danger.
Our reptilian brain is our autopilot. You may also hear this called our lizard brain or what causes our fight or flight response to stimulus.
It’s just one part of our brain. There are three interconnected parts of our brain. Another one is our limbic brain which is in charge of our memory and emotion. That way we can remember what’s pleasant and unpleasant to us. The third is out neocortex, which is the super flexible part of our brain that allows us to learn things like language and create things. (I think of the neocortex as the smart part of our brain. It’s the rational more aware part of our brain.)
A quick example of how these three parts of our brain work together goes something like this.
We’re walking across the street, and we see a car suddenly speeding through the intersection. Our brain processes this event like this:
- The car is the stimulus that hits our senses (sight and hearing)
- What we sense goes immediately to our reptilian brain
- Our reptilian brain causes us to react (jump back, flip them off, yell)
- The information our senses received takes a bit longer to get to the neocortex, so the awareness of what actually happened takes a bit longer. With our awareness, we recognize that the car was really quite far away and wouldn’t endanger us, that the woman in the back seat appears in labor, which we may have been more understanding about, and maybe we recognize that the car wasn’t going as fast as we thought it was.
This is a simplified example, but you get my point. Our reptilian brain is the first to react. It’s up to us to start thinking through what’s going on to regulate our reactions.
Our reptilian brain processes all stimuli before our neocortex does because there’s a shortcut in our brain that goes straight to the survival portion of our brain.
Why am I telling you this?
This process I described is great for survival, but the reptilian brain gives us some undesireable side effects that we can begin to regulate when we start mastering the smart part of our brain.
Our reptilian brain is trying to protect us. Procrastination is a protection mechanism, and when we feel fear, our reptilian brain kicks into gear.
It’s important that we nip procrastination in the bud, so that our reptilian brain doesn’t make procrastination a habit (which it also regulates. This makes sense because habits are comfortable and safe).
Our reptilian brain wants us to keep us safe, make us feel warm and fuzzy, and prevent us from getting uncomfortable.
The problem with that is, if we stay in our comfort zone, we never grow as human beings.
Why do we procrastinate when it comes to pursuing our goals and growing as a human being?
We’ve never accomplished this particular goal before, and we’re not sure if we can do it. There’s lots of reasons why we might believe this, and I’ll get to those in a minute.
I call these kinds of goals our soul growing goals, and they take us out of our comfort zone.
In my opinion, the only worthwhile goals are goals that get you out of your comfort zone. If you don’t have a little fear around your goal, you’re not thinking big enough.
A few examples of goals that may create fear because they’re taking us out of our comfort zone:
- losing 50 pounds
- making $1 million a year for the first time
- Starting a business
- stopping smoking
- going out on a date
- having a to do list a mile long putting us into overwhelm
My opinion: Our job as human beings is to grow into the person who can work towards these goals.
We may never make it, but what’s important is that we continue to work towards being the person who goes for it. Otherwise, why bother waking up in the morning if we’re just settling for where we are in our life?
Why does our brain believe procrastination is necessary for our survival?
We’re telling ourselves a story surrounding our goal. It’s up to us to figure out what that story is. Once we’ve built awareness around that goal, and I’ll give you tips on this, we can choose to reframe that story and take action to crush that story.
Common stories or beliefs that might resonate with you:
- I’m not good enough
- Afraid of being seen
- Afraid of failing
- What if people judge me, which really means, “What if those people’s beliefs about me are true?”
- On the flip side, maybe you’re afraid of doing exactly what you’ve set out to do, and there’s a story you have surrounding what that means: “mo money, mo problems” or “I don’t want anyone to look bad or think I’m showing off” (yeah, that was me)
- I’ve never done it before, why would I think I could do it differently this time?
- I don’t know how to accomplish this goal
- This is hard/ There’s so much I need to do / I don’t have the time (these three things fall into the same area)
- Someone else is already doing what I want to do, what do I have to add? Why bother? Why would anyone listen to me? (Self-doubt category)
What we feel is how we think.
Our mind controls our emotion.
We control which stories we tell ourselves.
The cool thing about being human: we get to make choices about how we feel.
The downside of being human: we get to make choices about how we feel, therefore we must take full responsibility for what we’re feeling. So if we tell ourselves these stories that we use to keep us from acting on our goals, it’s our fault.
So how do we stop procrastinating?
1. We must become aware of when we're procrastinating. That will tell us what are we avoiding.
Watch TV? When do we do it? What are we telling ourselves we really ought to be doing right now?
Maybe you have a fitness goal, want to write a book, thinking about creating a business.
I would actually list out everything you do to procrastinate that way you’re more aware of your behaviors.
2. Building self-awareness around why we are avoiding what we’re avoiding.
Even if you don’t do #2, you can still work through procrastination, but it’s important to help create better habits.
- Write what you do to procrastinate
- What’s your goal that you’re hesitating to complete?
- This may take some time writing through it, be patient with yourself
- What you’re telling yourself about the goal you want to reach
- What’s you’re negative self talk
- We’re going to reframe this negative self talk, and you’ll want to write the reframe down
- What’s you’re negative self talk
- Meditation – short meditations if you’ve never tried it before.
- Quiet time
3. Break down your task into baby steps.
Break down your seemingly giant goal into one thing you can do right now that will help you reach your goal. Because once we get one thing started, it’s easier for us to do the next most important thing we need to do.
“The more engaged I am, the more committed I become.” This dissolves procrastination.
If you have a weight loss goal: Don’t think about the ultimate goal of losing 50 pounds. That may freak you out at the perceived bigness of this goal. Think about what you can do right now in this moment just to get some traction. Write out some dishes you can eat, which may start you thinking about a meal plan for the week, then a grocery list, then a plan to make it easy for you to put your meals together, then take a trip to the grocery store.
Starting a business or have a big income goal this year: break that goal into bits and pieces. Don’t look at the whole goal because our brain freezes up if we’ve never done this before. We break it down into 90 day goals, then we break that down even further into two week goals, and what we can do today to reach those 2 week goals, and finally what we can do today.
I’ve been using the 90X goal planner lately and I’ve been loving it. I’ll link to it in the show notes. It keeps me engaged and, therefore, more committed to my goals.
You just take your goal one day at a time.
The key is taking action. Once we become engaged, we will work through the procrastination faster each time it happens. The more you practice getting into action, the quicker you will snap out of inaction, or procrastination, the next time you do it.
4. Reframe your beliefs [or lie to yourself]
Our beliefs are instilled in us when we’re young and we don’t have the ability to think through how rational they are.
The helpful thing about our brain is that it doesn't understand the difference between real and imagined. So if you tell yourself something enough times, your brain begins to believe it.
In order to use this reframing technique, you need to know what your story is. Remember, we ALL procrastinate, so that means we ALL have a story surrounding our goals. It’s up to us to snap out of it. Once you do the work, it’ll become much quicker to get out of our heads in the future and tell ourselves, “STOP THINKING!”
But at first, we need to do this to start creating awareness.
I’m going to break down this next section into THE STORY and THE REFRAME.
Story: I’m not good enough. What if people judge me, which really means, “What if their beliefs about me are true, and I am awful, not good enough, not ready, too old/young, etc.?”
Reframe: So you’re saying that caring about what others think of you is so important to you that you’re willing to live small and settle? Secret: people are going to judge you anyway, so you may as well do what you want to do and be happy.
Story: “I’m afraid of doing exactly what I’ve set out to do, of being seen,” and there’s a story you have surrounding what that means: “mo money, mo problems” or “I don’t want anyone to look bad or think I’m showing off.”
Reframe: Not doing what you want to do is selfish. Who are you to hold back and not do what you’re meant to do? Secret: the most important thing we can do is live the best version of our lives. Living our dreams inspires others to do the same. And that can only improve the world.
Story: I’ve never done it before, why would I think I could do differently this time? I’m afraid of failing.
Reframe: So you’re saying that no one has ever stumbled block and couldn’t figure it out eventually? Where would we have been if Edison decided to give up on the light bulb? It took him 1000 times to create the lightbulb. When someone asked him how he got through all those failures he said, “I didn’t fail 1000 times; the lightbulb was an invention that took 1000 steps to create.”
Story: I don’t know how to accomplish this goal /This is hard/ There’s so much I need to do / I don’t have the time
Reframe: What would someone who knew how to make this goal do? Who’s already completed this goal? Who can I ask questions?
Ask yourself: what if it were easy? What would I do if I believed this was easy? That I had enough time?
Story: Someone else is already doing this business/has this idea, etc, what do I have to add? Why bother?
Reframe: Their business doesn’t have my personality. I have an awesome personality. The fact that someone else is doing this shows me that there’s a market for what I want to do!
The next thing we can do is…
5. Join an accountability group.
Afraid of being seen or putting yourself out there, so you don’t use video in your business? Join a FB live challenge online. Google it.
Afraid of putting yourself out there as a writer? Join a writer’s group online and join a challenge. Jeffrey Goins has a writing challenge to get you into the habit of writing 500 words a day.
The point is, everything can be figured out. Go online and find a challenge or a meet up that works for you to get help being held accountable. This can be your first baby step to break out of procrastination too!
And don’t use a friend as your accountability partner, because you’ll be more likely to follow through on your goals if you’ve told like-minded people that you’re going to do what you say you’re going to do. A friend will let you off the hook.
I’ll include the Accountability Roadmap I’ve created in the show notes too. It helps you work through how much time you really have in the day to reach your goals, and includes a tracker, so you can see how much time you’re procrastinating versus working towards your goals. You can also use the Accountability Roadmap as a way to build awareness of how much time you’re spending working towards your goals versus procrastinating.
Now you know that procrastination is normal — we all do it. In fact procrastination is a good thing because now we have the info we need to figure out where there’s resistance in our lives. That resistance shows us what we’re scared of and helps us figure out what the story is around the goal we have.
The first step is to see that we’re procrastinating, and we then we can figure out what we’re avoiding. What the big scary goal we’re avoiding?
Second, then we can work on bringing more awareness to why that goal is so darn scary to us. We can use tools like journaling, meditation and quiet time to let our brain sort this out.
Even if you don’t do the work (which I highly suggest you do), we can still trick our brain into moving through procrastination.
Step three can be: Breaking down your task into baby steps.
“The more engaged I am, the more committed I become.”
Step four: Reframe your beliefs [or lie to yourself]
Step five: Join an accountability group that will keep you honest.