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#246: Why We Procrastinate

Why we procrastinate isn't as simple as you may think.

Most lawyers think they procrastinate for three reasons:

1. They're lazy

2. They don't have enough willpower

3. There's something wrong with them

If this is you, I have good news for you: none of these reasons are true!

In this episode of Be a Better Lawyer Podcast, you'll learn the real reasons why we procrastinate.

You'll learn:

  • The three reasons we really procrastinate
  • Why our brain actually promotes procrastination
  • How you can start making change (without more willpower)

Want to learn the habits you need to stop procrastination for good?

Join me for my latest Masterclass for Lawyers: “How to Stop Procrastinating and Get a Ridiculous Amount Done Without Dreading Your Work Day or Pulling All-Nighters: 3 Secrets to Consistently Getting Things Done without using Deadlines or Pressure”

Register for the Stop Procrastinating Masterclass

This Masterclass will be a game-changer for you.

Make sure you register, and I'll see you there.



Are you a Be a Better Lawyer Podcast ride-or-die?

Thanks for listening, and I'll talk to you next week.

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Why We Procrastinate.

You may be one of the people who think — like I used to — that once we put something on the calendar or tell ourselves that we’re going to do something that we should just do it.

As you may know already, that son’t how it works.

And when things don’t go according to plan, you may tell yourself one of three things has gone wrong.

One: that you’re lazy, and that you’re just a procrastinator

Two: that you don’t have enough willpower

Three: that you’re not capable; that you have some sort of block or malfunction that goes beyond being lazy. In other words, there’s something wrong with you.

The good news is, none of these are true.

You’re not lazy, and you’re not “just a procrastinator.” There’s no such thing as a procrastinator. There’s just humans with human brains.

You also don’t need more willpower to get things done. Yes, you’ll need commitment, but commitment is much easier to develop when you know how.

You are also 100% capable. There’s nothing wrong with you.

I used to be a serial procrastinator, and I changed myself little by little until I became that person who people would ask, “How do you get so much done?”

There’s actually three reasons why we procrastinate, and I’m sharing those with you today.

Before I do, I want to tell you about my new Masterclass: 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

You can register at https://dinacataldo.com/procrastination

Something we don’t think about, but you probably intuitively know to be true, is that procrastinating drains our bodies just like leaving your phone in the cold drains the battery of a phone. If you’ve ever brought your phone to the mountains and wondered why the battery drains so fast, here’s why. Stay with me because this is how the body and mind work when it comes to procrastination.

Basically, if a smartphone uses a lithium-ion battery, there’s a chemical reaction inside the battery that sends energy through the phone’s circuitry and lets us keep it powered up. Cold temperatures slow this chemical reaction down. The cold creates resistance that doesn’t let the  power reach the circuitry to keep the phone alive. The phone drains fast because the power doesn’t get where it needs to go.

Same goes for us. Imagine you start the day with a full battery. Then you have a project on your desk you’re procrastinating on. You feel dread in your body. The dread is like the cold weather to a phone. It creates resistance. Then you begin to lose steam. Yes, you get other little projects done, but the resistance prevents you from being at your best.

We usually double down on this energy drain all week because we’re thinking about the project at night and feel horrible all week and rely on deadlines to be the pressure we need to push through and do the work.

You can do it this way for a while, but eventually your battery will die and you’ll burn out.

In the How to Stop Procrastinating Masterclass, you’ll learn how to get things done without the dread or the deadlines, so you’re not draining your battery.

You’ll have more energy to accomplish goals during your week like building business or hitting billables or getting to hang out at home without thinking about work.

Sound impossible?

It’s not.

Sign up for the How to Stop Procrastinating Masterclass.

It’s happening Thursday February 23rd at 8am Pacific and 11am Eastern.

I will send out a replay, but you’ll want to show up live, so you get dibs on something special I’m only offering to live attendees.

Sign up at https://dinacataldo.com/procrastination

OK, let’s get into this episode.

The 3 reasons why we procrastinate.

Reason #1: A poor relationship with time

Reason #2: A poor relationship with how our brain works

Reason #3: A poor relationship with ourselves.

Procrastination is usually a result of a combination of the way we think about these relationships.

Relationships are made up of our thoughts about something. As we go through these, notice what you’re thinking about each of these relationships.

#1: We procrastinate because we have a poor relationship with time.

Most people’s relationship with time is negative.

It makes sense because we’re fed lots of thoughts about time that are untrue. We hear our parents say these or we hear people we respect say these, and we take them in as true. These thoughts are harmful to our relationship with time.

Thoughts like:

I don’t have enough time.

Time is money.

I’m too busy.

I have no time.

They’re wasting my time.

That’s a waste of my time.

I need more time, so I can do more.

I need to work faster.

I have so much to do; I should just jump in and get started.

We have a lot of scarcity built in to how we talk about time.

A scarcity relationship is going to create tightness and stinginess.

We’ll feel overwhelmed, anxious, resentful and even angry at the things and people around us because we believe they are impacting our experience of time.

The only thing that can impact our experience of time is how we think about time.

How we think about time determines our relationship with time.

The irony of this kind of thinking is we THINK we’re stating the truth, but when we think this way we procrastinate and deplete our time. Just like that battery that drains in the cold, we’re draining our battery thinking we need to do more and we don’t have enough time.

When I was a brand new prosecutor, I made the mistake of focusing on believing that “I have so much to do, I should just jump in.”

That thought prevented me from prioritizing. My brain couldn’t focus because it was like my brain was paralyzed. So my brain reached for the quickest things to do instead of the things that needed to be done first. I’ll talk more about this in a second.

This put me in a situation where I wasn’t focusing on the things that needed to get done. I was procrastinating by default.

Because I wasn’t prioritizing, I ended up putting off the most important things until the last minute because I wasn’t thinking through how I was using my time.

If you want to stop procrastinating, this relationship with time needs to be healed.

Notice how you talk about time.

Sometimes just noticing it is enough to calm your nervous system enough to sit down and prioritize.

We’re going to talk about more ways to begin healing this relationship with time in the How to Stop Procrastinating Masterclass, so be sure to sign up.

Number 2: Your relationship with your brain.

This relationships is based on our understanding of our brain and how it works.

Unfortunately, no one gives us an owner’s manual for how our brains work.

That means most of us don’t understand why we do what we do.

If you’ve been listening to this podcast, you know a lot more than most people do.

When I came out of law school and was faced with the influx of work I got as an attorney, I had zero understanding of my brain or how to calm it down. It worried all the time. I thought I was going to get fired at any moment.

I’d work late hours and use deadlines to pressure myself to get work done. I didn’t use a calendar except for hearing and trial dates. I’d jump into my case load and then work late hours when a brief was due. My brain was all over the place.

Looking back with what I’ve learned about the brain since then, I was in survival mode. My brain turned to outside comforts like alcohol and television to numb the anxiety and fear I felt.

Those things don’t actually help though. They’re temporary band aids to what you’re feeling and don’t address the root of the problem.

The root problem was that I didn’t know how to manage my brain when I felt anxiety, fear or overwhelm.

Those feelings actually promote procrastination.

If you feel anxiety or overwhelm and notice you procrastinate until the last minute, don’t plan your week to prioritize the most important tasks, or use deadlines to pressure yourself to get work done, healing this relationship with your brain is key.

Until I learned how to manage my brain, I felt like I was at the mercy of my caseload. I felt pulled in a 100 different directions at once. Then I’d wonder if I was even cut out to be a lawyer.

I hear this a lot from my clients who experience this too.

We need to learn how to effectively communicate with the brain, so we can overcome procrastination. I’ll talk more about that in the Masterclass, but what can help you right now is knowing this:

The one thing our brain was designed for more than anything else is survival. To survive it avoids pain, tries to conserve energy, and pursues pleasure. It makes sense that we would avoid projects that we think are hard because it sounds painful, will take energy to do and doesn’t sound pleasurable at all.

Here’s some homework for you before the masterclass: notice this voice. Notice what the brain does to avoid anything that sounds hard and will take time and energy.

Notice where it wants to pursue pleasure like checking email or social media for a quick dopamine hit.

Start talking to that part of your brain. Seriously. It sounds weird, but just do it.

I say, “I see you brain. I know what you’re up to. Okay girl, put the phone down. Let’s get back to work. You can do this.

Acknowledge, Tell it what you want it to do, then have a Pep Talk.

Repeat as needed.

Number 3: Your relationship with yourself

We can’t always hear the voice in our head that beat up on us, but it sounds like:

“You should have done this sooner.”

“Why do you always do this?”

“I’m so stupid.”

“I’m lazy.”

“I should be better at this by now.”

“I should know better.”

Or, if you’re familiar with thought work, you may tell yourself, “Ugh, I shouldn’t be thinking this thought!”

These are just a few examples of what we say to ourselves that damages our relationship with ourself.

Imagine if you talked this way to anyone else. They’d drop you in a heartbeat.

No one wants to be around someone who talks to them this way.

But we can’t get away from our brains, so we’ve got to figure out how to have a better relationship with ourselves.

When I was practicing law full time and trying to build my first business, I was totally neck deep in this kind of thinking and I created a lot of shame with it that shut down my nervous system.

I would go through my work day, then I would come home and tell myself I should work on my business. Along with that, I’d say, “I should be doing this.” “Why aren’t you doing this?” “You know better.”

Because I felt such intense shame, I didn’t do the work, then I beat myself up and created even more shame.

Just like dread drains the battery, so does shame.

On the up side, the way we talk to ourselves is a habit, and we can change habits.

It takes noticing how we talk to ourselves, and stopping the negative self-talk.

You don’t even need to say nice things to yourself. Just noticing and saying, “No. I’m not going to talk to myself that way,” can do wonders. There’s nothing wrong with you for thinking these thoughts either. Think of them as food on a buffet table. They can be on the table but you don’t have to choose to eat them. You can see them and not put them on your plate.

Take these thoughts off your plate.

In the How to Stop Procrastinating Masterclass, I’m going to give you more actionable tools to rebuild your relationship with time, your brain and yourself. Make sure you register at dinacataldo.com/procrastination.

If you’re loving this podcast, and you haven’t signed up for a Strategy Session, now is the time.

Book a call with me at https://dinacataldo.com/strategysession

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