By Sally-Anne Marler Creative Arts Therapist, Facilitator & Coach
We all get hit with this little monster from time to time. He's very clever and comes in many guises and tricks us into being okay about not doing what we really want! We forget what we really want because it all feels too big or scary and so we remain stuck in habitual patterns and routines that don't support our goals, dreams or aspirations. It's not all bad, when you look at why we do this we begin to understand it forms part of our fight or flight response, and we are just trying to keep ourselves 'safe'. But our definition of what is safe, is very different to what it meant years ago. As we are not all running from a saber tooth tiger these days, most of our fear comes from our minds, not an actual physical threat. It's the 'unknown' that tends to entice the procrastination monster out from hiding and can often be triggered by the prospect of change. But this is living, without it, we are simply existing.
I look back now and realise I became best buddies with the procrastination monster for the best part of 20 years or so and know first hand how it might start off quite innocent, believing you're doing the right thing and playing it safe but you end up feeling immense frustration, isolation and disorganisation.
Here are my top 5 tips to overcoming the procrastination monster:-
1. Focus only on one or two tasks at a time and ask yourself “what can I do now?” This will take the pressure off yourself and stop feelings of overwhelm. You might not get everything you wanted done, but you will get something done and lift that feeling of being stuck. Procrastination invites itself in when we feel overwhelmed with 'too much to do' so simplify your day and see one thing through at a time.
2. Meet up with supportive friends and family IN PERSON. Talk over any problems, concerns or anxiety that you are experiencing with them that fuel the procrastination monster! Be as open and as honest as you can. Once you've done this, the fear you felt about it will start to diminish because it's strength comes from you trying to hide it or not discussing it with anyone. Once it's all out in the open you will feel much better.
3. What you don't do influences your brain, thoughts and actions just as much as what you do do. This was a big eye-opener for me and I realised the more I resisted something the more anxious I became about doing it and I started to believe eventually that I couldn't do it, no matter how seemingly small it was. This is because the brain interprets this 'non action' to mean you actually can't do it. Start making a list of the things you feel you can't do, then write in front of each one I CAN DO... and read it over several times or say it out loud, then do one of the tasks.
4. Tell yourself daily that you're worth it, you're worth it, you're worth it. Why do we struggle to do things for ourselves but can easily do things for others? This conflict of interest usually comes from not feeling worthy enough and assuming our needs are not as important as the needs of others. You must absolutely believe with your whole heart that you are worthy of love, happiness, success and fulfilment and that it is not selfish of you to want these things or prioritise these things. You are worth it!
5. Be flexible and bring your awareness to the moment. Your goals are a process so acknowledge that, you don't need everything to be done right now. Remember what you've already done and achieved and be mindful of what you're working towards but don't get too consumed with it. It's what you're doing now that counts. Procrastination loves to take you away from living in the moment and slap you right bang into chaotic thoughts of 'not done' things from the future to make you feel small.