3 Steps to Confront Procrastination

by  Christina Haxton  |  Leadership Development

This is a follow up to “What do you do instead of what you are supposed to be doing?” I introduced 10 things people (like me) do when we should be doing something more important. It also introduced the idea that shame and fear came from BS inside our heads. To catch up, check out the previous post.

BS: The SHOULDS and the SUPPOSED to’s

What do I mean by “BS?” Okay … let’s go with that one.

BS also can refer to our “Belief System” which for the most part is full of BS.

Now I’ll put the shoe back on my own foot: If I believe I SHOULD NEVER PROCRASTINATE or I SHOULD NEVER WASTE MY TIME DOING SOMETHING UNPRODUCTIVE especially because what I assist others to do is to be productive, and if I procrastinate, then I must also be hypocrite. Now who’s the one with the big dark hairy secret? That would be me.

And I feel incongruent because “I don’t practice what I preach.” Are these rules similar to what you heard growing up?

My BS or belief will not make me feel very confident, creative, inspired or motivated. Just guilty and inauthentic and those feeling states will not get me very far today.

Now what? As I wrote in the book chapter on Professional Intimacy: The key to being a sustainable leader beliefs are meant to be challenged and tested, so enter the 3 Step ACE Approach to Change Anything:

My first step is #1: Awareness

Question: What do I have to believe to feel guilty about being unproductive?

Answer: I should be perfect and not human. And if I’m ever human and not perfect, then don’t keep it a secret (also known as “Don’t let them see you sweat, make a mistake or ______________” fill in the blank with your belief here).

Mmmm. Interesting how holding onto these beliefs support my guilty feeling.

What if I was to follow a different rule instead? How about the rule when borrowing something from someone else: “If you borrow something, give it back in as good a condition, if not better.” That rule goes for tools, clothes … and now beliefs! I don’t need it anymore and it no longer serves my purpose.

Which brings me to my second step: #2: Choice

I choose to install a more productive, congruent and resonant belief: I’m human, which makes me make mistakes, which allows me to learn and be authentic and vulnerable. Whew! What a relief … “I DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT ANYMORE!” Or hide behind the “shoulds” and “supposed to’s” that were borrowed or hand-me-downs that never really fit me anyhow.

And for the last step: #3: Execution

I can now “practice what I preach” and try out my own advice to my clients: Take action. Publicly admit I’m fallible and everything I teach I’m learning, too. The sense of freedom I now have as a result of not having to hide is what fuels my passion to make a difference. Not having to be perfect also frees me to experience a bigger purpose and new belief now that I can make a difference and lead by example in my everyday actions.

I can now also believe that when I share with my audience about a particular personal or professional challenge I have faced, the story is an act of leadership and mostly an inspiration with a powerful message “If I can learn to do it … so can you.”

Now going forward, will I still do of those Top 10 Things I Shouldn’t Be Doing?

“DAMMIT … I sure hope so!” Because application produces AWARENESS, which provides me an opportunity to make a CHOICE, and then the commitment to EXECUTE the choice to get better results which coincide with my NBS (NEW BELIEF SYSTEM).

What if doing “what I shouldn’t be doing” allows me to follow other rules, some of which are just as important and a few which ought to be changed (eventually):

10. Eating chocolate (because it’s got some yummy brain stimulant I need right now)

9. Checking your email every 3 minutes (because I’m easily distracted or because I need to feel I matter)

8. Looking for inspiration from others’ work (because they have better ideas)

7. Reading just another article about “how to do …” (what you are supposed to be doing) because I must not have enough information to get started

6. Checking LinkedIn for who’s viewed your profile (because it might be someone who wants to do business)

5. Saying TY for RT’s to all of the Twitter Followers in the past 3 days (because expressing gratitude is important)

4. Looking on Facebook for people you went to high school with who you never really cared about or never really cared about you (because connection is important)

3. Cleaning your house (because clutter creates confusion)

2. Watching the news (because if you know what is going on you can be proactive in your decisions)

1. Editing the promotional page for your upcoming program for the 7th time (because it could always be a little bit better)

What is on your list of the Top 10 Things I Do Instead of What I Should Be Doing ? If you are up for the opportunity to be authentic and real, please be sure to include the because, belief or BS on which it is based. Come on in, the water’s warm …

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What People Are Saying

Rishona  |  21 Oct 2012  |  Reply

I personally struggle with procrastination. What I find is that it all lies in your viewpoint. If you see something as not being important, boring, or a chore…then it is easy to push it off. For example, I am currently enrolled in a Finance course, and the subject matter bores me to tears! However if I change my viewpoint and say, “Once I get through this class, then I’ll be done with all of my required coursework needed for my degree!”; now the perspective has changed. I may not like finance, but I do like the prospect of graduation. So that is what I focus on.

So sometimes even if you dread the task, focus on the bigger picture and your ultimate goal. It really helps…well in my case anyway!

Deborah Costello  |  22 Oct 2012  |  Reply

Thanks for sharing your list. It was brave of you to share some of your personal reasons for do things you consider unproductive.

I think all people probably procrastinate at least some of the time, but I also think it is important to achieve balance. We spend a lot of time beating ourselves up about what we “should” do. And then proceed to procrastinate anyway. So maybe cut down on the guilt and accept the fact that we are human and need a little facebook time now and again. Not everything is equally fun in our lives, but until we are actually ready to do those unpleasant tasks, we are going to fiddle around. I’m procrastinating about a stack of papers I need to grade as I type this.

But remember that creativity needs time and space to grow and you never know what will seed your next blog post or great idea. The news, facebook, twitter, and a lot of other distractions help me find the inspiration to focus and get what needs doing done.

So thanks for sharing your thoughts and giving me a little place where I can think about procrastination. I’m headed off to grade those papers now because I’m ready, and because you’ve reminded me that I’m not alone.


Karin Hurt  |  29 Oct 2012  |  Reply

It’s sometimes difficult to distinguish the difference between working on little stuff that also matters and procrastination. And if I’m reading this right, you are advocating for eating chocolate? Sounds good to me.

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