Taking action vs procrastinating is something that comes up time and time again with my clients.
I want to tell you about a holiday I once took. It was a place not all that far away – warm and comfortable with long days spent reclining under the palm trees and sipping coconuts. There was no time urgency and nothing to be done. Sounding pretty good right? Well now is probably a good time to share the name of this glorious place: ‘Some day island’. The sand is soft and warm, the days just blend into one and weeks, months, even years can pass with ease. I spent longer than intended here. I went for a break but it felt so comfortable that I couldn’t get motivated to leave. Before I knew it 5 years had passed and all those beautiful day dreams I had created (before and during) my island sojourn had progressed not one iota.
This analogy may seem a little harsh – I know we all need a break from time to time but how many people (maybe including you) have wonderful visions, dreams, hopes and aspirations that never get actioned? We are souls in a human body. We came here to create and manifest these amazing visions and inspirations into reality. It is just so much easier to park our dreams and ideas in the ‘some day’ category than to start actioning them today.
I wouldn’t call myself lazy… HOWEVER… (so basically I am calling myself lazy) – I am not one of those people that wakes up every morning, bounds out of bed and naturally throws themself into a day of hard work. I like sleep, I like to chill and meditate, do yoga, have chats with friends on the phone, and even watch an episode (/entire season) of the Kardashians from time to time. I like life to be as much fun and enjoyment as possible. As a result, I found it very easy to slide into the comfortable (yet oddly stressful paradox) that is procrastination. I don’t despise hard work. Once I get into my creative flow I can happily go for hours without blinking – but at the same time I like to be efficient – maximum output with minimal input is my motto.
Despite on one hand having an uhhh… “laid back” personality, on the other hand I have also been gifted with a number of dreams, visions, inspiring ideas and passion projects. Having all these amazing ideas and simultaneously feeling overwhelmed by the amount of time and energy that will go into making them a reality, can be quite the conundrum! And not the Countdown-style conundrum that will be solved within 30 seconds and if not then you will be told the solution. No, this is a very real struggle for the time or energy-poor individual. But the good news is that if I can overcome this, then so can you!
There were times when I was writing my eBook ‘The London Hustler’ that I was really in flow and enjoying it. There were other times where I was so over it that I would have given my left leg for a magic lamp and a Genie to grant me the wish of “getting someone else to just finish this for me so I never have to look at it again”. (I would have used my remaining two wishes to ask for a never ending supply of Ben & Jerry’s and my Knight in Shining armour just FYI). But alas a childhood of Disney had not completely eroded my sense of realism and I knew that if I didn’t do it, no one else would.
I have compiled some of my best strategies for saying bye bye to procrastination and taking action towards a more inspired, purposeful future. Don’t delay in actioning them! 😉
Start with the most enjoyable or easiest parts first. If you are writing a book for example, pick the fun chapters that flow and don’t require as much research. Once you get started you build momentum and you start to feel that you are making progress towards your goal. I personally used this momentum gained from the fun parts to motivate myself later on when it was less appealing – it plays on the psychology of “well I’ve already put in a lot of effort so may as well keep going now!”
Outsource the parts that are not your skill set. This may sound like a cop-out and perhaps it is, but really why would you spend a few months trying to learn how to build your own website when you could pay someone to do it in three hours? Obviously this isn’t a blanket rule that applies to every task that challenges you, but knowing what your strengths are and focusing your time and energy there will help a lot. If you can’t afford to pay someone then consider a skill swap. This will stop your project grinding to a halt over a blockage that can be easily cleared with someone else’s expertise.
Indecisiveness is paralysing. We’ve all been there. Not wanting to make a decision in case it’s not the right one. It can stop us taking action as we want to be “really sure it is the right action to take”. You can actually never be 100% sure if it is the right action to take – but there is only one way to find out! Make a decision and start taking action towards that. If it’s not the right decision, you will quickly find out – but you would never have known that if you sat there with just an idea for all those years. The greatest thing about this? We worry SO much about making the right choices and yet really very few decisions in this world are irreversible or at least unpivotable (I may have just invented a word but I’m rolling with it). Think about it. Besides death, how many decisions are truly set in stone never to be altered? Very few. Sure there might be adverse implications so don’t be reckless, but even marriage and tattoos are now reversible… Can’t decide what to name your business? Call it something and then in a few years change it to something else if you feel inspired. We are always free to choose and then choose again.
Be like Santa – making your list and checking it … (once is enough). I had heard this advice from so many sources over the years – to start with your vision/end goal and then break it down into smaller goals and then further into daily tasks. I thought it sounded good in theory – but also sounded like a lot of work and I knew in my head what I wanted to do – so shouldn’t that be enough? How wrong was I! A few months ago I bought myself an actual, non-electronic, dinosaur-era, tangible diary and started making my daily lists and ticking them off. It may just be the inner nerd/scholar in me that gains a disproportionate amount of satisfaction from physically ticking things off but wowee. This one simple thing somehow turned me into a productivity machine. Oh and that whole ‘breaking things down into bite size tasks helps’ thing? That is also true. Before I just knew in my head that I had half an unwritten book and at some point needed to get the other half written. But post-dinosaur-diary, on Monday I would finish editing Chapter 6, Thursday I would research for Chapter 7, Friday I would write Chapter 7 and so on. Everything seems achievable when it is in small bite-size pieces. Oh and the sweet satisfaction of a big fat tick.
Just do it – let go of PERFECT! After already outing myself as a lazy sloth earlier in the piece, I hesitate to admit suffering from Perfectionism too, but I know many of you will be in the same boat and relate (to the perfectionism, not the slothliness!). Not wanting to put anything out there or take action unless you can be sure it’s perfect is equally as paralysing as that old “indecisiveness” chestnut. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just get started. The same goes for things you are working on that aren’t public. Just get started. Make a rough draft and then leave it for a few days. It is better to do something than procrastinate because you can’t figure out how to make it perfect. One time I set myself a writing task of finishing the ‘Conclusion’ by the end of the day. I really wasn’t feeling it and could not get in the flow at all. So determined was I to get that big fat tick (and accompanying sense of satisfaction) though, that I pushed through and forced myself like a naughty rebellious child to sit down and write it. I did as all naughty rebellious children do and I did a seriously average job of it. But nonetheless it was done (sort of) and I got my tick. I returned to it a few days later, with a fresh mind and was instantly able to see where improvements could be made. The point being is that it’s easier to tweak and update something than have to start from scratch – so even if it’s not perfect, once you’ve got something written you can easily discern where to change it to make it better – and that seems a far less arduous task.
Make a deadline and then bring it forward. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for how much we can achieve if we really focus our time and energy productively. Having a time pressure does help motivate and keep you on track to smash through your tasks.
Join groups or associate with others in a similar boat. Having the support of others around you can give you the motivation, accountability and focus to help you stay on track with whatever you are creating.
and last but most importantly…
Get to know your Saboteur. We all have that unconscious inner-Saboteur that tries to keep us safe. I have found this to be one of the most common and sneakiest reasons for procrastination. Sneaky because it occurs in the unconscious/ego and usually the person has no conscious awareness of said sneakiness. One of the most common Saboteurs I have come across is the fear of judgment of others. It is easier to keep your ideas and creations to yourself – that way you don’t run the risk of exposing yourself to the criticism, judgment and ultimately rejection, of others. We all have an inner saboteur just trying to keep us safe so don’t judge it – get to know it so that it doesn’t have the power over you and prevent you taking inspired action. A Coach or Energy Healer can help you access and clear this if your Saboteur is a force to be reckoned with.