Cracking the code on procrastination*

beaded curtain, shot with iphone

I am not a procrastinator by nature. Especially since motherhood kicked in, I do most everything at lightning speed, knowing that I have maximum 45 minutes to do pretty much anything on my list.

What I have noticed though is that there are certain things I see on my list that fill me with dread. There are certain tasks that I overlook, that I have a certain blindness to, or that I flat out ignore. (ie. bookkeeping, bill paying, writing that freaking bio and backing up the damn computer)

My aha moment

But I realized something HUGE this week. If I am procrastinating on a task, it probably means one or more of the following:

1. I am afraid of something
2. I don’t know my next step
3. I have shame surrounding the task
4. The task is outside of my skill set
5. I need some support

Let’s take bookkeeping for instance. Even though I’m not afraid of numbers and love math, I am afraid of my numbers. Of the bad news they might bring. Of the irresponsibility they might reveal. I am afraid of what those numbers might mean about me.

I also don’t know the next step to take to unravel the puzzle. Do I buy Quickbooks? How long would it take me to learn? Do I have all my receipts? Sure, I always pay my taxes but it’s a total nightmare at the end of the each year. It takes weeks of hair pulling.

And this brings me to number three: Shame.
I have so much shame around this bookkeeping thing. The voices in my head are loud: If you were a real business person you would know this stuff. How could you be so irresponsible?

Number four and five. I finally realized that bookkeeping is outside of my skill set and I got some support. I hired a bookkeeper this year! Best. move. ever. Sure, I still have some shame about the mess I’ve made of my books, but she is patient with me and we are organizing it together. Together is so much better than alone! Especially where shame is present.

Does this resonate for you? Can you think of something you have been procrastinating on?

Consider:

What are you afraid of?
Do you know your next step?
Do you get that tightening in your belly that shame brings?
Is it time to get some support?

Let me know if this helps… and let’s bust through something together this week.

34 Comments

  1. Posted October 26, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Around money. I am committed to breaking out of the shame and denial and becoming present and mindful. And we are getting out of debt. Deep, deep breath.

  2. Posted October 26, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    I feel like I am reading my own thoughts here…though I have not yet made the leap to hiring a bookkeeper. This post inspires me to start investigating the possibility!

  3. Posted October 26, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    This post is so spot on! YES to what you said.

  4. Posted October 26, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    ok this came up for me today and I’m not sure if it fits here. Shame around not ever really knowing how to fit in socially. I felt it today at my son’s music class. We’ve been going for months and it seems as though the other mom’s are bonding and I am feeling left out. Is it me? Do I need to do something? Same feeling in AA – but in AA I am not sure I WANT to hang out all the time. But I don’t like feeling that I am on the outside of the group – and it brings up old feelings of something being wrong with me – or that I’m broken. That feeling is much quieter than it was in my youth. But it’s still there. Maybe if I drank it would be easier for me to fit in? Maybe if I was more easy going? Maybe if I wasn’t so…fill in the blank. The key here is to recognize that this is all a lie I tell myself that leads to feelings of separation and THAT is where the suffering is. The feeling of separation. I know in my head that we are all connected however – I can really fall into the trap of feeling like an alien. I too have had issues around money – bookeeping and hired an expert to handle that part – but I am not sure there is an expert to hire to manage the shame around feeling different. Therapist? LOL

  5. Susan
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Totally resonates with me, especially about money.

  6. Jennifer El in D.C.
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Wow, wow, wow. This breakdown of the reasons of procrastination just really resonates w/ me. I have been a terrible, terrible procrastinator, to the point of wondering if there could be some sort of mental illness. I mean, I will see the red alert flashing and STILL sit there afraid, almost paralyzed. Sure, I’ll plan and plan but never get it all together.
    But reading your REASONS of procrastination actually just shed some light on me.
    THANK YOU.

    I have been one of my own enemies for years now without truly realizing it. Not good. I don’t enjoy shooting myself in the foot.

  7. Posted October 26, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    This is 100%, completely, abs0odoodle-lutely true about me as well. But sometimes it really helps to just have it broken down and plopped in front of us. I didn’t really recognize it until I read your break-down.

    THANK YOU. A gazillion times, thank you. <3

  8. Nattie
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for breaking this down! Just recognizing the fear itself is the hardest part, I think. I moved last October, and it was my goal to get rid of crap I don’t need, old paperwork, emails, etc. I had a party with my shredder. It was exhilirating! The crap I couldn’t let go of, I organized in what I called ‘le crappiles’, with a French accent. Having fun with my own idiocracy was what made me feel better, truly!

    I also have crates and crates and CRATES of fabric and/or card stock, that someday, SOMEDAY, I’m going to make the most beautiful quilts and greeting cards with, I swear! My only excuses are, my mother is a seamstress and graphic artist – I grew up around creativity and it stuck with me – I think coming up with excuses that you are comfortable with and can accept are helpful too! LOL

    To Catherine Just – I used to get big red welts on my face whenever I would go to a social event, where I’d feel the pressure to be on my A-game. After awhile, I embrased the welts, talked about them in conversation, and the folks that laughed with me and hung in on the conversation were the keepers. The ones who drifted away thinking I was inappropriate, unladylike, or just a freak, well, screw them. You are beautiful and lovable just the way you are!!!

  9. Patricia
    Posted October 27, 2011 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    I do think that list list helps to address the issues that I really do not want to do, find unappealing or challenging. What really confounds me is why I procrastinate doing the things I really love to do? Any clues with a list that addresses why I am reluctant to stretch into my dreams?

  10. Posted October 27, 2011 at 3:23 am | Permalink

    Here’s how I read it a few years ago. Let’s say each day you need to eat a frog. Whatever it is on your list that you do not want to do is the frog you don’t want to eat, so you should do that first so you don’t waste time and energy worrying about eating the frog. And the more unpalatable/scary/bad the task is, the bigger the frog seems.

    I really hate calling strangers so I always put that first on my to-do list every morning. My brain is so dead after twins I need a daily to-do list.

  11. Sam
    Posted October 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    i agree that fear and shame are keys to procrastination. especially that gut clenching fear that sits in the pit of your belly while you try to fool yourself into thinking you aren’t really aware of what need to get done. and that wonderful feeling when you do find your courage and get it done, only to discover yet again it wasn’t bad after all, no where near as bad as the dread – why doesn’t that lesson stick? i get so stuck in a rut!

  12. Dena
    Posted October 27, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    i’m typically not a procrastinator, but i have been putting off getting started on my grad school applications. yikes! sometimes it all feels so overwhelming. but, i have to remember & allow myself to take baby steps….then the task at hand won’t feel so daunting.

    thank you for your insightful & powerful words of encouragement!

  13. Christine
    Posted October 27, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    this resonated with me for a different reason. i am an accountant who has worked with small businesses for 20 years. let me just ask this question – since when does being good at what you do mean you can do all the support around it? somehow the idea that you should be able to do it all is supremely unfair to yourself….trust me, i have seen it all and i can count on my hand the number of times i’ve come into a business where things were together and the owner was on top of it, it doesn’t happen. you were very smart to recognize that and hire someone – no shame, just awareness that this is not part of your skill set and best left to someone else!

  14. Paula J.
    Posted October 27, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Wow, did this post ever resonate with me, Andrea. Sometimes I feel like you live across the way and are looking into my house with a telescope! Except it’s really my heart and mind that is revealed. Unlike you, I AM a procrastinator in general. But the issues that are the hardest to get moving on are definitely wrapped up in the emotions you so eloquently teased out. Thank you.

  15. Posted October 27, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been thinking about this so much lately. I’m starting a new project but keep procrastinating. It is something ideally that would bring me much joy but I think I’m just scared about what it means to really start.

  16. Posted October 27, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Wow! This really resonates with me. And I have procrastinated all my life. I’d like to apply this and see what happens! Thanks for the clarity! :-)

  17. Posted October 27, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Once again, it’s like you’re reading my heart and mind. I’m generally good and getting things done (my husband has joked about getting me a t-shirt that reads “gets shit done”). But I find that there are some really important things – like taking photos for my etsy shop and blog, for example – that I put off for WEEKS. Because my camera sucks, because they don’t do my products and life justice, etc. I have lot of excuses. But I think a bigger part of it is this: What if I do my very best – the best I am capable of – and it’s not good enough? What if no one buys the shirts I make? What if I really CAN’T make money doing something I love to do? This terrifies me and leaves me feeling wide open in a really unpleasant way. I worry that all my positive self-talk is just BS and that I’m just not good enough. This is big stuff. Thanks for helping me uncover it and at least see what’s really going on.

    And for Catherine Just… I agree with the earlier commenter. Making yourself vulnerable will go a long way. But I know that can be scary when you’re already feeling like you’re on the outside. I’ve begun to realize that sometimes I just don’t click with folks. It’s ok, because there are still plenty of people out there that get me and I find it easy to connect with. But even then, it often takes a long time for me to truly, deeply connect with someone. And I’m ok with that. Therapy does help too :)

  18. Posted October 27, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I found the same thing in my procrastination, too! It’s part of the reason I switched from a daily to-do list to a more nebulous weekly one. That let me divide up unpleasant tasks with the promise of pleasant ones so I feel more balanced. I usually procrastinate because I have things I’d rather be doing, so having a tit-for-tat kind of system keeps me from putting things off.

  19. Posted October 27, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    WOW, this resonates with me deeply. Now I want to make a list of the things I keep procrastinating and answer some of these important questions!

  20. Posted October 27, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    My God. This is amazing. So simple! So self-compassionate! So crystal clear! So true! #3 is especially revelatory.

  21. Posted October 28, 2011 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Yep! But, I think this applies to MY WHOLE LIFE!!!! Hence, the bills calendar that i WILL start after after after after after…
    Just remember that there is an old friend in Australia who LOVES you no matter what
    xxxquigley

  22. Chris
    Posted October 28, 2011 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the amazing insight into procrastination. I am seeing my ‘laziness’ and ‘lack of self discipline’ in a whole new light, especially regarding the bookkeeping.

  23. Posted October 28, 2011 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    This totally resonates, Andrea. Thank you! I do this with projects that I’m given at work that I don’t really want to do but know I have to. And a lot of why I procrastinate is because I have a fear – fear of failing and letting down the people who have entrusted me with the task. But also fear of failing myself, which essentially I end up doing anyway when I procrastinate with the task itself. It’s a wicked battle. Thank you for this. It’s a good eye opener. *hug*

  24. Morgan
    Posted October 28, 2011 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    Thank you thank you thank you for this wonderful post. It has helped in many ways.

  25. elisa mikiten
    Posted October 28, 2011 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    Brilliant.

  26. Cheryl
    Posted October 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Awesome post, Andrea! I take a portion of your aha wisdom for my own use!

  27. Posted October 28, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    This is perfect for me right now!

    (My personal #6 would be: Denise, you are being lazy. You are being lazy because you lack time for yourself and so you “steal” time from other activities you should be doing.)

  28. Posted October 29, 2011 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    What a brilliant post! I read it, and read it again. And, have pondered it ever since. I realize that we could also apply your insights to decision-making. Four out of five, if not all five, of your points apply. It now occurs to me that, when I have struggled with a decision, the root of the problem could be fear, or I need support, or I don’t know what the next step is to make the decision, etc. It’s not necessarily indecision. (Well, it could be called that – the sympton is, no decision is being made! :) But, you’ve identified a great check list of things to consider when I’m stuck on a decision.
    Thanks, Andrea, what a great tool for getting things done, and moving forward.

  29. Andrea
    Posted October 29, 2011 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    oh!! this is brilliant.
    I love that you said this…

    There is a lesson in Mondo Beyondo that talks about fear vs. confusion,
    that when we are “confused” we usually aren’t…. we are afraid. And if
    we can identify what we are afraid of, we notice that the way is more clear.

    But I love adding that piece about needing support and knowing what the
    next step is…

    Such a compelling piece of the conversation! thank you!
    andrea

  30. Posted October 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Yup yup yup! This is so spot on. I’ve been realizing I’ve been living with fear and shame almost constantly lately due to how stretched I am in my day job. Add that to how I feel about trying to be an artist and my bills and I’m not sure how I function. I’m going to work on asking for help where I can. I typically feel asking for help when I’m scared is a sign of weakness. Hoping I can let that go. In Peace.

  31. Hannah
    Posted October 29, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    YES YES YES! This comes at exactly the right time for me – I just moved to a new town and I am totally procrastinating on starting the job search. THANK YOU SO MUCH for this Andrea!

  32. Posted October 31, 2011 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    when I know I’m not good at something – aka money / quickbooks/ numbers I hire someone to do it for me.

    I have the greatest woman who comes to my house once a month and gets me all caught up on quickbooks. I feel calm after she’s here – that I’ve done my job and she’s keeping me on track.

    when it comes to other things I procrastinate on – I make a list of 5-10 things to do in my day and I do at least 4 of the easy things so I can cross them off my list and feel better before taking on something big. I cheerlead my way through it and sometimes bribe myself with a treat at the end. “if you do this…you can go get a coffee at the fancy place”

    most of the time it works ;)

  33. Adam W.
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    For me, more often than not, I procrastinate because I fear doing something imperfectly.
    Thanks for posting this…
    -Adam

  34. Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    Oh my gosh, this is a helpful post. It’s like you just demystified the procrastination devils in my life. I’m going to write those reasons for procrastination down and tape them in my day-planner. Thank you, Andrea!

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*