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Do you procrastinate?

If you said no, I don’t believe you because at different points in life we ALL do.

You know sometimes it’s healthy too!

It’s our mind’s way of telling us that something isn’t quite right. It’s like a kind of sense check.

We think we know what decision we want to make or the course of action we plan to take but something holds us back. It’s like a friendly hand on our shoulder or someone whispering words of caution in our ear. Deep down we’re not sure if it’s going to be the right decision and so we hesitate.

And you know, that hesitation can cause us to select a different and better path instead.  It’s what we call our gut instinct. Many people swear by it saying, “It never lets me down!”

So in this instance our procrastination is helping guide us to our heart’s desire. By tapping into what lies deep within,  we can make the best decisions.

Steering us to the right – or wrong? – path

Procrastination can also be a defence, a backstop and a catalyst all rolled into one.

It’s the equivalent of ‘freeze mode’ when we’re faced with ‘danger’ (for danger read fear, change or stepping out of our comfort zone). We don’t run and we don’t fight, we stop to allow our brains to process all the information we have so that we can select the right option for dealing with a situation before taking action. This ‘freeze mode’ is hard wired in us and is as natural as drinking water when we’re thirsty.

It’s our innate self protection mechanism.

So procrastination – or freezing – is a good thing right?

Well, not always….

The freezing process often takes nano seconds – think of facing a real danger like a lion or a bear – you don’t take minutes, hours or days to decide what to do! Yet sometimes we can get paralysed by it for much, much longer.

This is when procrastination becomes a problem.

Freezing is our brain’s way of keeping us safe from perceived danger. In a real-life dangerous situation, it quickly sifts through information coming in through our sense and our memory banks before swiftly setting us on a course of action.

In the case of procrastination, there are multiple ‘dangers’ and our brains are constantly sifting through information, options and scenarios while frantically trying to come up with the right course of action.

It’s like diving into murky waters. We know we’re in that water but we’re not sure what might lie below or how we’re going to deal what it might be should it appear.

A glitch in the matrix

People often label themselves or others as lazy for not taking action. The reality is that most people in this situation are afraid and doubting themselves. They  can become locked in a procrastination loop like a glitch in the matrix. They become stuck in constant fear and eternal paralysis.

Procrastination is not laziness, it’s fear of:

  • Stepping out of thecomfort zone
  • Getting ‘it’ wrong
  • Being judged or ridiculed
  • F*ucking things up
  • Not being good enough

We can become masters at procrastination and at the same time incredibly skilled at convincing ourselves that we’re not actually procrastinating!

Any sentence that contains these words or a variation of them: ‘I’ll be ready when…’ or ‘I can’t do that until…’ is likely driven by procrastination.

We have a tendency to fool ourselves and others by hiding our paralysis and lack of action behind other actions that are ‘safe’ – “I’m trying to pick brand colours”. We attempt to fool others and ourselves into believing that we’re being productive, when in reality we’re ignoring the elephant in the room and not making the important decisions.

One of the biggest domains of the business owner who is trapped in fear and low confidence is ‘procrasti-learning’! They’ll be saying things like – I can’t start my business until I’ve learned how to create a landing page, manage my time, use Canva, improve my live video technique or added another qualification to my name.

Procrastination holds us back from achieving our true potential and from finding lasting joy and fulfilment.

Moving beyond procrastination

So what can we do about it?

The first step is to recognise that we’re indulging in unhealthy procrastination rather than freezing temporarily while we quickly work out our best course of action.

It’s not always as easy as it sounds. True wisdom lies in being able to separate healthy procrastination (I’m delaying this decision because deep down something doesn’t feel quite right about it) from unhealthy procrastination (I’m delaying this decision because it means stepping out of my comfort zone).

Finding quiet is a great way to let your true feelings come to the surface. And by quiet, I mean not just the absence of external noise, I mean emptying your mind of internal noise. Meditation can help with this; so can closing your eyes and sitting in peace with yourself for a while.

When you recognise unhealthy procrastination, especially if you find it happens regularly, it’s important to look at the reasons that lie beneath it. Then do a spot of reframing to shift unhelpful thoughts into more positive and constructive ones. For example, the thought: ‘I’m worried I’ll make a mess of things’, can become: ‘I’ve succeeded at lots of things in the past so I can succeed with this.’

Procrastination can also be caused by being overwhelmed by the size of the task in front of you. In that case break the mountain down into smaller chunks and focus on the one small task you can do today to shift things along. Remember that any forward movement, no matter how small, is progress.

Working with an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) coach will help you identify the type of procrastinator you tend to be, the reasons why you do it and how to move beyond them. Learning NLP can help you beyond measure and allow you as a coach to help others too. If you’d like to find out more, follow the link to my course pages or you can send me a message via the contact form.

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