Procrastination is an avoidant strategy and there are so many layers to it, why we do it, how to redirect it, how to accept it, and so on. It is also something almost everyone does and something that can cause a lot of shame, especially for moms
What is procrastination?
It is putting something off for later.
We all do it, everday. We put off phone calls and chores and errands.
So how do we know if we simply PRIORITIZING our time and energy of it we are procrastinating?
Why we procrastinate
There is a reason that deep down it is preferable to us to put off the task. Some reasons might include overwhelm, avoidance, all or nothing perfectionism, or we deep down don’t want to do it.
How the brain responds to pending tasks
The brain has three jobs: seek pleasure, avoid pain, stay efficient.
When we have the thought about a task we ‘should’ do the brain responds inline with this criteria – will it produce pleasure or pain? does it require a lot of energy?
Procrastination is not always a bad thing
Sometimes procrastinating tasks can be a benefit. There are situations where it allows us to do better work, use the sense of urgency for energy, discover our true priorities, uncover some identity clutter we might have, and have less anxiety in the present.
Three ways procrastination can be a problem:
1. Because of what we do instead of the ‘task’. We most likley turn to non-essential, short-term gratification activities. These often become our ‘bad habits’.
2. Because of what is NOT getting done. Whether we feel like this moves us further away from our ‘ideal’ self (and make sure you know what that is!), piles up the chores, or becomes a way we do our life.
- Episode 129 on Expectation Overwhelm
- Get the Live you VISION worksheets
- Get the Live your VALUES worksheets
- Get the Life on Purpose Workbook
3. Because of what we think it means about us. As we procrastinate we start to identify as a procrastinator (and usually this is loaded with shame and judgement). Then we start to live into this limiting identiy we have of ourselves.
Three questions to help you deal with procrastination in your day
- Why do I want to avoid this task?
- Is this task important to my personal values and vision?
- Is this task a prioritiy TODAY?
- If yes, ask: what is one small step I can do to get started?
- If no, schedule it on the calendar and listen to episode 150 called Do You Trust Yourself to Show Up For You.
Full transcript of the episode (unedited)
Hey friends, it’s Shawna, your nerdy girlfriend and life coach from simple on purpose.ca Welcome to the simple on purpose podcast. This is a place where I share ideas that I hope will inspire you to slow down, think about what matters to you your personal values, and do the work of showing up well for that. Today, I wanted to talk about a topic that I have struggled with. I know a lot of us this is something I’ve googled myself on Pinterest over the years. And I think it’s also a topic we can have a lot of shame around. And I’m I know, we’re just going to scratch the surface on this on procrastination, because procrastination is an avoidance strategy. And there’s so many layers to it, why we do it, how to redirect it, and accept it, and so on. So I hope that this episode will give you more understanding of what’s happening mentally give you some more awareness, some more grace around it. And then I have at the end, some questions that are going to help you in the moment to deal with procrastination.
What is procrastination, it is putting things off, I’ll do it later. Or more accurately, it’s a form of saying I won’t do it right now. It’s not gonna happen right now.
And this is an issue that comes up in coaching because we have a stigma attached to it. Like somehow, if we are a person who procrastinates we’re less of a quality person, we’re less of an adult, we’re less together.
And I just want to bust that myth, everyone procrastinates whether or not it’s blatant whether or not they label themselves, or shame themselves for it, everyone procrastinates like, if you’re sitting in your living room, staring at the coffee cup on the coffee table, and you think, oh, I’ll put that back in the kitchen later. Or I’ll call this person back after work. Or I’ll do the laundry later tonight. Or I’m gonna have lunch in a little bit. I’m just going to finish this up.
And really, how often do we have a thought about a task that we need to do? Stop what we’re doing and follow that task all the way to completion? Right, that actually wouldn’t make us that efficient. If we kept stopping what we were doing to do whatever the next thing is that comes into our minds.
So it kind of makes you wonder, is this prioritizing how we spend our time and energy? Or is this procrastination? What’s the difference? When does it go from like triage being all of our life tasks to procrastination? I think a real helpful thing can be to start out with why we procrastinate.
And if we’re asking ourselves, why am I putting off this task, there is a way that it is somehow preferable that we put off this task. So let’s just stop and sit with that for a minute, without judging ourselves. Because there’s a real reason in there.
A common one is overwhelm, I don’t know where to start, it’s going to take so long, this is such a huge task.
Another one is all or nothing thinking about how it has to look how big of a task, it’s going to be that it has to be perfect, perfectionism can definitely fall into that category.
Another one is, we’re not really motivated, there can be so many reasons why we don’t feel like it. And if we’re just gonna wait around to feel like it might not get done.
Another one that can be really sneaky is deep down, we actually really don’t want to whether we’re doing it to avoid conflict that it could cause maybe conflict with relationships, money, or time, or whether we’re doing it to preserve our autonomy or to make a statement, or we don’t believe in ourselves or it feels actually helpless. There’s actual reason deep down our subconscious beliefs that we don’t want to do it. And they’re not matching our conscious effort to get the thing done.
What’s happening on a larger scale is what our brain is doing with the notion, Oh, I should go do this thing. And this thing needs to get done. And what does our brain do with that? How does our brain respond to the idea that there’s something we should be going to do?
Our brain has three jobs, this is called the motivational triad. And the three jobs are to seek pleasure, avoid pain and be efficient.
So if a task comes up that we think we should get done, is it pleasurable because our brain wants to opt for the more pleasurable thing our brain wants to opt for the things that gets dopamine from, and we train our brain on what sources of dopamine to turn to, which is a whole other topic, we probably haven’t trained our brain to look to decluttering or getting the dishes done as a way that we feel rewarded and get a hit of dopamine.
The other thing that’s happening is our brain wants to avoid pain. So when we go to do this task, how does it feel when we’re doing it? Are we going to encounter negative feelings when we have to be doing this task? Probably right? We don’t want how it’s going to make us feel.
And then that third job, it has to be efficient. It does not want to use up the energy, it wants to stay on habits stay on autopilot. It doesn’t want to do the hard work to figure things out and think about how to break things down into smaller tasks. So if these are tasks you’ve never found pleasure, and if these are tasks you’re not looking forward to, if these are tasks that take a lot of effort. If these are tasks that deep down you actually don’t want, then it makes sense that your brain is saying No, thanks. No thanks. I have a lot of excuses, a lot of doubts, a lot of reasons we shouldn’t go do that thing. And we reconcile this we reconcile our brain saying No thanks. With this conscious ideal that we have on what we should be doing. And we meet in the middle brain says no, we’re like, Yeah, but we got to. So Fine. Let’s do it later. Let’s have a rain check.
I took a minute to just laugh at myself that I’m making this episode on procrastination. Because this podcast recording the podcast each week is the one thing I always procrastinate on. I’ve worked on procrastination in lots of areas of my life, like laundry dishes, making phone calls, doing exercise, but this podcast, there’s something for me to learn here. I spent the morning writing my notes up for this podcast. And then instead of hitting record hours earlier, I plucked my eyebrows, I ate some nuts. On the deck. I organized some stuff in my bedroom, made a coffee went on Instagram, I listened to a podcast, I went on Instagram and listen to a podcast. Now it’s three o’clock, here I am, I’m recording it. So this is something that I’m going to be digging into personally something that I’m going to coach myself on.
But here’s the question that can throw people for a loop when they bring procrastination to me, how is it a bad thing, you might stigmatize yourself and judge yourself that you are a procrastinator, but is the action of procrastinating actually making your life worse, it’s not always a bad thing.
I think about the blog post I’ve written over the years in the episodes that I record. And I will start drafting up the topic, maybe a week in advance, and writing a few notes on that. And then I just leave it there. I give myself time to think about it, work out the details. And then I come back to it. There can be a lot said for just taking all of the time available and coming back to things after thinking about them for but sometimes I think I do better work when I procrastinate.
And some people think they do better work when they have a deadline. Like our body recognizes that urgency and it gives us some helpful stress, chemicals and adrenaline to give us that endurance to get that job done. urgency can sometimes be a solution for procrastination that people might rely on.
Sometimes in procrastinating I’ve learned that something’s not a priority to me. I’ve shared this before in the identity clutter episode. And I’ll link that in the show notes that I had all of these ingredients to bake this really cool bread It was called like seven seed bread. This was before I was gluten free and learned that I shouldn’t be eating it. And I just never made the bread I had all the ingredients and I never made it. But in putting that off in just sit never being a priority. It told me that that wasn’t for me. That was something I had identity clutter around. Some things just fall off the list over time. And that’s not always a bad thing.
Another way that procrastination can actually help you is it gives you less anxiety in the moment. I always think why start on future problems. Now let now when I am my current problems to deal with like, why would we double down on now problems and later problems. I don’t want to buy into the urgency my brain gives me that everything is urgent and everything needs to be dealt with right now.
There’s a classic example of being a type three married to a type nine. So last night, my husband and I came home from a few days away, we went to Vancouver for a couple of days. And we got home late. And we’ve been trying to find out this weird smell in our room. And we’ve been like taking things out and washing them. And finally we’re like it’s still there, we need to rip out the carpet. Like that’s the only thing left in here, other than tearing down the walls. So at seven at night, we start ripping out the carpet. And my husband’s a type three, he said achiever and he’s like, we’re gonna do this, it’s gonna be spotless, it’s gonna look so good. Let’s pull up the nails. And all the foam and the staples, we’re gonna vacuum will probably replace this wood. And it’s like nine o’clock by then. And I’m a type nine who’s had five hours of sleep for the past night and then the night before. And I’m like, we’re not going to renovate this tomorrow. Like we still have to wait a couple of months before we have the time to do this real renovation. Why would we do the whole floor, recovering everything in furniture, all we need is the space that we’re walking on to be clear and safe. So this sounds like a later problem that we don’t have to do right now.
And then it took me a long time to just really appreciate our two enneagram types at work. But if there’s one thing that type nine is good at its putting things off. So I like to think sometimes I can bring that into his life and help them to just like simmer down a bit. And goodness knows I need his type three energy to help me like get momentum and get stuff going for sure.
So if you’re wondering, is procrastination really giving me a negative impact in my life? Or am I just uncomfortable with having to prioritize things? Let’s break it down. I’ll tell you three ways that procrastination can become a problem.
The first way is because of what we do instead of the thing we want to do, what are we turning to instead? So often when we procrastinate, we’re turning to short term gratification, non essential things, easy things, feel good now things the things that we have taught our brain to turn to, in the moment to feel good, like phones and food, and a good book or organizing our sock drawer. Maybe that’s not something everyone does. But okay. And then these things, these things that we turn to these easy, non essential things that are like, you get pleasure, you avoid pain, and you’re efficient, because we just know how to do this. Our brain is like, Yeah, let’s go do that. These become our coping mechanisms. These become our quote unquote, bad habits, these become the things we need to quote unquote, work on. And then procrastination has given us a problem.
Another problem it can cause is, what is not getting done. We aren’t doing the things our ideal self once, my ideal self over the years, I thought that if I could just solve procrastination, I would get up at six, I would exercise I would journal. And then I would just like bang out my to do list of tasks and errands for the day.
Now, a couple of catches here, the first one is sometimes our list for ideal self, it just sucks. Like, it needs to chill out. And I think this is something we all struggle with. And I’m not saying to not have a list and not have expectations of yourself. I’m just saying, when we have too many expectations and type ones, three nights, if you guys are like girl, please, I can do those. I kept this, then I just encourage you to go listen to Episode 129. Does your to do list, cause expectation, overwhelm and how to handle it.
But more often, I think there’s another hurdle here. And that is we’re kind of really out of tune with what we want in our life. What are your values for yourself personally, in your home, in how you parent and in your marriage, all of these things, they should be setting the priorities on how you spend your time and energy. What is your vision for the nine areas of your life, we need to know that before we start to get stressed out about everything we’re not doing and how we’re doing it all wrong. And we’re not our ideal selves. What is your ideal self spend some time figuring that out. There’s free worksheets for sending your values and vision, I’m going to link those in the show notes. They’re also in the life on purpose workbook, if you have your hands on that, that’s available on Amazon.
So we do struggle with the letdown, that we’re not building up our ideal life. But also like the logistical stuff, the day to day stuff. When we’re procrastinating, this task isn’t getting done, things pile up, the dishes going down, the laundry piles up, more boxes get added to the basement. And it just generally affects how our life is run, the decisions go on made the tasks feel bigger and more overwhelming. We feel like we’re further and further away. And it’s gonna take even more willpower and even more discipline to get back to it. And it’s almost like the more we let time pass by without doing these tasks, the more we tell ourselves the room, there will never be enough time.
The third problem that procrastination can cause is an identity problem, what we make it mean about us, if you are someone who procrastinates and you feel a little bit of shame around this, you probably think something’s wrong with you. And it’s probably that you don’t have enough willpower, or discipline, like that is the one key that’s missing. And if I had willpower, I wouldn’t procrastinate. But I just want to tell you that it is so much more layered than that discipline and willpower. They’re like parts of the machine. They are not the whole car.
And I just want to call you above that. If procrastination is something you do. And even if it is giving you a negative impact in your life, it does not make you less worthy or less valuable. I remember early in motherhood, I would like sit on the couch at the end of the day and see laundry around me and I would be like I’m so lazy. I’m such a lazy mom and I really had this identity that I was lazy. And then I realized I was just overwhelmed. Like I had a lot to do all the time. And it the list never ended. And I would beat myself up for choosing to relax.
So the more we procrastinate, the more we form an identity about who we are and who are not. We call ourselves a procrastinator. And now we have this very defeating rule about who we are. And we live into that. I call these limiting identities if you want to hear more on that. That is Episode 76 why it matters what you think.
So if you are facing some procrastination today, right now, I want to give you some questions that will help you and these will be in the show notes if you want to go write them down after the first one that I would encourage you to ask is why do I want to avoid this task?
So I’ve been asking myself this about recording the podcast like I’ve noticed, this is something I procrastinate and I’m trying to be like why like I love the podcast. I love the community. It builds. I love thinking of topics But to sit down and press record, why is that the part that I procrastinate. And I think a part of it, it just feels so final like, I can draft up these ideas and these notes and add and delete. But once I’ve recorded it, it’s done. And I think deep down, I’m worried I’m doing it wrong, like I’m picking the wrong topic or seeing the wrong thing or it’s too long or I’m missing something. And that doubt is just not a fun experience. I don’t like to hang out with doubt. It’s not a good thing. And also, it’s just not that much fun to talk to my computer. But I just kind of imagine I’m talking to you guys. It’s not that much fun to edit, and write these show notes. So I know as soon as I hit record, I’m still gonna have more work ahead.
But the next question I need to ask, Is this task important to my values in my vision for my life, and in this case for my work life? And I can answer that wholeheartedly. Yes, I love running a business that has a podcast, I love hearing from you, ladies, I love the connection gives us. And when you give me this feedback, it tells me that I am using this in a way that aligns with my values to create something that brings value to moms to women. The next question after that, if it’s a yes, if this task is important with your values and your vision, is it a priority today we can buy into a lot of urgency our brain creates. But just step back for a sec.
Is this a priority today? In my case, yes. I’m going away with a couple of my lady besties for a couple nights, and then my husband goes back to work. So I’m not going to be back in the podcasting seat for another 11 days. This needs to get done today.
So is it a priority today? If yes, then what’s that one thing that’s just going to get you started that first small step? For me, I’m going to drink that coffee, say a little prayer. And I’m just going to hit record.
And if you’re realizing it’s not a priority today, I encourage you to schedule it in your calendar. Give it a time when it should happen in the future. And if you’re like I have been over the years and think like yeah, if it’s in the calendar, so what doesn’t mean it’s gonna get done, I would encourage you to listen to Episode 105. Do you trust yourself?
I hope these questions have been helpful for you stop by the link in the show notes. If you want to see them outlined,
I’m going to wrap up with a simple pleasures. The kids go back to school here in BC in three weeks, and one of our traditions are back to school photos. And I know lots of people do this. These aren’t something I ever really share on social media. Maybe I’ll share them like privately on Facebook, so the grandmas and aunties can see them. But I love that picture where that you take of them, where they hold that sign up that says what they want to be when they grow up. I’ve been doing this with all the kids since they started school. And I just do it on printer paper with a sharpie like this isn’t anything fancy. Because I think it’s more about doing it to make a memory and less how pretty it is. And I don’t mean to put down the Pinterest mom whom I love you rock it you rock the chalkboard. I love seeing that. But I’m saying this to encourage the moms who are holding up for perfect who are like I don’t have the chalkboard so I can’t take the photo. Yes, you can. You can take a video of them saying what they want to be when they grow up, you can just write it on an old piece of wrapping paper like you do not have to hold out for perfect. And another tradition we have is at the end of the school year, I take a photo of them in shirts that say their grad year on it. And just like every year, so it’s the last day of school. But since this is an episode on procrastination, I will tell you the last summer break, it took me two months to take that photo. I took it actually right before they went back to school for the following year. So it’s all about less about getting it perfect and more about doing it doing it because it’s just something you think is cool, it would be a cool memory. Alright, I hope that has encouraged you today. If you find yourself battling procrastination this week or after you’ve listened to this podcast, I hope you’ll share it with me on Instagram. I hope you’ll share it on a poster in your stories and tag me in it at simple on purpose.ca. I just really love to see who’s listening and what they’re up to and how this podcast might be helping them. So if you’re on Instagram, share it there and take me in it. Alright friends, have a great week.
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