We’re on a roll here this month, with people wanting to pick my brain (maybe I should change the name of the blog?).
Cheryl wrote to ask this:
Anastacia, I procrastinate. Always have. And it needs to stop because I get myself into very hot water because of it. Things don’t get done on time, or well, or at all. People get upset with me. And I’ve lost four clients because of it. I can’t seem to stop doing it, though, and wonder if you have any advice.
Because there can be many different core reasons for procrastination (lack of confidence, perfectionism, adrenaline addiction, and boredom, just to name a few), I wrote back to ask Cheryl for more info about her own situation. She shared:
I don’t have any problem getting things done well and efficiently when I enjoy them. It’s things I don’t really enjoy that are my problem. The problem is, there are a LOT of those in the work I do for my clients, so I don't know what to do. This is getting super painful.
Aha!! I was tempted for a second to tell the old joke—you know the one about where the guy walks into the doctor’s office and says, “Doc, it hurts when I do this,” and the Doc replies, “Don’t do that, then!”
Cheryl, funny though it might sound, if you don’t want to do something, and can’t make yourself do it, then what’s called for is for you to tell the truth about it, so you can get yourself out of the situation. You've been hearing the messages for a very long time, you've not acted on them, and now they're banging on you so loudly that you're in crisis mode (another way of procrastinating, btw).
In case it feels like it would be a problem, know that there’s nothing in the world wrong with telling a client you don’t want to do something (or aren’t able, if that's what's true), and suggesting another way to get the thing handled. It’s honest, it’s fair, and it doesn’t prevent the thing that needs to get done from getting done.It's also the ethical thing to do, and perhaps most importantly, the most loving.
Of course, if you’d rather poke a hot stick in your eye than have those kinds of conversations and can’t get yourself to do the things you procrastinate on, you really are in a pickle.
Two options, my friend:
1. Get yourself out of the situation in which you find yourself having to do something you don’t want to do by talking with your client, and putting standards in place so that you'll rarely be in such a situation in your practice.
2. Get busy doing the thing you’re procrastinating on.
As you know I'm big on there being third options, I actually thought of a third and a fourth. But they're not viable in any positive way, so let's stick with the two above.
If you’d like to try one of those, here are a few things I know about dread (which is, by the way, the thing causing you to procrastinate).
1. Figure out why you dread doing something. It could be boredom. It could be perfectionism. It could be that you don't think it should be yours to do. It could be that you don't feel you have enough time to do it well (which may actually be part of perfectionism, or might be straight up due to a need to learn how to manage time better). It could be that you're over capacity and overwhelmed. Figuring out the "why" is important, because different "whys" have different ways of getting handled.
If it's boredom, or your thinking you shouldn't do it, or your not thinking you have enough time to do it, you can fix that, or get out of it by having a conversation with your client.
If it's perfectionism, that will require some inner work to move beyond.So will righting being over capacity and overwhelm.
If it's time management, it's a matter of finding a good system for you, and working it consistently.
Regardless of the why, nailing it, and working toward a resolution is the path to killing dread in your life.
2. The longer you put doing something off you dread, the harder it is to ever get started.At some point in time, you won't be able to make yourself do it, and/or it will be too late (deadline's missed; people are pissed).
3. Whatever you dread will not be even 25% as bad as you believe it will be. Promise. But, as you know, the result of your procrastination will be 100% worse than you believe it will be.
4. Every time you do something you dread and are successful with it, the anti-dread muscle atrophies a bit, and the “I can do it” muscle gets stronger. After a bit of time, the sweet taste of success that you didn’t think you’d have will feel incredible, and you’ll feel somewhat invincible. That will make it easier to say yes to things you previously wanted to say no to.
5. If you take the thing you dread doing and break it down into tiny movements (Susan Kennedy calls these micro-movements), and work on them for five minutes, chances are you’ll complete the whole enchilada. Oh, and make sure to do the hardest thing first. You'll instantly feel successful and that momentum will carry you forward.
6. Disappointing a client by telling the truth is never, ever, ever as painful as disappointing him with what you said you’d do, but didn’t. If you’re going to dread something, dread the latter, not the former. Maybe it’ll light a fire under you to do something differently.
Time for pith: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Cheryl, I'm pretty sure you're not insane. So stop the cycle. Get some support--maybe an accountability partner, a coach, or if you think this runs more deeply, a therapist--to support you in doing things differently. :)
Make a decision about how you’re going to change your situation (do not procrastinate on this!), and get busy changing it. Nothing about this will get better for you until you do.
Ok, gang... your turn. How do you get busy when you dread doing something, and/or how have you removed dread from your life? Cheryl and I are all ears!!