Are you constantly too busy? Do you really find it hard to make decisions? Or are you procrastinating?
First, a confession: This article was due three weeks ago, but not once, until now, did I suspect this delay could be due to procrastination.
I thought I was actually “showing up at the page” (as Elizabeth Gilbert would put it), waking up every morning before dawn with every intention to write. Yet I would keep going back and forth between bringing up my old notes, clearing my desktop, responding to an email, trying to research more on my subject, checking my Facebook page…and then end up writing snippets that felt so artificial and disconnected that I would decide this is not what I wanted to be writing about anyway.
The exact thing may be happening to you if you are trying to fix an appointment with the painter, but the time never seems right. You get a call from a friend or start nagging your son to get ready for football training and finally when it’s too late, you decide maybe tomorrow I will remember to call him a bit earlier… and all the while it seems like you are doing something useful with your time, not procrastinating, just busy!
How can you tell if you are procrastinating? Look out for these signs:
One simple method is to stop and notice how stressed out you feel on a scale from 1 to 10 (do that right now!)
When something triggers stress in our brain, we will avoid it not only by freezing and sitting idly in front of our TVs and computers (the way we usually notice we are procrastinating), we actually start remembering and finding other things to do that have a lower stress response attached to them. The problem is, the longer we delay the task, the higher the stress level associated with it and the less likely we are able to do it. I handle stress with EFT and if you haven’t heard about it, I will be writing about the uses of this technique in the coming articles. For now just know that when stress is there, you have been procrastinating and the higher the number on the scale, the longer you have been putting this off.
2. Do you have a need to do things perfectly?
Accomplishing a task skillfully always brings back satisfaction, but skill needs experience. Experience usually comes when we allow ourselves to finish what we need to do, even if not perfectly sometimes. If you find yourself putting off organizing your cupboard until you can go buy the perfect-equally-sized hangers from a specialty store, you will know that perfectionism is at play here, and it’s keeping you stuck. Get it done now, you can always go back and replace those hangers later.
3. You did it perfectly last time
Let me explain. Have you ever written a perfect post that you wished a new friend or acquaintance would only read it and not read any of your other posts? Were you told you were doing extra well at work or that you played tennis like a pro?. And bam!! No more words come to paper; you start arriving late to work and avoid tennis practice. According to Carol Dweck, professor and author of Mindset, many people unconsciously believe in a “fixed mindset” (that we are born with certain talents and thus are either intelligent, artistic, sporty, all of them or none of the above) as opposed to a “growth mindset” (which is the belief that the way we deal with situations is only the starting point towards what we can develop into). The problem with the first mindset is that the minute we receive positive feedback (we proved we had what it takes), we freeze. We stress in the constant need to prove that we are talented. If you think that might be you, I recommend checking out her website for more information on changing to a “growth mindset”.
4. Obsessive clutter clearing
Clearing the space around us can definitely help us focus. Every time I used my computer, I wanted to clear my archives, organize my emails, and search through my daily diaries, with the intention of feeling “clear” enough to write. Not only did that cost me valuable writing time in the morning, it also added to my mind clutter. Although this strategy is one I usually use to quarterly empty my closets, hard drive and brain, I was using it now to avoid doing what I was really supposed to do, and that is face my emotions and just write.
5. Getting over-involved in your children’s, partner’s, or friend’s life
This is one of the best excuses we use to avoid looking at our own problems, listening to our own feelings, or getting down to our own priority list. We still end up feeling temporarily satisfied until we wake up the next day to find our washing machine still needs to be fixed and the report on our desk still needs to be delivered. You will know you are doing this is if you find yourself accepting more tasks than you can handle from the school committee, or being the only one in your group that everyone turns to for help with their marital problems. Here you should be asking yourself if you are procrastinating not just with tasks or a to-do list but with a major life goal that you secretly wish you had time for.
Ruba Homaidi is a certified holistic counselor and life coach based in Switzerland. She helps people realize their goals without the need to constantly push themselves, through understanding and putting in place, living, mental and spiritual habits that support and energize them.