We all do it.

We want to make a change.  We have the best of intentions.  We’re going to clean the house, apply for a job, or start exercising more.

We plan, prepare, and get excited.  And then, when the time comes, we think: “You know, today isn’t such a good day after all.  The weather’s no good; I’m not in the right mood; I didn’t sleep well last night.  I’m sure this will be much easier tomorrow.”

In other words, procrastination’s siren song sinks our ship before we’ve even left the shore.

It’s Not Just You

Nobody is immune to the sweet promises of procrastination.

I can’t tell you how many people I talk to who desperately want a new career and know what they need to do to make it happen but who find, again and again, that they can’t get themselves to take any action to actually achieve it.

I myself have been meaning to write the next installment of my fictional series for some time now, but “later” seems to always be the best time I can find to write.

You Can Stop Beating Yourself Up

We don’t procrastinate because we’re lazy, and truthfully there’s nothing wrong with us.

We put things off because we get scared, anxious or overwhelmed.

We may anticipate how hard something is going to be, and it feels like more than we can handle right now.  Or perhaps we feel anxious because we don’t know how to proceed, the outcome is uncertain, or things may not turn out well.  Not taking action can seem like the perfect way to avoid unpleasant experiences and unsavory outcomes.

Procrastination promises to help us feel better, if just for a little while, and who doesn’t want to feel better?

The Way to Action

The key to dealing with procrastination is to recognize the duplicitous nature of its siren song and then do what we can to make our sailing smoother.

Step 1: Remind Yourself of the Lie in Procrastination’s Promise

As we’ve all experienced, we may avoid some potential discomfort by sticking close to the certain shores of the status quo.  But we also don’t make progress towards what we want and what we’re called to do.  And what’s more, we can’t help but notice that we’re not taking action on something that’s important to us, and that never feels good.

By procrastinating, we’re simply swapping one type of discomfort for another.

So, the first step to taking action is to acknowledge that procrastination isn’t really delivering on its promise of tranquility.

Step 2: Make It Less Overwhelming

If you’re still putting action off, you’re likely feeling at least a little overwhelmed.  That’s okay.  Don’t fight yourself.

Instead, be your own mentor:

  • Break down large or daunting tasks into smaller pieces.  Think through what’s required and list it out, step-by-step.  Then break each step down into smaller pieces.  Keep breaking each step down until you find an action that feels doable right now.  Then do it.
  • Lower your standards.  I had a client once who never cleaned her house because it felt so overwhelming to do it the way she felt she should.  Meanwhile the house got messier and the prospect of cleaning it even more overwhelming.  When she gave herself permission to lower her standards by, for example, clearing just the top of her dresser or getting her house clean-er but not spotless,  she found she was able to take action where she hadn’t been before.
  • Give yourself a reward.   Make a deal with yourself: if you do this challenging or unpleasant task you’ve been avoiding, you’ll get a reward.  It could be a bath, a cup of your favorite coffee, a TV show, or anything else you enjoy.  (Find some inexpensive, non-food ideas here.)  Just make sure you actually follow through.  Your inner mentor is going to lose credibility fast if you make promises to your inner procrastinator that you don’t keep.

Step 3: Find Support

What’s wrong with me? is a terribly useless question to ask.

Much more productive is: What would help me get started?

So ask yourself: What makes me feel stronger?  What would make this task easier?  Then look for the people, activities, environments, technology, and other resources that do exactly that.

Support that has helped me or my clients step into action includes:

  • Having a partner with whom to discuss strategy and check in on progress
  • Finding a new and inspiring environment
  • Doing something energizing, like exercise or a creative activity, before taking a difficult step
  • Finding an app or other technology that makes the task easier
  • Joining a community of peers with similar goals and challenges

Over to You

Odysseus found that ropes and lots of wax were key to resisting the sirens’ song.

What’s your wax?  What support helps you resist procrastination and step into action?

Please share your experience in the comments below.

Take Action Towards Work You Love Now

The next Pathfinders (a group hike and discussion to discover your calling) is coming up fast.

On this hike, you’ll find loads of support for taking action, including:

  • Connections with others  facing similar challenges
  • A beautiful environment
  • Inspiration and ideas for next steps
  • Loving accountability

…and perhaps even some yummy snacks as well.  Because what’s the point of answering your calling if it’s not fun and delicious?

Click here to take the first step towards making a change.

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Photo credit: kkmarais // CC