All my life I’ve been a ‘talented’ procrastinator, or rather that’s the belief I’ve held.
In recent years I’ve come to understand that my procrastination is not because I’m undisciplined, lazy or ineffective, or any other negative label I might give myself. Underneath, there is always a good reason why I procrastinate that I would be wise to pay attention to, and when I do, it becomes much easier to move into action.
I had an incredibly productive and satisfying week recently, but it only became so when I realised the pain I was in from avoiding some tasks.
I had got behind with my financial record keeping and paying some bills. There was a phonecall needed to rearrange something I had committed to in error. There were emails I needed to reply to just sat in my inbox, there was a sensitive conversation to be had with a friend. My office was a tip, notes needed writing up, files putting away.
For a good 2 weeks I used the excuse with myself that I was just ‘very busy’ and hadn’t had a chance to do them, and besides there were no immediate consequences. But that simply wasn’t true.
Financial record keeping aside, none of these were big or time-consuming tasks, and if I looked at the time I’d spent browsing the internet, watching the TV or on avoidance tasks like tidying a kitchen cupboard, there’d been plenty of opportunity to achieve some of these things.
And yes, the consequences of avoidance weren’t immediate, but further down the line they could be really, really important.
And, I had to admit to myself that the underlying low level guilt and discomfort/uneasiness I was carrying around (not to mention my sneering self-critic having the occasional go) was taking its toll on my sense of well-being – the start of a slippery slope.
So, I paused…
I only paused for less than a minute, but in that pause I reached deep inside for the compassionate, wise woman I’d like to be all the time. I lose her all too easily in my clutter , but she is there, underneath.
And that wiser me looked kindly at the things I was avoiding and examining each one said: “Ah yes, I see. It’s OK – there is uncertainty, because you don’t know how to respond. And here is fear that you will cause another pain. And here, you are afraid of what you may find. And here, you are worried about how you will be judged and you will be rejected. And here, others are influencing you in a way that is misaligned with your own view and values, you are not being truly yourself. And here, you only see one huge overwhelming task, not the smaller steps you can take one at a time”.
And that wise woman went on to ask “Is the potential pain of the conversation you are avoiding worse than the pain you are experiencing now? Which fear is the bigger – the known, or the unknown? And do you have all the answers? What happens if you simply say “I don’t know”?“
You can only face each choice in the moment it presents itself, just take one step at a time, breathe deeply and feel the courage in facing the pain. Trust me, when you turn to face it, the pain will shrink and you will realise most was an illusion born of your own imagining.
And she was right. I faced each pain, one at a time – and even found that some brought joy.