Have you ever sat down to do something important and an hour or two later, you’re watering plants, loading the dishwasher, googling resorts for your next exotic vacation you will likely never take, feeling captivated by a Dr. Oz episode, reading a Facebook article on George Clooney’s childhood or laughing at cat videos on your couch?
And then you roll into bed at the end of the day and that important task? Not completed.
Rinse & Repeat. Rinse & Repeat. Month after month. Year after year.
Last week, I listened to phenomenal speaker, author and coach, Mel Robbins, at the annual Young Living Convention in Utah. She shared a line about procrastination that sparked my attention and I want to share it with you. She said:
“Procrastination is a form of STRESS RELIEF.”
Many people connect procrastination with poor time management skills or a lack of self-regulation (overspending, overeating) or a lack of self-discipline.
But I have to say that this was a description on procrastination I had never heard before and it fascinated me. The more I think about it, the more I am curious about it. What a gracious way to look at it.
When we are doing something we don’t want to do or something that evokes fear or anxiety or self-doubt about doing something new (i.e. improving your diet, adding exercise, changing the way you put yourself out in the world, asking for what you need) there are certain feelings that might surface: I’m nervous. I’m scared. I’m terrified. I doubt myself. I can’t.
We experience an 'unwanted feeling'. Naturally, we want to escape that feeling and find something that 'feels better' right away to take us out of our stress response. We’re much more focused on our immediate feelings to bring us comfortable rather than focusing on the long-term feeling of accomplishing the important thing we set out to do (which naturally triggers all sorts of “unwanted feelings” at the beginning.)
Experts say we make around 35,000 decisions EVERY SINGLE DAY. And they tell us self-doubt wins nearly every time.
Here’s a true story: EVERY time I begin writing a blog post, I can’t sit long enough to finish it. Sometimes I only get two sentences in. I get up. I walk away. I start cleaning. I check Facebook. I reply to emails. I say I’ll try again tomorrow. I do ANYTHING else other than write the blog post.
And darn it, I did it again today. As a result, my bedroom hasn’t been this clean in months. I even took a Q-tip to the dirt creases on my windows and I dusted. People, I dusted. That says it all. In other words, I walked away from writing this post ALL day.
Why do I do this every time?
Because putting myself out to you is scary to me. Writing does not come easy for me. What do I say? Is it helpful? How do I share what’s been ruminating in my spirit? How do I really feel about what I’m sharing? I constantly doubt my ability to be an effective writer.
And this is why Mel’s message about procrastination is helpful. I experience large amounts of self-doubt, fear and anxiety around writing. And therefore, it evokes a stress response. So my natural reaction is to find some stress relief. Like right away. Apparently cleaning my bedroom and removing dirt with a Q-tip from my windows is a form of stress relief for me today. And, indeed, it was very satisfying.
It has me thinking…if you’re someone who feels like a procrastinator and has ladled on all sorts of shame, guilt and negative self-talk about yourself for procrastinating, what if you were to change the conversation?
What if – every time you found yourself procrastinating – you paused for a moment to better understand it. To better understand yourself.
In other words, the next time you find yourself walking to the kitchen to eat when you’re not hungry or mindlessly binge watch Netflix for hours when you know you want to be doing something else or you need to call your doctor but you keep putting it off or when you load up the reasons why you don’t have time to make nourished eating and exercise happen because your days are too busy, I invite you to listen to your spirit and ask:
- “What am I stressed about?”
- “How is my procrastination seeking stress relief?
- “Do I need more margin/more downtime in my life?”
- “Do I doubt myself?”
- “What do I need?”
- “What am I afraid of or anxious about?”
- “What is the deeper message for me here?”
As I continue to ponder this new idea about procrastination + stress relief, I am beginning to wonder, what would also happen if you had nourishing forms of stress relief built into your day? Breathing, exercising, stretching, self-care, time alone, dancing, connecting and talking with others, getting in nature, etc.
How would that support you? What would inspire you to keep going? To honor and allow yourself to feel the unwanted feelings and let them be ok, knowing the longer term rewards are worth it?
In addition, I'll be picking up a copy of Mel Robbin's book: The 5 Second Rule and encourage you to do it too if this resonates with you and let’s keep the conversation going.