You’re listening to The Work Of Becoming podcast! My name is Dr. Karin Nordin. I am your host as well as a behavior change expert and self-proclaimed tornado girl. I spent years of my life struggling to change before I finally got my PhD and learned the psychological tools that I needed to actually make those changes happen. Now, I’m bringing you five-minute sneak peeks of how I’m applying the real science of self-help to my life. Let’s get started!
Ooh-kay! Welcome to The Work Of Becoming podcast! I have my little intro now, so I don’t need to say that, but I always do. Today, we’re gonna talk about procrastination, and we’re gonna talk about this because I was reflecting back, I was thinking back on a client that I used to have, a client that I worked with at the very beginning of Alliance Coaching. I was thinking about her for some reason (I have no idea why), and I was like, “You know what? That is a really good lesson for my podcast audience. What I worked with her on is something that I think we really need to talk about on the podcast.” So, that’s what we’re doing today.
This particular client came to me because she had a lot of autonomy over her day, she had a lot of flexibility in her work (she worked from home), and she had what she called a huge procrastination problem. So, because a lot of her work was not necessarily time sensitive — and she worked for herself. She was a consultant slash entrepreneur, I should say, and so, she was setting her own deadlines. She didn’t have the external motivator of a boss or a superior or even coworkers, nothing like that. She was really frustrated because she would put these things on her to-do list, and then she would get distracted, she’d do other things, and she would procrastinate. She knew and she had the awareness to know that the distraction that she was experiencing was a form of procrastination. So, she would clean or cook or do other random family tasks instead of working on her client work, her consulting work, her business, that kind of thing.
What is really interesting about this client’s journey with me is that the number one thing that helped her stop procrastinating had nothing to do with concrete tactics, had nothing to do with systems, had nothing to do with focus hacks that you hear on the internet. She was able to stop procrastinating and also stop being so distracted during the day when she simply stopped judging herself for having that tendency.
This is something that I’ve experienced, this transformation in my own life. I see it in a lot of our Alliance Clients because we have tons of people who come to the coaching program to work on procrastination, and I see it all the time where one of the things that keeps us in this cycle of procrastination is that we judge ourselves so badly for procrastinating in the first place. Here’s how that happens in the brain.
Let’s say that you have a report that you need to do, and you procrastinate it. You’re like, “I’m gonna do this later this afternoon.” The next time you think about doing that task, you are mentally comprehending not only the difficulty of that task, but you also have to cope with guilt for procrastinating it in the first place. Now, I’ve talked about cognitive load before, about how your brain only has so much brain power and when you have heavy emotions like guilt, that essentially takes up some of that cognitive load. So, because you are feeling so guilty, you have, then, less of that cognitive power to jump into the task even though it’s difficult, even though it’s intimidating, even though etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. And then when you procrastinate it again, your narrative about how awful you are and how bad you are for procrastinating amplifies, and all of a sudden it’s this situation where so much of your brain is consumed by procrasti-guilt that you can’t possibly address your procrastination.
So, I want you to imagine that you truly accepted that procrastination is a natural part of the human experience. Procrastination can even be strategic sometimes. It can be protective sometimes. There are a lot of good reasons why we procrastinate. It’s just something that our brains tend to default to do. If you get to that place of acceptance around your procrastination, then you gain back all that cognitive power, and you can use that cognitive power to get curious about what you can actually do about it. In addition, if you’re not going to feel guilty about procrastinating, next time you think about procrastinating, you’re like, “Oh, maybe I can do this later,” you’re able to make a logical and rational decision about whether or not that’s strategic. But if you have all this guilt, and you’re like, “Oh, I’m gonna feel so guilty if I procrastinate this,” that clouds that decision-making process.
So, that is, short and sweet, what I want you to think about today. Stop guilting yourself for procrastination. Procrastination is not something you can ever eliminate. It’s not something that’s ever gonna go away completely. It is a natural part of being a human with a human brain. That doesn’t mean we always have to let it happen. That doesn’t mean we just give up and assume I’m gonna procrastinate everything forever. It does mean, though, we have to get to a place of acceptance before we can make any change.
That’s what I’ve got for you today. Again, if you want to work on procrastination, that is the number one thing I would say we work on with clients in coaching. So, go to www.bodybrainalliance.com/coaching to learn more about our program.
PS: if you are on a journey to become a better you, and you want to learn the tools and techniques that will actually help change your life, make sure you check out my Change Academy Membership. Each month, we do a 1.5-hour workshop on a different psychological topic, but we also provide resources like journal prompts, worksheets, and trackers. We host community events and more. If you’re struggling to close the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it, this membership was built for you. Go to www.bodybrainalliance.com/change-academy to learn more!