You intend to get up early to finish that piece of work, after your run of course, and then you need to get to that meeting on time in order to impress everyone with your amazing clarity, astute insights and stunning people skills.
Only this is the reality – you press snooze more than once, you skip your run (you can go later, right?) and then you end up finishing the work at high speed, hitting send about ten minutes before deadline. But that’s okay, you’ve done it and it’s on time. And if you’re quick you can still make that meeting, and you can still get your thoughts pulled together on the way… Sound familiar?
If it does you are probably struggling with the deeply entrenched pattern of Procrastination. Or as I prefer to call it, High-Achiever’s Paralysis. I mean, you’re good. You know you’re good. You know you can pull things off at the last minute and you know your feedback is usually also… well, pretty good. And yet if you’d had more time you could be even better. So why don’t you take this time?
Well, actually, it’s simple – you’re probably stuck in an inner conflict between fear of failure and fear of real success. Let me explain a little further: our self-worth can often be wholly linked to how we perform, rather than who we are as people, our relationships with others, etc. If this is the case, then the stakes can feel too high for our own inner sense of security. It essentially means that if we don’t perform well then we are worthless and that pressure can be overwhelming.
Rationally, of course, we aren’t worthless at all, but our monkey brain can have other ideas. ‘Far better to limit our performance ourselves and still do well, that way our esteem stays intact’, it tells us. So we limit through procrastination. We sit in the overwhelming ‘to do’ thoughts rather than getting amidst the ‘to do’ actions. That buffers us from fully being seen, fully being judged and therefore, keeping some of our ‘magic’ to ourselves. It’s a comfort to do that. We have withheld the essence of our own self-worth. If nobody else has full access to it then nobody can damage it. It stays with us, locked and tight.
You probably don’t actually make your run after all that evening, by the way. It’s been a stressful, highly pressurised day, after all, and you could use a glass of wine, or three. You can always do the run tomorrow morning anyway…
And so the cycle continues. It’s dizzying, depressing and can be completely debilitating. It’s a deeply rooted pattern and not one that can be shifted overnight. But small steps win out here.
Begin by fully allowing your next task a realistic timeframe, sit in the discomfort of taking the full timeframe and begin the activity. Force yourself to keep going until you finish it. You will likely feel anxious, distracted and it will feel odd. Hang in there. You are training a new muscle that hasn’t been used in a long time. When the distraction takes over (and it will) it can help to use this moment to remind yourself that your work does not define you. If it feels weird as hell then you know you’re in the right place.
Dig deep. Keep going. You can do this.
For further work on Procrastination and Personal Effectiveness, get in touch!