I have always held a very narrow, judgemental view on Procrastination. It’s always been the ‘bad guy’ of my life story. Like how Bruce Lee had a demon Samurai, I too have felt like I’ve been in combat with an invisible force.
I guess ‘combat’ is the wrong word because that does imply some sort of action and up until recently I have been the Queen of Minimal Effort. So Zen, in fact, that you could often find me staring at a wall for hours to avoid any kind of productivity.
But a few hours before a deadline, look out world; I become a captain of an out of control cruise ship, heading straight towards shore at a thousand miles per hour, only narrowly escaping impact. (Yes, a bit dramatic, but please continue to indulge me…)
Up until recently, I was bewildered why I would cause myself so much anxiety. And not only that, allow myself to get mediocre results in life when I know I am capable of so much more.
I was also perplexed that I would begin my postgraduate studies this year and continue the same reckless behaviour. And yes, naïvely, I did expect this childhood habit to miraculously disappear now that the academic stakes were much higher. I would suddenly become the prolific scholar of my dreams.
Driven to get to the bottom of this, I decided to go to Hypnotherapist/Counsellor/Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) extraordinaire Marie Element.
Marie believes procrastination stems from many things however can often be a fear of failure or perhaps a deep desire to be doing something else.
When I asked her how hypnotherapy could help sufferers of this menace saboteur, she said:
“With procrastination, there is always some subconscious process that is getting in the way of success. Our subconscious always acts in our best interests, and is usually trying to protect us from something, e.g. failure.
“Using hypnotherapy I work with the subconscious to enable it to find and use other, more helpful strategies that do not get in the way of success.”
After hearing this, it was like an anvil dropped on my head. (That, by the way, has always been my brutal way of describing a moment of great epiphany.) Procrastination suddenly becomes like an over protective, slightly nutty but well meaning mother instead of this antagonistic ninja.
Better still procrastination isn’t something external at all - it’s just a behaviour that we can adjust or simply become more aware of. And dare I say it? We could afford to make friends with this part of ourselves. Experience has taught me that when we are kinder to ourselves, behaviour like procrastination becomes a real opportunity for self-growth.
One Small Chunk at a Time
I told Marie that I was struggling with starting quite a substantial assignment.
She said, “This is often a result of feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the task when thinking about it in totality.
“The trick then is to identify a small, manageable first chunk and focus on successfully completing that.
“Once you've had that victory, it will be easier to pick off the next small chunk.
“Oh, and it's REALLY helpful to write down the title of the first little chunk, say in a diary, and put a date beside it. There is power in writing down your goal and giving it a written date.”
I feel the need to mention that I am an avid reader of spirituality and self-help books and blogs. It’s my dope. There I said it…
I recently found a great article on one my of my favourite blogs called Puttylike.com about the Pomodoro Technique.
The Puttylike creator and blogger Emilie Wapnik wrote: “I actually started out using the Pomodoro Technique where I’d take breaks every 20 minutes or so. After 20 minutes, I was ready for a break and that was when I was allowed to check twitter or Facebook. But after my break, I get back to work on whatever it is I want to work on, whether that was the first activity or the next one, always focusing on that one task at a time.” (Read her article here.)
So I have been identifying the chunks, as Marie suggested, getting my timer out for 25 minutes. I suggest taking five-minute breaks in between and after four 25-minute ‘chunks’, take a longer 15-minute break. You would be so surprised at home much work suddenly gets done!
Procrastination lies dormant and will flare up under times of stress or for no seemingly obvious reason at all. I still often fight the urge to sit and watch Tattoo Nightmares instead of finishing an assignment or practice my songs. My body will feign lethargy so that I feel like I have a valid excuse to indulge in this rubbish TV. As mentioned previously, it’s about bringing awareness to these moments and gently asking yourself why you are feeling this way.
The question I like to ask myself in these moments is: am I loving myself right now by avoiding this task? This question prompts me to realize that I’m actually causing myself more stress, which is really painful and detrimental to my health so therefore is not a loving act.
Sometimes I do feel like my subconscious is a small child and I am constantly teaching it structure and boundaries. This perhaps may be a part of me for a while but for now I am equipping myself with strategies so that I can keep my confidence in tact to keep kicking my goals.