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Getting to the Root of Procrastination

A 4-step process to cultivate more happiness through productivity

Productivity – let’s just collectively admit that we are having a moment with productivity. We’re obsessed with it. We’re biohacking our way through everything from pooping to excel spreadsheets.

And while it’s beautiful that we are so keyed into finding the best way to do life, we need to pause and get real with ourselves before we go any further.

What got us to this place where we are suffering from such a massive lack of focus and clarity, that our whole world is centered around finding it again?

What is triggering this collective procrastination, and inspiring the marketable superhuman biohacking trend? What are we not acknowledging?


In the recently published article, “Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do with Self-Control),” The New York Times presented research supporting the notion that procrastination, is, in fact, a product of favoring short term relief over long term resolution.

We procrastinate because, “the primacy of short-term mood repair” is being prioritized, “over the longer-term pursuit of intended actions”. In other words, whether consciously or unconsciously, we’re doing everything other than addressing uncomfortable feelings, so we’re just avoiding ourselves.

With our “productivity” and tech hacks, reflective or quiet moments are now being marketed as wasted time … but have we really become more productive? Or are we just creating more surface noise to distract us from the fact that we feel uneasy, unfulfilled, and more disconnected than ever before – frozen in overwhelm, and unable to make a move toward change.

In my coaching practice, I’ve been working with two clients who are both making big changes in their lives. One is starting her own business and the other leaving his cushy job to pursue a dream and a vision that comes with no guarantees. Interestingly, both clients had something in common at the beginning of their work: a resistance to do the very things that would ultimately lead them to their goals.

As we worked through sessions, many of our conversations centered around how distracted they were finding themselves in so many areas of their lives – like there was just too much going on to make time for the tasks that would transform their dreams into their reality. They felt a deep sense of overwhelm and stress as they scrambled to accomplish tasks unrelated to the changes they desired.

Both asked for tips and hacks to help them focus and get more done in shorter amounts of time, and both were resistant to the idea that they might not actually need to get more done. As we began to engage in deeper conversations and explore what was going on under the surface of the never-ending distractions created by their to-do lists, some common challenges emerged.

Through the following process we were able to tackle that resistance and get them on a more fulfilling life path, by treating the cause of those challenges, and not the symptoms.

First, explore the resistance.

Both of my clients acknowledged that they felt overwhelmed – but avoided the very thing that would clear up “the to-do’s” that were causing them so much anxiety. When asked what they were gaining by staying overwhelmed, they both, completely puzzled, fumbled to answer.

When we explored why they were doing something that offered no benefit, they finally found their way to the crux of the issue: they both preferred the discomfort and overwhelm created by procrastination, to the prospect of walking through fear.

It is fear that fuels procrastination and overwhelm.   

Second, unpack the fear.

When you start getting at the core of fear, you find it’s quite dense and needs a bit of unpacking. It’s like opening a vacuum-sealed bag for the first time – the contents can overflow and burst forth at you.

With my clients, the more we unpacked, the clearer we got that at the core of it, they were paralyzed by a fear of failure:

What if I am not good enough at it?

What if I can’t drum up business?

What if it’s more than I can handle?

What if I don’t make enough money?

What if I cannot handle the pressure of success?

Ruminating on these questions can be addicting – we become accustomed to the adrenaline the doubt pumps through our bodies. In an attempt to mask this addiction to doubt and despair, the mind resorts to a form of logic. We tell ourselves we need to exercise caution, and really think things through before we dive in because, what if it doesn’t work out?

When you get real with yourself, you can begin to see just how much your addiction to “hacking” your way through life has become a Band-Aid covering a much deeper wound of fear.

You see, this need to get results more quickly hides a constant low-lying pain that someone else will beat you to it, that you’ll be left with nothing, that you won’t be able to manage. The constant “full-plate” excuse prevents you from taking a chance to discover that maybe, just maybe, you’ll succeed.  As Marianne Williamson says, “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

And right there – the biggest question of all: do we ever consider or explore the other possibility in this situation: what if it does work out?

Third, flip the script.

Sometimes our mind just needs direction – we have to give it a job. So, I challenged my clients to dwell on the possibility of success, and together and we took a look at a different outcome: What if it DOES work out?

Emily Dickinson said it best when she said, “Dwell in Possibility.”  We raise our vibration when we dwell in possibility, and I encouraged my clients to do just that. As they thought about what that would mean for their life, the conversations grew lighter, and their demeanors changed as they expressed joy, excitement, empowerment, courage, motivation, determination – a huge heck yea!  

Now, that’s the fuel for dreams! And it didn’t involve one single productivity hack – just a little bit of honest self-reflection.

Fourth, ruminate on ALL possibilities and take action.

Our thoughts create our actions and our actions create our experiences and our experiences create our destiny. In sum, your thoughts create your destiny. If you are not living the life you desire, and you’re finding yourself blocked from taking inspired action, it’s time to check under the hood and see what’s driving you. Through this reframing process, you can create new thought patterns that will guide you down a more rewarding path.

Current Debilitating Thought

Thought:  What if this doesn’t work out? I might fail.  There are too many obstacles.

Ignited Emotion: FEAR (of failure or success)

Action: None, I’m too overwhelmed and anxious to take any action, and the to-do’s keep stacking up.

New Empowering Thought

Thought: What if this DOES work out? The only way I fail is if I don’t go for it.  I will take each obstacle as they come and know that I have the potential for success!

Ignited Emotion: liberation, excitement, motivation

Action: Start tackling the dream-oriented get-to’s because I enjoy working on the projects that bring excitement.

In both of these examples we see that our emotions create a certain energy that drives our actions. Emotion is simply energy inMotion. Some emotions are going to drive us into energy draining activities, while others will drive us into energy optimizing activities. When we change our thoughts and take strategic action towards our goals, we can better align with our passions and purpose, finding ourselves better positioned to achieve success while doing something we love!

No amount of productivity hacking is going to make a fear-based action easy and sustainable, because the energy fueling that action is empty, and will lead to burnout. Do you drive your car on an empty tank of gas? No, you fill it with fuel that creates the spark of magic to power the engine, and then you let it run!

Before we can take off on a more meaningful journey, we need to tap into our emotional fuel source of joy and inspiration. As you read, your mind might naturally wander to some of the activities in your life that are draining your energy now. Take note of these, work through the above process, and you might just discover what these actions are masking.

You may also be able to identify practices, activities and conversations that energize you, and leave you feeling fulfilled. Once you begin engaging in more of these energy-optimizing activities, THEN you can turn to productivity hacks. The combination of the two is sure to propel you toward success!

As my clients identified what was energizing them, they gained a valuable perspective, and were able to inject more positive moments into their day-to-day lives. By doing this, they were also reinforcing long term success. And the results? Each reported that they had effortlessly gotten through more in that one week than they had in the last few months because the pressure was off, and life was fun again!

Tips and hacks “treat” the symptoms of procrastination, but how much more powerful is it to apply a process that helps eliminate the cause to begin with?  

Explore the process I went through with my clients and challenge yourself to create sustainable productivity and a more joyful life. Get real with yourself and recognize that is what you’re after anyway – more simple moments of uninhibited JOY!

Step 1 – Explore the resistance

Step 2 – Unpack the fear

Step 3 – Flip the script

Step 4 – Ruminate on ALL possibilities and take action

THIS is where the magic happens – the magic that leads to results worthy of celebration, and a life that feels simple, full, and alive for YOU.

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