I had a conversation with a friend recently, where she told me that it’s not about how you’re feeling, it’s about how you react to how you’re feeling. This feels especially applicable to me when it comes to procrastinating.
When I notice myself procrastinating, it’s easy to disparage myself and think that I lack discipline and willpower. And then since I don’t have enough discipline I’ll never be able to get better and then I’ll never be able to get anything done and I’ll never amount to anything and hellooo despair feedback loop. (Also fixed mindset thinking, eek.)
Lately though, I’ve been trying to appreciate the procrastination. I have an amazing coach and mentor who has taught me to frame negative emotions as something my body is using to help me, protect me, serve me somehow. And from exploring that perspective, I’ve realized that generally the procrastination hits me when I’m resisting working on something.
The resistance comes in two forms for me. The first is boredom, where I know what to do but it’s taking too long or it doesn’t seem appealing. This one isn’t too hard for me to deal with. Usually this means it’s time to take a break, to change what problem I’m working on, or try to reframe my motivations on why I’m working on what I’m doing.
The second and slightly more draining form of resistance is fear. Sometimes when I’m working, I have such a backdrop of fear in my head. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to figure out a problem. I’m afraid that not figuring out a problem proves that I am inherently incapable in a way that will always leave me far from where I need to be in order to be successful. I’m afraid that if I ask for help no one is going to want to help me or that it turned out to be something that I shouldn’t ask for help on and that this only proves I rely on others too much and that I’m no good on my own. I’m afraid the way that I ask my question will be confusing and waste the other person’s time with how inarticulate I am. I’m afraid that the thing I’m trying to do is too hard for my capabilities and will take forever and will put me behind even more.
Whew. With that kind of whispering in my head, I think procrastination and avoidance is my body’s way of conserving my energy, preventing me from going into a despair spiral. Constantly scrolling through social media and getting some hits of human connection is my body’s way of trying to bring my energy level back up enough so I can be positive. And if I were to react to noticing procrastinating with even more self-judgement and thinking that not only I am incapable but I lack discipline, that’d only make the spiraling even worse.
So instead, when I notice fear-based procrastination, I try to appreciate what it’s saying to me and how it’s trying to serve me. It’s saying, “There’s some fear here. Let me protect you.”
How amazing is that, the loving mechanisms we discover within ourselves?