In my work as a coach, time and time again I hear clients say that they want to stop procrastinating and get on and do something. These people have fallen into what I call the procrastination trap.
So what is the procrastination trap? We all know procrastination as having something that you want (or need) to do but finding something (anything) else to do instead. The procrastination trap is when we label our inactivity in this way therefore solidifying the problem.
It goes something like this: I really want to do x (x being any dream like starting a business, writing a book, asking someone out on a date etc). For some reason I don’t do x. I don’t do x for a little while longer. I talk to friends and family about x. Maybe I get a coach or a mentor to help me with x. I still don’t do anything about x.
A friend asks me how I am getting on with x. Guilt and shame kick in. I experience a burst of motivation and take some small steps to start x. The feeling wears off. I put x to one side and get on with other things (anything). Time passes. I still don’t do x.
Someone close to me asks me why I am procrastinating. A-ha that is what it is! I start to focus on why I am putting it off. I ask for advice on my procrastination. I see a coach or mentor about my procrastination. A friend asks me how I am getting on with my procrastination. I go on a motivational course to get over my procrastination. Why can’t I stop procrastinating? I must be a procrastinator (note: this is now wired in at an identity level… what do you think will happen in other areas of your life?)
Now notice how x has disappeared off the radar and the focus is all on the procrastination. Can you even remember what x was? Welcome to the procrastination trap!
Let’s start by clearing up a few things. Firstly, if we want to believe in procrastination, we have to recognise that it is a process, not a thing — it is the act of procrastinating. Just take a moment and notice how you experience the two things. Try saying “I have procrastination“. You will probably find that procrastination feels quite heavy and still— stuck even — because all sense of movement has been taken out of it. It’s become a thing to focus upon and fix — similar to an illness, an addiction or a disease.
Now try saying “I am procrastinating”. Notice the difference? This time we are in a process and a process has movement and flow. You may be procrastinating in this moment and be free flowing in the next. Things will always be moving and changing.
But I am going to a step further, stick my neck out and say that there is no such thing as procrastination. Why? Because procrastination is linked to motivation. It implies that we aren’t motivated enough to do the thing we think we want to do. Then the real question is not why are we putting it off but rather why are we not motivated? And if we are not motivated, could it be that there is a good and valid reason?
I’m not talking about the mundane tasks like filing or submitting a tax return – those can usually be handled by introducing an element of fun or competition (see my blog post on Finding Bliss in a Tax Return)
I’m referring to the goals or dreams that you think you really want or need but somehow aren’t quite motivated to do anything about. Although motivation is often described as an internal state of being or a mindset, motivation requires some kind of external stimulation. When the external stimulation isn’t there (or you aren’t deliberately creating it), the motivation wanes and your focus will be pulled onto other things. These may be less important to you, but they are the dominant points of focus and therefore override your goals.
So motivation will never be long lasting enough to see us through a big project or dream. It’s not that you have been procrastinating, its that you haven’t got a sustainable system to create that thing that you think you want.
It’s time for a new system — that of inspiration and intuition. These are the gifts of your soul that knows less about your conscious ambitions and much more about the truth of who you really are. When you learn to listen to the inner guidance, you may just discover that some of those goals and dreams were never meant for us. There may be something else, something bigger and more aligned with who you are that is calling you — you just haven’t noticed because you were too busy worrying about your procrastination.
Inspiration doesn’t fade. It grows and evolves revealing our next inspired steps through our intuition. And the best bit of all is that intuition has no sense of time — nothing can ever happen a second too soon or a moment too late. When you are tuned into your guidance, the path of action will be revealed at the the most perfect moment. When there is no need for managing and manipulating time, procrastination just doesn’t exist.