Overcoming Procrastination, Resistance and Avoidance
It took me 3 months to write my first newsletter.
Yep. From the day I launched my website and asked people to sign up for my forthcoming newsletter, to the day I finally WROTE something, was 3 MONTHS. I love writing, and I have a ton to say. So what was up? Procrastination, resistance and avoidance.
We all do it. Well some of us worse than others. But if you’re a creative professional (or even if you’re not), this little trio of gremlins can be a real challenge. I’d like to dive into what they are, why they’re here, and what we can do to just get the damn thing done and press send already (or your equivalent).
You see, I really did intend to send out my first newsletter right away. I was aware how important newsletters are to new businesses, and I was pretty excited to start sharing my wisdom, guidance and resources with the people I wanted to serve. I also felt a lot of fear about putting myself out there, being compared to others, and having to follow through on a commitment like a weekly newsletter. So the weeks came and went, and I kept pushing “write newsletter” onto next week’s calendar. The more I didn’t do it, the more I felt bad about myself, so the more I didn’t do it. Don’t get me wrong, I did a lot of things to support my growing business. Just not THIS thing.
So it became The Thing That Was Not Getting Done. Does this sound like something you’ve experienced before? Well I’m here to tell you: you’re not alone, but also, IT CAN BE OVERCOME.
So what are procrastination, avoidance and resistance? Short answer: fear. Varying manifestations of fear. See, our brains don’t like things that are new and unpredictable. They like the familiar and the safe, even if that’s the safety of an old pattern that’s holding you back and no longer serving you. Luckily, we can change our brains, with a little coaxing and a lot of practice (yay Positive Neuroplasticity!).
So what do we do about it? How do we push past procrastination, resistance and avoidance so we can actually do The Thing, and teach our brain that it’s safe, and actually rewarding?
Here are 5 steps you can use when you are in procrastination paralysis:
1. Awareness. The first step is to become aware that there’s something that you’d like to do that you’ve been putting off. Notice where the resistance is and where the fear is coming from. Just acknowledge it, as simply as you can, without making it into a story (“see, I never follow through on ____, this why I always fail at ____, and can’t trust myself.”) Those sorts of accusatory stories are not only unhelpful, they’re also not true. You do lots of things, every day, you’re not a failure, and you regularly follow through on your commitments. I promise.
2. Self-compassion. When you notice that you’ve been procrastinating or resisting, take a moment to bring some self-compassion to the situation. Chances are, you’re experiencing some suffering. Whether it’s the suffering that comes with fear of putting yourself out there or making mistake, or the suffering that comes from the self judgment and criticism. Place your hand on your heart, acknowledge that this is difficult, and give yourself a moment of self soothing (like you would a small child) by saying something like “I see that this is hard - I’m here for you. I know this is important for you, and I’d like to help you get it done.”
3. Baby steps. Next up, we need to break down The Thing That is Not Getting Done into more manageable pieces. You see, I wasn’t trying to write A newsletter, I was trying to map out a vision for my work, find a cohesive voice for all of my future writings and teachings... I was making it much bigger than it really was. So if your task seems insurmountable, follow that classic advice and break it down into baby steps. What’s the very first, and easiest, thing you can do?
4. Let it be imperfect. Perfectionism is the death of all creativity and forward movement. I guarantee you no one is going to overthink this as much as you are. It’s OK if it’s not The Greatest Thing You’ve Ever Created. You will create many things in your life. The world is not going to judge you on this one alone.
5. Just press send already. Seriously, do it. Give it a once over, take a deep breath, and press send. Have you ever seen that video of the poor little miniature horse that can’t jump out of the barn? Don’t be that horse. Just jump in, it’s gonna be beautiful.