10 Healthy Ways for You to Conquer Procrastination
A lot of people marvel at the amount of things that I can get done in a day. Often my patients tell me that they do not have enough energy to get through the day. They tell me, “Dr. Claire, you have the most incredible energy. How do you get that kind of energy?”
I love that compliment. I usually get it when I am doing something I love to do, like treating patients and teaching in front of an audience who is motivated to change their lives for the better. Believe me; it is not always the case that I have this kind of energy for everything. Very often, I suffer a lack of energy when faced with performing tasks that I don’t enjoy.
Whenever my patients tell me that they lack energy, I ask them questions that are not only lifestyle related, but also about what they believe. Very often, they believe that they do not have time in the day to do everything that they set out to do. Coaching experts know that if you are able to boost your energy level, you will have the energy to find the time.
But the question is: Do you want to find the time?
Personal story: I find that when I do tasks that I do not enjoy doing, my energy level drops like a thermometer on Neptune. For instance, I can’t stand accounting or talking with insurance companies. I find that I allow those tasks sit as opposed to facing them, which ultimately is a detriment to the financial functioning of my company.
Another thing I dread is cold calling, or even cold emailing. I am great in front of an audience who knows it is me they are coming to see, or even a topic for which they want knowledge. However, I have a nagging voice in me that says, when it comes to communicating with someone who doesn’t know me or my services, that I am an annoyance to them and that I am intruding on their lives rather than providing them with something that they need. In these cases, if I don’t take steps to replenish my energy levels, I am emotionally and physically drained by the fifth communication, and I end up leaving the other 15 that I committed myself to doing untouched.
I find that oftentimes, a drain in energy is a physical expression of fear. It is the body’s way to let a task slide that needs doing. The body is a servant of the mind. If the mind says, “I don’t want to do this,” the body will respond in kind and promote a state of being that is conducive to avoiding the dreaded task –i.e., dropping into a slump at mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
But let’s not forget the most malignant form of procrastination: the dream not realized.
What about the painting that you’ve left for months unfinished in the spare room? Or the manuscript that is gathering dust in the To Do pile? Or the guitar in the case in the back of the closet, or the basketball at the bottom of the bin in the garage? What about the map of the world yellowing in the attic, the map that still has the Soviet Union and East and West Germany on it, the map you pasted to poster board before computers were an everyday item, the map in which you carefully and lovingly stuck tacks marking the places you always told yourself you would go?
Those things are easy to put aside but not easy to forget, because they are our unrealized dreams. They are expressions of who we are deep inside, a commitment we made to ourselves as children that we have not honored. Someone told us that they weren’t for us, and we believed them, so we have not put a personal import on completing them. They “aren’t practical.” They are “pipe dreams.” We “are too old for that stuff.” We “have more important things to do.”
This is the saddest and most devastating kind of procrastination possible, because it is an expression of self-contempt and self-hatred. This kind of procrastination leads to real health issues, both in our bodies and in our relationships with others and the world.
Physically, this propensity toward personal procrastination can lead to a lifestyle that encourages energy drain, which feeds the procrastination. Have you ever known that you need to go to bed, but stayed up flipping channels for hours instead? Have you opted for the grand mocha caramel frappe with whip cream or giant soda for an artificial energy boost at eleven, only to be face down on your desk at two in the afternoon? Do you seek out a big cheesy wet burrito over a dairy-free Mexican salad? Or, ironically, do you ever say to yourself that you have no energy to go to the gym or cook a healthy meal for yourself? All of these behaviors that, whether we know it or not, lead to a fatal drop in energy and a rise in procrastination and avoidance.
Procrastination is itself a symptom of an inner conflict. It not only reflects anxiety, but the act itself produces and exacerbates anxiety. Prolonged, chronic anxiety can show itself in many forms like:
- substance abuse
- irritable bowel syndrome
- memory loss
- loss of libido
- headaches and backaches
- muscle wasting
- increased urination and dehydration
- pancreatic stress
- high blood pressure
- early menopause or andropause
- early aging
- gall and kidney stones
- auto-immune disorders
- abusive behavior and suicide
Procrastination can lead to interactive conflicts at work that can affect your job status and your ability to lead effectively. It can also lead to impatience with those who love us most — our children, our parents, our spouses, and our pets. This impatience can manifest in emotional and even physical abuse of those who only ever meant us well.
Procrastination is also a form of fear. What are the consequences of completing the task? Or of not completing the task? On page 46 his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do (in fact, he suggested that we tattoo the statement to our foreheads).” If upon reading the quote and the previous description of anxiety you felt a sick sense of empathy, annoyance or even anger (all signs of emotional dodging), the following healthy suggestions might be for you.
1) Make what is urgent secondary to what is important. This may sound counterintuitive to avoiding procrastination;, but many times, we spend so much time wringing our hands about hated tasks before us that we never get to do the things for which we have a passion. Vice versa, we worry so much about not pursuing our passion that the everyday tasks that we fall behind the everyday tasks we need to do for personal survival. Allot a fair block of time first in doing that task that is important to your heart’s desire, and then get to your daily tasks.
In his book, The War of Art, — which I highly recommend you inhale once a month — Steven Pressfield makes a compelling case to pay most attention to that which matters most: our personal mission. On page 65, he tells us, “I’m keenly aware of the Principle of Priority, which states, (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first. What’s important is the work. That’s the game I have to suit up for. That’s the field on which I have to leave everything I’ve got.”
“The work” of which he writes is that which drives your passion most. If building card houses is your passion, then build a magnificent card condominium before you get to the bills. If your passion is saving the cheetahs from extinction, do everything you can to save the cheetahs before you vacuum the foyer. You aren’t only building works of art that inspire others to achieve what they thought was impossible, or saving cheetahs; you are saving yourself, your family, and the world. Cleaning the living room can wait.
2) Outsource. You’re a grown-up now. Whoever said you had to do the tasks you hate by yourself? Did you ever hear the saying, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure?” Well, one man’s or woman’s nightmare task is another’s dream job. Really. I know porters who have to wear gas masks while their coworkers nap, lunch, and play cards in refuse rooms. Outsource the jobs you can’t stand, or if you have to do them, at least get help doing them. Either hire a full-time employee or get yourself a freelancer to do odd jobs that you’ve been avoiding. Websites like Elance.com, Taskrabbit.com, GetFriday.com, and CatchFriday.com connect you with thousands of people all over the world just sitting on the edge of their desk chairs waiting for you to hire them. If you can’t afford to hire someone right now, barter. If you hate cold-calling but love to build web sites and apps, find someone who loves happy confrontation but hates to build web sites and apps and exchange services.
3) Eat Organic Whole Foods that Emphasize Healthy Fats and Cut Out Processed Foods. Why? Because contrary to popular belief, healthy fats supported by good proteins and complex carbohydrates feed your brain and energize your body while calming your mind. Healthy fats do this better than simple carbohydrates and actually help you lose unwanted body fat! Also, drink plenty of fresh, filtered water, which will help deliver good nutrients and flush out bad, stress-related junk from your body. With a calmer mind, you can focus on your motivations for your actions as opposed to running around like a chicken with its head cut off. When you know why you are doing what you are doing, you have the tools to get out of your own way.
By healthy fats, I mean organic avocados, nuts, and extra virgin cold-pressed oils like olive and coconut oil over commercial butter, margarine and name-brand heat-treated oils. You don’t have to eat a bag of corn or potato chips for your mid-afternoon snack. Eat some organic raw nuts, agave syrup, and whole raw milk yogurt from grass-fed animals.
There are plenty of options. You don’t need to buy your hot dogs, chicken and beef from the supermarket or superstore because the health food store is miles away. Farmers markets are everywhere now, and you can get to know farmers and food producers right nearby. Go to www.localharvest.org to find the one near you. Also, new online venues like http://www.greenpolkadotbox.com/ http://www.greensburymarket.com/ and http://www.dr-cow.com/make it economical and easy to get the good stuff delivered right to your home or office.
You want your good food prepared and delivered right to you? Healthy entrepreneurs are galvanizing their passions and springing up everywhere. Here are two just in NYC: http://www.sakaralife.com/ and http://happens2b.com/. You have a computer or mobile phone. Do a search! Open your mind!
4) Change your workspace. I mean this literally. If you find yourself starting to panic and bash yourself because you’re not doing what you are supposed to be doing, get up and go someplace where you can think straight. Go to a new café or a park, or a library. If you are able, switch offices or move around the stuff in your workspace to a new configuration. If you break up the monotonous repetition in your life, you are mentally telling yourself that you are not a prisoner of circumstances – that you have choices. You will be able to gather more perspective as to what is possible for you.
5) Move around. Get up and shake your tooshie! Stretch and breathe. Take a 5 or 10-minute walk around the room or the office. If you eat lunch at the same place every day or at your desk, go somewhere new; eat lunch outside, or in the lobby. Jog in place. Make yourself yawn. Yawning stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system – the relax and think portion of your nervous system – which will calm the mind enough so that you can organize your thoughts and actions.
You might as well strengthen your low back muscles while you’re at it. Do your Kegels at regular intervals during the day, but change those intervals and routines every two weeks. Kegel Kat and Daily Workout are two apps for Android that will remind you to do your Kegels during set times. Kegel Kat in particular is hysterical.
Make time 4-5 times a week to keep yourself healthy with regular exercise.
6) Keep your workspace and work time sacred. Let everyone in your life know that this allotted time is your time. Say it out loud, even if it is to yourself. Keep your workspace clean. Arrange it with flowers or paintings, light it with appropriate lighting, play inspiring music or keep it absolutely quiet. Have the window shades open or closed; whatever you need to make the space perfect and sacred for you. However, make sure it is well ventilated and cool (not cold), so you don’t drift off.
Don’t you dare check your emails or social media when you have allotted the time to work for yourself. Turn off your phone, hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, and reverently approach your task the way you know how.
7) Don’t fight the drift. This may sound surprising, but if you feel yourself beginning to drift off, don’t fight it. Take a nap. Don’t drink coffee or have sugary stuff or “energy drinks” to work through it. A ten minute to forty-five minute nap may be just what your body needs to galvanize it for the task at hand. Make sure you know this about yourself and schedule the nap.
Give yourself ample time to sleep and rest mentally. Keep to a set sleep schedule that works for you and give yourself time to sit quietly and breathe (see my post on prayer/meditation).
8) Seek help from people who you trust help you. Many people have lifelines available to them and don’t realize it. Call your daughter, your son, your mother, your friend, a spiritual counselor, a coworker – anyone who loves you and supports your efforts. Get a teacher or business coach to help you complete what you start. Hire a professional organizer to help you unclutter your desk, house, and workspace so you can see things clearly (my personal favorite in the New York area is Matt Baier at http://mattbaier.com/).
Form a MasterMind group of individuals who are trying to achieve their own success and keep each other on point every week. Hang around successful people in your field and go to seminars that will teach you how to do what you need to do. I love this quote from Michael Dell: “Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room.”
9) Take care of your health issues. Health issues, as I indicated before, accumulate with prolonged anxiety. Get your spine adjusted by a good chiropractor so your nervous system can operate at maximum. Get a massage to break up built-up adhesions in your muscles, and go to a physical therapists if your joints need reviving. Go to a holistic dentist regularly. Find a naturopathic physician, an acupuncturist, a homeopath or an ayurvedic physician to assess any chronic concerns, and a holistic medical doctor or osteopathic physician to assess for health concerns that may have progressed to a life-threatening stage. If you need help in these areas, visit www.aquariusnyc.com or www.fitzpatrickspinecenter.com.
10) Be patient with yourself. Procrastination is often habitual, and sometimes it takes time to break old habits. A good hypnotist can help you conquer deep-rooted bad habits, and a good psychologist or support group can help if you have emotional troubles beyond those that your friends and family can help with. Ultimately, it is up to you to nurture yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve the productivity level you wanted at first. Keep at it and be patient. You’ll get there. Just don’t give up.
I would love to hear from you! Please share what you do to conquer procrastination in the comment section below.
Until next time, good health!
Harvard Health Publications
Forbes, Billionares’ Advice for New College Grads
Steven Pressfield Online
The Blog of Tim Ferriss
Posted on 06/25/2013, in Uncategorized and tagged 4-Hour Workweek, Irritable bowel syndrome, Principle of Priority, Procrastination, Steven Pressfield, Time management, United States, West Germany. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.