I used to be a perfectionist. My perfectionism led to crippling procrastination in the past and a lot of (what in hindsight I can only call) self-sabotage. Like when I tried to learn "how to be an entrepreneur" off the internet for nearly a year while I was unemployed and before I started my first business 4 years ago. Or how I tried to learn about marketing and messaging by reading blog after blog but never sent out a single social post or email myself.
Together with energy management, procrastination is the topic that I get the most questions about. And no wonder: Especially for introverts it can be quite challenging to find that sweet spot between giving yourself space for self-reflection and procrastinating on taking action.
Procrastination tends to turn into one of those lovely vicious cycles: You don't do the thing for whatever reason and that makes you feel bad. Now because you feel bad, it becomes harder to do the thing. The barrier to do the thing keeps growing and you further procrastinate until something bursts, like missing a deadline so you have to drop everything else to get this now all-consuming thing out.
It can be challenging to break through cycles like this when you're not aware of what's happening.
One of the things I found to be helpful is to have a few simple practices. You set up a practice and turn it into a habit when you're in good shape and when procrastination inevitably hits (because it will), you've set yourself up for success.
As a writer, Seth Godin is an inspiration to me. He started out infamous and over time has become famous for saying that he doesn't believe in writer's block. He made himself very unpopular when he declared one day that he was going to write a blog article every single day (people emailed him asking him to stop because "he was making them look bad"). 20 years later, he has written thousands of blogs and he has never missed a day. Oh, and he freely admits that most of his blogs are bad 😆
This is one of Seth's practices: He writes a blog article, not because he's particularly inspired or because he feels like it, but because it's Tuesday (or Wednesday, or Thursday). His latest book "The practice: Shipping creative work" talks all about it (I haven't read it yet, but it's high on my list!). In short, he will write no matter what. It sounds ludicrous, doesn't it? And yet, it's the exact antidote to writer's block. Because, Seth says, writer's block is actually fear of bad writing and when you don't write there's no risk of bad writing.
My procrastination came from my fear of being judged by other people for my mistakes. So, I "perfected" in the privacy of my own mind. No one to judge (except my inner critic who is a much harsher critic than anyone I know, which is probably one of the reasons I procrastinated. More about that later...)
You set up a habit practice when you're in good shape and when procrastination inevitably hits (because it will), you've set yourself up for success.
Here's one of the practices that helped me combat that: Every day I intend to work, I go to my office.
Even - no especially - on days that I don't feel like it. I'm not necessarily required to work, the only thing is that I go there. Miraculously, on most days the thing that I was putting off doesn't seem nearly as daunting once I've made it to my office and I almost always produce something. I do still have some days that I just sit there and nothing comes out. But even then, it's easier to not beat myself up because I've already met my goal of coming to my office.
This practice works well for me because I don't do anything else but work in my office, so my mind is automatically geared towards work when I enter that space. For you, it may be something completely different. But a simple practice turned to habit like this, is a very useful tool that gives you some much-needed mental space to gently put aside procrastination.
Have a wonderful flow today,