How to escape procrastination purgatory

procrastination

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Have you ever wanted someone to let you off the hook for all the things you don’t want to do?

You know, the things that keep nagging at your mind, that you know you should do, but for some reason you just keep procrastinating on.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone just swooped into your life and said, “It’s OK, you don’t have to do those things anymore. I’m granting you full permission to let them go.”

I wish for that all the time.

So, today, allow me to grant you permission to do just that.

YOU HAVE FULL PERMISSION TO NOT DO THE THINGS YOU’VE BEEN AVOIDING

It probably sounds like I’m promoting mass laziness … like I’m giving you a free pass to ignore your responsibilities and essentially become a selfish, irresponsible, lazy sloth.

But that’s not at all what I’m doing.

(Although I do believe most of us could use a bit more “selfish” and “lazy” downtime — we’re all so damn busy all the time and neglecting our own needs. But that’s a topic for a totally separate post!)

No, today what I want is for you to get off the fence and stop hanging out in procrastination purgatory. I want you to firmly and intentionally decide what you will and won’t do, instead of getting clouded up and bogged down in all the “shoulds.”

By giving you permission to let it go, I want to push you out of avoidance-mode and into decision-mode.

When someone gives you permission (or when you give yourself permission) to NOT do something that’s been nagging at you, one of two things will happen:

1. You’ll feel immense relief, like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders. You’ll feel spacious and free.

… OR …

2. You’ll feel discomfort, restlessness, and a desire to defend the thing you wanted to do. You’ll want to say, “But wait, I want to do that! That’s important, and I can’t let it go.”

LETTING YOURSELF OFF THE HOOK CAN BE COUNTERINTUITIVELY MOTIVATING

A few weeks ago, one of my clients who’s looking for a new job (let’s call her Brianna) emailed me with a confession.

Brianna told me she’d been hard-core procrastinating on applying for jobs. In fact, she hadn’t even looked at a job listing in over a week, even though she would be the first to tell you that getting a new job was her #1 priority.

Every time she thought about searching for jobs, updating her résumé, or writing a cover letter, she wanted to crawl into bed and block out the world.

The idea of job searching, combined with her guilt and self-criticism for procrastinating, were draining every ounce of her energy.

I wrote back to Brianna and said,

“If forcing yourself to job search isn’t working and seems to be adding to your negative momentum, then let’s take a break from that. You’re unlikely to land your dream job when you’re angrily forcing yourself to apply for jobs to escape your current situation anyway, so taking a short break isn’t a huge risk at the moment.

Remember how you mentioned the idea of going back to grad school a while back? And remember how much that excited you? What if, just as a mental break, you shift your focus temporarily and look into a few schools?”

As soon as I gave Brianna permission to NOT focus on her job search and to give her attention to something else, her energy around the entire subject shifted. Instead of resenting and avoiding her job applications, she felt a surge of motivation to jump back in full-force.

When we talked the next day, she told me she’d applied to three jobs within the past 24 hours.

I didn’t expect Brianna to respond the way she did, but her reaction makes perfect sense. Once something is a choice instead of an obligation, procrastination dies away and motivation takes its place.

twitter-birdWhen an obligation becomes a choice, procrastination dies away.

WHEN LETTING YOURSELF OFF THE HOOK IS JUST KIND

Sometimes, you’ll find that the thing you keep procrastinating about really is just an unnecessary “should” that you’re imposing on yourself (or someone else is imposing on you). In that case, giving yourself permission to let it go will feel like a massive relief.

This happened to me just recently.

Rachel and I get approached with opportunities and requests quite a bit, and turning things down has become a necessity for us to maintain our sanity. But sometimes I find myself tempted to say yes, even when my gut reaction is, “Ugh, I don’t really want to do that…”

We recently got asked to speak at a corporate women’s event, at a company where I’d presented a few years ago. I was tempted to say yes for multiple reasons — they’d be paying us, it was good exposure, and we’d likely get a few clients from it — but I remembered my last experience there, and I hadn’t felt good in that environment.

I couldn’t explain why, but I didn’t want to go back. I knew if I said yes, I’d be kicking myself later.

I decided to give myself permission to let it go. I imagined responding to the email (that had been sitting in my inbox for over a week, draining my energy every time I looked at it) with a “No thank you” … and all I felt was HUGE relief!

So that’s exactly what I did, and I felt immediately lighter letting it go.

PERMISSION IS CLARIFYING

Hanging around in avoidance-mode with all kinds of “shoulds” hanging over your head is uncomfortable. It’s heavy. And it makes you feel totally out of alignment.

So whenever you find yourself saying you’re going to do something, and it keeps not happening … stop hating on yourself and give yourself permission to let it go (or ask someone to let you off the hook).

Then check in with yourself. Do you feel pure relief? Or do you feel disappointed, upset, or anxious to see it go?

Neither answer is wrong, and it’s important to honor your initial gut feeling.

So now I want to hear from you: What have you been procrastinating on or avoiding lately? When you give yourself permission to let it go, what’s your gut response? Leave me a comment to let me know!

Much Love,

Kristen (& Rachel)


IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU’LL ALSO LOVE…

Side Chat: How to stop procrastinating (January 2019)

Blog: How to get out of Analysis Paralysis (October 2019)

Blog: You will NEVER be done (August 2019)

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6 Comments // ADD COMMENT

6 comments

  • Deana

    That makes total sense. Sitting on the fence and beating myself up for procrastinating hasn’t accomplished anything except me feeling bad about myself. It is better to commit one way or another. Thanks for the post.

  • D

    This is tough! I have given myself permission to marry my boyfriend as well as breakup! I feel anxiety of it being the wrong choice either way. So… we have dated many years and have no future plans… What would you say about this? D

    • Kristen Walker

      Hi D — it’s totally normal to be afraid of making the wrong choice in your relationship! I think a lot of people can relate to that. What if you tried giving yourself permission to NOT choose either way, at least until you intuitively felt drawn in either direction? I think there can be a lot of pressure to always be moving relationships forward, when sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy how things are for a while (and yes, that can even be years!) without the pressure to turn it into something else on any particular timeline.

      Also, since you mentioned having anxiety thinking about either option (getting married or breaking up), it made me wonder if you’ve listened to our episode about Attachment Styles. It might be interesting to you, at least!

  • D

    I listened. I think I am more avoidant and he is more anxious. It makes sense. However, I don’t like it. Interestingly, my kids & friendships are wonderful, secure relationships. My parental relationship was probably very anxious/avoidant. After being single many years, and “growing up,”. I expected my romance to be secure. I have often felt flung back into parent/child patterns that blindside me and I only later, identify.
    Do you have a book or recommendation to help me grow in this way?
    He is interested in growing, too, but I am holding back from leading, trying to find the balance of letting him lead himself, but still share my learning.

    • Kristen Walker

      I’m glad you listened to that episode and it resonated, D (even if it was a bit uncomfortable to acknowledge). It’s really normal for people to continue the attachment patterns that they experienced/witness growing up, but you can absolutely shift your attachment style to a healthier one. And yes, there’s a great book you should check out called Attached that will help you develop a more secure attachment style. Hope that helps!

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