How to Outsmart Procrastination

outsmart procrastination

outsmart procrastination

Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? T. S. Eliot

Oh, let’s face it.

Use it, love it, or hate it, you procrastinate.

We all do.

Procrastination is a label that covers all manners of behaviors, from passive aggressive attempts at being in control, to the controls you put in place to overcome it.

Procrastination is a workaround, a tactic, a coping mechanism that helps you navigate your way around your pain points. They are the emotional wounds, the expectations others have of you, and those you have of yourself that you can’t quite meet.

Like focusing on how you procrastinate, despairing of ever getting over it, or figuring out how to put controls in place to overcome it, and what are you actually doing?

You’re zeroing in a behavior without looking into the causes of it. Unless you can understand what’s behind your procrastination, you’re stuck on that hamster wheel with no chance of doing anything different.

Procrastination represents both the tip of the iceberg (the behavior) and the water (subconscious) that hides all that’s going on beneath it.

How about doing a little diving and discovering what’s down there?

No special skills necessary, but it’s not a journey to be taken lightly. If you’re happy in your life and content to have it remain as it is, this is not a journey you want to take.

Diving into the shadows hidden beneath your procrastination will change you. Finding the emotional energy sources that have been powering those behaviors automatically transforms them into something else.

If you’re ready to get started, let’s reveal how you can go about finding and reclaiming your power.

How to Outsmart Procrastination: The Process

Life is busy and distracting. For quests of this sort, preparation is necessary. Have paper and pen handy, and block out 30 to 45 minutes.

You’ll need solitude and contemplation to focus the mind and muffle the daily mind noise.

How else can you hear the inner voice sharing what you need to know? In contemplation, you’ll have more opportunities to get insights and vignettes of memories that can lead you where you need to go.

As you sit quietly, think of the ways you procrastinate. Which one seems to resonate with you more, or keeps popping up and snaring your attention.

Hold this one in your mind and ask yourself:

  1. What is really going on behind this particular way I procrastinate?
  2. Why do I do it when I know it’s not helpful?
  3. What am I resisting?
  4. Why?
  5. What’s really going on?

Then just let your mind float for a few minutes. The answers you already know will pop-up again. Acknowledge them and ask, “What else is going on?”

Begin writing down the answers you get as the act of writing slows your mind so that you can keep up with it.

The path you’re traveling is a circular one that wanders in the same way life does.

It doesn’t mean that you’re wandering around in circles, just traversing different levels of the path that move you ever deeper.

It may seem that the same issues arise repeatedly, but each time they do, you’re addressing them with an awareness and wisdom that’s also deepening.

When the things asking for your attention peter out, take a few deep breaths and some gentle stretches in preparation for leaving the session.

Don’t worry if your session ran short or long; it was what it needed to be at that time.

The Ways Your Mind Communicates

As you get ready to end your contemplation, take a moment to pause and ask yourself how you feel. Accept and release the feelings with a couple more deep breaths.

Make pausing and asking yourself how you feel a regular practice to do throughout your day. It will help you collect your thoughts, calm your mind, and reclaim some of the power your busy mind was using.

The easiest time to take those pauses is when you’re transitioning from one activity to another. If scheduling them into your day works better for you, shoot for about six times.

As you do this deep work and daily practices, keep one eye open for meaningful coincidences that bring insights or clarify understanding about something.

You may find yourself remembering things long forgotten or having dreams that are related to your quest. This is your mind communicating with you in the only ways it can.

Practice accruing bits and pieces of insights from books. Select one, any one of any genre, that captures your attention. Before opening it, instruct your subconscious to turn to a page with something to help you out.

Doing more contemplation and journaling will help move the process along. Try other things as well – take quiet walks in the woods or through a museum, go window shopping, or get a massage.

What The Process Can Look Like

After more years than I care to mention, I finally got fed up with my last-minute Christmas wrapping rush that had me channeling Scrooge.

When I began looking into it, all I got was a bunch of disparate, fragmented memories from my childhood. At first, I didn’t know what to do with them, but they kept popping up, so I knew they were important.

As I began writing then down, I had the oddest sensation of experiencing how I felt as a child, but with an adult understanding of the emotions I was feeling.

As a child, you have only the power that adults grant to you, and I had none.

It was five volatile adults and me in a tiny house. To them, appearances were very important, at holidays, or at any gathering that took place when others were present. That included weddings, funerals, school, church services, Sunday School, talking to your friends’ parents, and even riding the bus.

They demanded a never-ending performance.

Is it any wonder that my passive-aggressive Christmas procrastination was the “safe” expression of deeply ingrained anger and resentment? And still unresolved feelings of being powerless?

It was a bit rough reliving those feelings. I was thankful that when the tissues ran out, I had plenty of paper towels, and I was grateful for a stash of dark chocolate covered mints in the freezer.

No longer driven by my powerless past, I felt more centered, powerful, and capable of choosing my responses to my family. I was in the driver’s seat, and I loved it!

Can you imagine how freeing it will be for you when you awaken to how your subconscious was the driving force behind some of the things you were going through?

Don’t Forget Cloaked Procrastination

If you have routines or methods in place so that you don’t procrastinate, you need to look at why.

Just because you’ve managed to avoid them doesn’t mean you’ve reclaimed your power from them.

My bill-paying routine made me feel good about how to outsmart my procrastination. However, it did not make the task of paying them any less depressing, so I dove into that one too.

Given my traumatic childhood, it was no surprise that my journey once again led me there.

I never had money of my own. Every week I was given fifty cents to take to the bank and give to the teller. Sometimes I got a lollipop.

Money belonged to adults and was something about which they complained. Money was a sore subject, and I was never taught how to handle it.

Not a good thing when you’re self-employed.

Thankfully, looking at this procrastination did not have me reaching for the paper towels or frozen chocolate mints.

One thing it did do was have me charging more for my services.

Kind of makes you wonder what getting to the bottom of your procrastination is going to do for you, doesn’t it?

Challenge Yourself, and Change Your Life

Outsmarting procrastination is a process of awakening your mind to see how much more there is to your life than you thought.

It’s not the easiest thing to do since you don’t know exactly what it is you’re looking for nor what you’ll find.

Sometimes, it will seem straightforward and fairly easy. Other times, it’ll be like a complicated dance where you can only catch a glimpse of something before it disappears, or you go off in a different direction.

Then just before the dance ends, you meet face-to-face. When that happens, the power it has been using all this time is released and given back to you.

While everyone procrastinates, your way of doing so— including the way you’ve overcome any procrastination— is your starting point. It’s where you begin your inquiry into what’s really going on with that part of your life.

This process requires time, attention, and determination to find the true reasons behind the behavior. That means it happens according to the time frame that’s best for you.

What I did changed my life.

It can change yours too.

All you have to do is ask – what’s really going on? Then get ready to discover the answers.

Double-dog dare ya!

 

About the Author: 

Quinn Eurich knows firsthand just how troublesome and challenging it can be to deal with anxiety and panic. You can pick up your free copy of her 10 Tips to Outsmart Anxiety (Whatever the Situation) by, clicking here.

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{ 26 Comments }

  1. Laura Tong says:

    Such a fabulous post Quinn. You’ve got me asking so many questions about why I can be so good at procrastinating. The answers are going to be such a great reminder when I’m tempted to choose all manner of diversionary tactics away from the topic in hand. This is one that has changed how I think about it – wow!

  2. Quinn Eurich says:

    Hi Laura,

    I’m glad you liked the post and found it helpful! I have to admit – it makes me happy that it had the desired result, which was to get people thinking differently about procrastination.

    What I love about this process is that it helps you get back personal power that most of us didn’t realize we’d lost.

    Thanks for the wow!

  3. Hi Quinn,

    What a beautiful post this is! You took me into a meditative, deep inner journey.

    I thought I didn’t procrastinate. I thought I was on the other side of procrastination…, but wait. On the other side of procrastination? That could be another disguise of procrastination, right? So, I went deeper there, and I realized that DOing all the time IS also a form of procrastination or fear. I feared to fail and to be seen as a failure. To avoid facing the fear, I procrastinate by DOing all the time.

    Thank you so much, Quinn, for your deep insights!

    In love & gratitude,
    Keiko

    • Quinn Eurich says:

      Hi Keiko,

      You’re so right.

      Too often DOing can be a form of procrastination especially when it keeps you from creating the foundation work that will really help you be successful.

      DOing can also be a manifestation of fear as we both know, and DOing is also very seductive. It’s comforting because we think we’re making progress.

      And indeed the progress is there. But you know that when you progress because your heart is leading the way, instead of your fear pushing you, the progress is more flavorful and richer.

      Hard though to move away from DOing. It’s one of those one step forward/two steps back scenarios, with a few steps to the left and right occasionally.

      Add some music to it though and it becomes a dance. A slow, painstaking waltz that will suddenly erupt into a jitterbug only to abruptly bring you back to the slower tempo – but a dance nonetheless.

      My wish for you is that your feet move lightly through the dance!

      With metta,

      Quinn

  4. Harleena says:

    Hi Quinn,

    Wonderful post indeed 🙂

    You are absolutely right about all that you mentioned, and yes, we ALL procrastinate sometime or the other!

    Some of us are perfectionists, always disciplined and doing things in a timely manner, and that includes me too. But if we think of it, there could be a hidden reson for it too, as you mentioned. One never thought of it I’d say, but yes, there very well could be something in our subconcious, which we need to decipher for ourselves.

    Thanks for sharing. Happy weekend 🙂
    Harleena´s last blog post ..7 Health Benefits Of Music That Can Transform Your Life

    • Quinn Eurich says:

      Hi Harleena,

      Thank you very much!

      There are, of course, some things that don’t need looking into.

      I’ve come to realize that it all comes down to how what we do makes us feel, and to honor that the feeling may be cluing us into the need to look a closer are what we’re doing.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

      Warmly,

      Quinn

  5. Geeta says:

    Was going through my yearly goals list, and I realized 80% of it is the same old goals still not achieved and still in the “to do” portion since 2013.
    I was wonder what’s going on, although I’m very very good with “to do lists”, there must be some underlying reason why I haven’t done these very important things.
    I ll try not practice Ur approach n see.
    Btw very nice article.

    • Quinn Eurich says:

      Hi Geeta,

      Thank you very much for commenting. I’m glad you found the post helpful.

      If you don’t get the answers you’re looking for with the practice I described, then you might want to think about looking at your “to-do” list a little differently.

      Ask yourself: what do you value and how do you want to express those values to the world?

      Then see if your values and the items your “to-do” list are aligned with one another.

      I hope this helps!

      Quinn

  6. Peter says:

    Good post. Introspection is a great way to get to the root of procrastination and address it at the core.

    • Quinn Eurich says:

      Hi Peter,

      Thank you for commenting. Of course, the thing about introspection is the questions your ask yourself.

      🙂

  7. Blake says:

    Hey Quinn,

    Great post! Absolutely loved the part about pausing to think about why you’re procrastinating when you’re doing it. I think separating ourselves from our thoughts is a huge part of growing as people – because many of our thoughts tend to be toxic in nature.

    I’ve recently found that I tend to procrastinate on things that I know I need to be doing, but don’t feel like doing now – even recently I had to submit a piece of writing but chose to start another one entirely. Oops.

    But as you say, “cloaked” procrastination is still procrastination, and it needs to be addressed before it grows into a huge issue and takes over your life (and hopefully not after).

    I love this quote by Robin Sharma, where he says that “the activity you’re most avoiding contains your biggest opportunity”. In the end we tend to avoid doing the things that would make us most successful in our minds, I think, because we haven’t defined our “why” and we’re scared of what could happen because it’s out of our control.

    Cheers.

    • Quinn Eurich says:

      Hi Blake,

      Thank you very much! I’m glad you liked the post and found it helpful.

      That procrastination phenom where you supposed to be writing one thing but choose to write another? I’ve encountered that as well, but managed to convince myself that it was because I had done so much work on the first piece that I was bored with it.

      LOL!

      Guess I’m going to have to relook at that thinking!

      Love the quote too!

      Cheers!

      Quinn

  8. Hi Quinn,

    Great post!I love how you turn procrastination into a useful process.
    Cate Scolnik´s last blog post ..The Three-Letter Word That Will Change Your Life

  9. Andrea says:

    Hi Quinn,

    What wonderful writing, thanks for sharing this introspective process.

    I think that the expectations-perfectionism duo have a lot to do with why we tend to procrastinate, I can certainly relate to those elements.

    Writing and introspection are great tools to uncovering the hidden reasons for delaying taking actions.

    • Quinn Eurich says:

      Hi Andrea,

      Thank you!

      Totally agree about the expectations/perfectionism. I don’t know whether to call them the Devil’s duo, or the double whammy!

      Take care,

      Quinn

  10. This is very interesting and I think you bring valuable points.
    But to me, procrastination only end when I have big dreams to chase, big purpose in life, that are attached to outrageously soon deadlines.
    If I don’t get that sense of urgency in me, there’s no way I could achieve something in life. So that’s my way: get a big dream and set a deadline for it.
    Manu Cornel´s last blog post ..Communication is the key part for any kind of relationship

  11. Such a wonderful deep dive into this, Quinn! I use (and teach) the practice of self-inquiry regularly. I appreciate your detailed description of how you work with this. So spot on!

  12. Quinn Eurich says:

    Hi Laurie,

    I’m glad you liked it – and thanks for the spot on! I share what works for me, so it’s good to know I’m on the right track!

  13. Thank you Quinn for this post. One of the deepest I’ve read on procrastination.

  14. Procrastination has always been a huge problem for me. The root of the problem was linked to a few other emotional issues such as anxiety. It took a lot of exercises and techniques to overcome some of it. I can always appreciate a new view on procrastination. Great article!
    William Johnson´s last blog post ..Who is Edom in the Bible?

    • Thank you for sharing William!

      And good on you for not giving up!

      That’s what it takes to work things through because nothing having to do with our emotions and the anxiety that arises from them is easy or straightforward.

      May I suggest you check out my other post on this site about taming your to do list? I’ve found that the process I came up with helps a lot in reducing my anxiety as it helps me avoid old mindsets that elevated my anxiety.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  15. Donald says:

    I am impressed with this website, rattling I am a big fan.

    • Hi Donald, Mary Jaksch has done a great job with hasn’t she? Thank you for taking the time to respond on the post I wrote. It’s nice to know that after all this time it’s still getting read.

      Warm regards,
      Quinn

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