Some of us believe that procrastination serves us – that we do our best work when we put things off because we “work better under pressure”.
The data shows that this is untrue. And many folks report that procrastination is actually unhelpful because it prevents them from having what they really want, and also feeling good about themselves.
If you struggle with procrastination, we’re exploring how it impacts your health, and how to identify when it’s happening, but more importantly, how to get out of it & start taking care of those things that are important to you.
On today’s episode of the done with dieting podcast, we are talking about procrastination. Are you a procrastinator? I used to be a huge procrastinator. And so, on this episode, I’m going to share my tips and techniques of how to stop it.
You are listening to the done with dieting podcast. The podcast for women in midlife, who are done with dieting, but still want to lose weight and feel good in your clothes. You know that diets don’t work long term. But you feel like there’s this secret that everyone else knows that you just haven’t figured it out yet.
I am your host, Elizabeth Sherman. And I’ve helped hundreds of women get off the diet roller coaster change their relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies. Through this podcast, my goal is to help you too.
Welcome. Let’s get started.
Hello everyone and welcome to the done with dieting podcast. This is episode number 68. Okay, I have a funny story for you. Which is that this episode is all about procrastination and wouldn’t you know, I procrastinated recording it. It was really kind of ironic.
But anyway, be aware that I think we all procrastinate. Are you a procrastinator? I used to be a huge procrastinator. I’ve told this story before on the podcast that for years, I was a procrastinator. When I was in grade school, I was a procrastinator. I would never do my homework on time. I would always wait until the last minute to write my papers and study for tests.
And even when I got into the professional world, I always felt like I needed to have a deadline. Because then I knew exactly how much time I had to do something or rather how much procrastination time I would have to put something off before I had to actually do it.
I think that I used to lie to myself a lot and tell myself that I was good at procrastinating, or I needed to procrastinate because then I would get my best work done with the urgency of getting it done at the last minute.
But what I really realized after I stopped procrastinating was that when I would actually do the work ahead of time, and give it time to rest, and marinade, and go over it a second time. That extra check and balance was really what allowed the work to do really well.
What was interesting though was when I became a professional and actually when I started personal training, I’ve told this story before, but people would call me to hire me. I would totally procrastinate on calling them back. And it always really confused me because I was like, why am I doing this?
This is 100% in opposition of what it is that I want to do. I wanted to be making money as a personal trainer. And when I would call people back, like a week later, they would have moved on to someone else. Someone who did call them back right away and was responsive.
When I realized what I was doing, it was because I was listening to a book called the neuroscience of change with Kelly McGonigal. In it, she said that when we’re procrastinating, we’re avoiding feeling a negative feeling. And so, that was really my first foray into getting in touch with my emotions, I’ve talked about this before.
But what I realized was I was feeling a lot of anxiety. And once I started doing the thought work on this emotion and on this behavior, what I realized was that a lot of my anxiety was coming from the fear that I would get rejected. That I didn’t have confidence in my abilities as a personal trainer.
And so therefore, I thought that when my prospective client would find out that I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, right? Fraud alert. That they would reject me. And so, what I was doing in turn was I was rejecting them before they could reject me.
I would love to say that once I learned that procrastination was just my way of getting rid of a negative emotion or postponing it. I would love to say that I never procrastinated again. But I admitted to you today that I procrastinated just this morning. I had these thoughts in my head of I don’t have time, or I don’t want to rush it.
And so, what it did was this actually created less time for me because now I’m actually in a space where I have to record this episode within a certain amount of time because I have an appointment a little bit later. Just be on to yourself. Start to become aware of the lies that our brain tells us.
But one thing that I do know for sure. And that is that procrastination has never worked in my favor. So, when I feel anxious about something, if I put it off, that anxiety doesn’t go away. It really just becomes stronger. And that right there was the impetus, that right there was the cue that I needed in order to stop procrastinating because I knew that once I started procrastinating, that anxiety would just grow, and grow, and fester.
By acknowledging that I’m putting off feeling this negative emotion, I’m putting off this anxiety because I don’t want to do this thing. But what’s happening is that what’s really going to get rid of the anxiety is doing the thing because I still have to do it.
What I finally realized one year I had a theme, I don’t know if you do that for new year’s but every year I pick a theme. And this year’s theme was ‘just do it. And what it really did was it made me start being proactive in my actions. And so, whenever I felt myself procrastinating on something, I would say, just do it. It’s not going to feel any better if you put it off. And it really got me out of the cycle.
So, over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at calling BS on my brain. And there are a couple of thoughts that my brain offers to me when I’m procrastinating. And one of them is it’s going to take too long. Or another version of this might be, I don’t have time. And that is just the biggest lie ever.
Recently, I had a shirt. And on the shirt, had, you know those loop buttonholes where it just loops over the button instead of actually being sewn into the fabric buttonhole. And one of the button loops came broken. For weeks, I wouldn’t be able to wear this shirt because the top button loop was unfastened, it just looked bad. I really liked this shirt.
In fact, I had two shirts that the same loop button whole thing needed to be fixed. But I kept telling myself, I don’t have time. It’s going to be difficult. I don’t really know what I’m doing. Is it really going to look, okay? You know, my brain just came up with all of these excuses.
One morning before work in fact, I was like, you know what? I am going to do this. It literally took me no more than five minutes to take out the thread and needle to stitch up both shirts, mind you. And move on with my day.
When I did that, it was just a smack upside the head. Because it just proved to me that my brain is telling me, oh, you don’t have time to deal with it. It’s going to be too hard. And it really wasn’t.
And so, going back to that Nike slogan of ‘just do it,’ it makes so much sense. If we can talk to ourselves more than we listen to ourselves, it makes the procrastination, the reason why we’re procrastinating. Seems so insignificant.
Another thing that I tell myself is you don’t know what to do or I’m not sure what to do. Another thing that I say to myself is I don’t feel like it. And what’s funny about, I don’t feel like it is I’m never going to feel like it.
Now, I’m going to break down these different sentences and explain the feelings that we get when we think these thoughts. It all goes back to the think, feel, act cycle. So, the think, feel, act cycle is the idea that everything that we do is because of how we feel or how we think we’re going to feel when we do the thing.
The reason that we feel anything, the reason that we have any emotion is because of our thoughts that we have about that thing. Be aware that when we talk about the think, feel, act cycle. Act is an action. But really what we’re talking about also inaction. And when we’re talking about procrastination, procrastination is definitely an inaction.
When we’re talking about the think, feel, act cycle, what we want to uncover are all of the reasons why we are procrastinating. Because when we are procrastinating, we know that we’re doing it, right? We know that I’m supposed to be doing this thing but I’m not doing it. I’m either scrolling on Facebook or I’m cleaning up my house.
Oh my gosh! Yes, cleaning up my house is a huge way that I procrastinate, I love that. Because then I have a clean house. But anyway, when we think about the think, feel, act cycle, what’s also at play here is something called the motivational triad. And I’ve talked about the motivational triad before.
But what the motivational triad is the idea that everything that we do as humans, we all function this way is we all seek pleasure, we avoid pain, and we do it as efficiently as possible. And so, when we think about whatever it is that we have to do, our brain is making a big deal about it.
Our brain is saying, oh, it’s too difficult, or we don’t have time to think about that or whatever it is, it’s putting it off. And putting it off is way more pleasurable than actually doing the thing. Because oftentimes, doing the thing, actually takes some work. And of course, we don’t want to work.
The motivational triad is just the idea that we as humans are wired to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and do it as efficiently as possible. And so, when we can look at our past behavior through the lens of the motivational triad, what happens is everything makes sense then.
And so, when we look at procrastination through that lens, we can ask ourselves, what’s so terrible about this thing that we are set to do. What is it that doing that thing is representing? How do I feel about it?
Now, how this shows up in our health habits is for example, delaying making dinner or delaying your meal prep. Thinking, oh, I don’t want to do it right now. And I know that this is something that I do all the time is that I think to myself, oh, I need to make black beans or rice for dinner later.
And then, I’ll be like, oh, but I don’t want to do it right now. I’ll do it later. I just want to sit here on the couch for a minute and read or scroll Facebook because I really haven’t had any downtime today.
But in the times that I’ve done that I really screwed myself over later because I never want to do it later, anyway. Right? How often does that happen to us? That we put off doing something because we’re like, oh, I’ll feel like doing it later. No, we don’t. We don’t ever feel like doing it later.
Another way that it shows up in our health habits is telling ourselves, yeah, we’ll do it later. So, matching our workout socks. This is something that I always avoid doing and I know that it sounds really super stupid. Elizabeth, why do you need to match your workout socks? Because it’s all about reducing friction when it comes to our health habits.
The more that we can do ahead of time to guide our future selves into the easier path, the healthier path that we want to take. The more the future version of ourselves is actually going to do that. And so, by matching my socks when they come out of the laundry, what that’s doing is I only have to reach into my drawer and grab one thing instead of grabbing two.
Another way that that shows up is through cutting vegetables, right? So, if you wash and dry your lettuce when you get home from the grocery store, you’re not going to have to do it when you’re making dinner. Because oftentimes when we’re making dinner, we’re strapped for time. It’s just another step that we’re going to have to do and we really don’t feel like doing it.
And so, this actually happened with a client of mine, she realized that what she was doing was she wasn’t making a salad, which she loves salad. The reason that she wasn’t making a salad for dinner was because she hadn’t cleaned her lettuce ahead of time and put it in the refrigerator, clean and wrapped in a paper towel.
Another one of my clients realized that she wasn’t eating broccoli because when she would come home from the grocery store, she would of course stick the stock of broccoli in the vegetable crisper where vegetables go to die. And when it came time to cook the broccoli, she was like, yeah, well, I don’t really feel like cutting it up because it’s kind of messy, those florets get everywhere, and she just didn’t feel like doing it.
And so, what we really want to do is we want to pave the way so that the future version of ourselves has an easier path to follow in making the healthier habit. So, these are just some examples of how procrastination shows up in our health habits.
Another thing is not starting whatever it is that we’re going to start, whether it’s a new diet, a new exercise program. Maybe a new way of eating or potentially a new recipe. And we don’t start it because we’re not exactly sure what to do. Or not starting because we have to quote unquote, figure out which is the best or there’s so much to choose from. We just shut down. And so, we don’t do any of it.
That kind of falls in line with the perfectionist to thinking that so many of us identify with, which is needing to do it right. So, these are just some of the ways that procrastination shows up in our health.
And so, what I want to do next is I just want to share with you how to get over procrastination. So, I think that the first thing and it’s something that we all know is notice when you’re procrastinating. Of course, whenever we want to change a habit, what we want to do first is we want to become aware of it.
The first thing that we need to do is we need to notice when we’re procrastinating. And what I’m going to suggest is that you do two different things. One is ask yourself, what are you feeling? There are a couple of different emotions that I noticed that I have when I’m procrastinating. And so, I’m going to outline those for you next.
But then, the second piece to that is really getting in touch with what you’re thinking during that time as well. What are the thoughts that are producing the feeling? So, going back to the think feel, act cycle. What are the feelings that you’re having. And then, what are the thoughts that are creating those feelings that then are resulting in the procrastination. The avoidance, the being resistant. So, that’s the first thing.
The emotion that I was talking about when I first noticed my procrastination was anxiety. Anxiety for me is really a secondary emotion. The primary emotion that it’s covering up is really self-doubt. And so, when I was talking about, I wouldn’t call the client’s back who had called me. I was feeling anxious about that, I was feeling a lot of anxiety.
But the anxiety was really covering up the self-doubt because I didn’t know my brain was telling me, I didn’t know what to say, or I didn’t know what to do, or all of that. And so, I was then worried that I would make a mistake. Whether it’s anxiety, whether it’s worry, or whether it’s fear.
One of the things that you can do is lovingly, telling yourself that if you avoid it, the anxiety is only going to get worse. And this was actually really powerful for me because I didn’t want to feel the anxiety anymore. Doing the thing, which I knew I was going to have to do anyway, became less of a problem. Because at least then, I would get rid of the anxiety when I did it as well.
Now, be aware that today, I still have to talk myself through it. Today, 10 years later, I still feel the urge to avoid doing things that I don’t want to do. But then, I tell myself; look, Elizabeth, you’re feeling anxious. The anxiety is only going to get worse the more you put this off, so you may as well do it now and get rid of the anxiety altogether. And it really, really helps.
So, be aware that the anxiety or the urge to procrastinate in this case may never go away. It’s totally okay. But through acknowledging that the anxiety is only going to get worse. And just go ahead and do it. It really will help to get over the procrastination.
Now, the second emotion that I have, not so common is confusion. Be aware that when you suffer from confusion or when you experience confusion, that’s just your brain trying to keep you safe. It’s a coping mechanism. Because thinking is hard. And so, what happens is our brains like to be confused. Because when we’re confused, we don’t take action.
Be aware that when you have something to do, and you suddenly feel confused about it. This happens to me not all the time, but sometimes. What I’ll do is I’ll ask myself, okay so when I assigned myself this task, was I clear on what I needed to do? And if I was, then I really just have to talk myself through it.
But the other question is do you need help with it? So, is there someone else who can help you with it? Is there someone else who may be assigned you this task that you just need to get clarification on? And if so, go ahead and ask them.
When I feel like I had clarity before but I’m not so clear now, what I tend to do is I tend to break it down into steps. I try to get really crystal clear and say, okay, so what’s one thing, just one thing I can do in order to move this project forward or move this task forward? What is one thing that I can do to start working on it?
Because oftentimes, what we’ll find is that momentum breeds more momentum. And so, once we start working on a task, then it becomes easier to keep going with it. When you feel confusion, ask yourself, what’s one thing that you can do to make progress?
Now, one of the other emotions that I feel and that many of my clients feel is overwhelmed. And overwhelm will often make us put off doing things because we feel just so overwhelmed. Now, where overwhelmed will get in our way is not only with easy to do tasks, but also in general.
Because when we are in overwhelm, what’s generally happening in our brain is that our brain is spinning on all of the things that we have to do or all of the problems that we have. And so, what I want to offer is that when you’re feeling overwhelmed, we can break this down into two different types of categories.
So, when I feel overwhelmed, what I like to do is if it’s overwhelm on a particular project, for example, taxes. What I’ll often do is I will break that project down into very easy, simple to do tasks.
When we talk about taxes, like we’ll all put that on our to-do list, do taxes. And when you look at that, it’s just like, oh, I don’t even want to think about that. And so, we put off doing it, right? And so, what happens then is we don’t allow ourselves to break it down into, okay, what are the things that I need to do in order to do my taxes?
Maybe I need to get all of my papers together and put those in a folder. And maybe I need to log onto my bank and get all of my bank statements together. And then, what are all of the other things that I need to do in order to be able to do my taxes. So What’s all of the prep work. So, that’s one thing.
When we’re feeling overwhelmed at a particular task or project, trying to break that down. But the other type of overwhelm that we have is when we feel overwhelmed with everything that we have to do. And when we feel overwhelmed with everything that we have to do because we’re expending so much energy thinking about everything that we have to do. It’s exhausting.
When I was talking before about like, okay, I need to make black beans right now, but uh, I just can’t think about it because I just want to sit here on the couch. I’m so overwhelmed with everything that I have to do. And so, when we can get out of overwhelm for everything else that we have to do in our lives, then we can actually be a little bit more proactive.
Now, when we talk about overwhelm in general, what I like to do in that case is again, make a list of all of the different things that are causing me to overwhelm. Why am I overwhelmed? Well, I have this problem, and I have that problem, and I have this other problem.
And so, when we can list out all of the reasons why we feel overwhelmed, what will happen is I then like to separate out each individual line item. And say, okay, so problem number one, how do I want to deal with that? Okay, great. I have a good solution for that. I can deal with that.
Problem number two, how do I want to focus on that? And then, really just go down the line of each one and figure out like, if I only had this problem to deal with, would I be overwhelmed? And generally, the answer is no. So, really being able to separate and distill down into very finite problems and being able to focus on just that one problem at a time, really allows me to get out of overwhelm.
Now, as I mentioned before, I think it’s so many of us think that the pressure of procrastination actually, we will create our best work. And quite honestly, the data actually suggests otherwise. So, they’ve done studies on this and the information that comes back is that we actually don’t do our best work when we cram or when we have that urgency.
Be aware that you can actually create your own urgency. And you create your own urgency by deciding that this task needs to be done within this timeframe. And really create it that way, which is what I did on the podcast today, because I record so far in advance. I’m only going to give myself 45 minutes to do this task and it better get done. Versus having to turn something into whoever you need to turn it into, whether it’s the IRS, or your boss, or whoever.
So, be aware that we can create our own urgency by setting up a timeframe and really working with it that way. But also going back to the think feel, act cycle. When we put urgency in the feeling line, we really become more frantic. And maybe the actions are the same but the energy that we do it with, will not be the same.
So, we’re not as careful, we’re not as planned, we’re not as thoughtful when we come from a place of urgency. We’re not as intentional. Just be aware that when we feel that urgency, we’re probably being a little bit sloppy as well. I know that I was.
What I want to share with you in closing is that when I decided that I was going to become my own best friend and do the things that I needed to do in order to take care of my future self. It really was a game changer as far as my procrastination goes.
As I said before, when I have the thought of, I don’t want to do that right now. I know that future Elizabeth doesn’t want to do it either or she’s not going to want to. And so, I really don’t want to put her into the position where she feels stuck, and she feels resentful of me because I didn’t get my shit done on time.
Initially, when you’re stopping procrastinating, you’re going to have a lot of things on your to-do list. And it’s going to feel like a lot because you’ve been procrastinating for so long.
But I need you to be aware that once you’re caught up, once you get ahead of the curve, life will be so much easier. Then, you’ll have so much space because that lie of, I don’t have time now, we know it will create more time later on.
So, that’s all I have for you today. Have an amazing week, everyone. Go ahead and just do it now. I’ll talk to you next week. Bye-bye.
Hey, thanks for listening.
If you’re done with dieting and would like to work with me as your coach, I’d like to invite you to reach out to myself and my team to ask about programs and pricing. Go to elizabethsherman.com/contact to get started today. I can’t wait to hear from you.
See you next week.