Whether you are a student cramming last-minute for an exam or a professional buried in overdue reports – the chatter floating through your mind can often sound like:
“Why did I wait until the last minute to get this done?!”
“How do I get myself to stop procrastinating and start ahead of time?”
“When am I ever going to learn?”
This line of thinking often devolves into a fair bit of self-criticism, frustration, and even guilt or shame – especially if procrastination or waiting until the last minute is a common pattern in your life.
There is only one problem with beating yourself up in order to create change:
It is wildly ineffective.
If it ever works at all the results are inconsistent and temporary.
Which is why I would like to offer an alternative approach to stop procrastinating and start working ahead of your deadlines. This understanding is the single most useful approach I’ve found to eliminate these ingrained tendencies in my own life and the lives my clients.
3 Unconventional Steps to Stop Procrastinating and Work Ahead of Deadlines
1. Awaken to Your Thinking. Notice if you are attempting to manipulate, control, cajole, analyze, or manage your thinking in order to get yourself to do something. This is a very common strategy for most people. And it is a red herring. Thinking about doing can’t ever get you to do.
In fact, thinking about doing is a secret trap that can make it look like you are doing something about that project or test or deadline. In actuality this thinking is generating more thinking and far less doing. These thoughts can get so overwhelming that you will eventually need to escape – typically inside less than desirable activities – TV, games, drinking, eating, shopping, etc.
2. Awaken to Your Feelings. As you think about starting a new project or studying for an upcoming exam or even just going to bed on time – it can conjure a lot of emotion: anxiety, confusion, overwhelm, apathy, you name it. What is so very helpful to see here is that your feelings aren’t facts about the situation but rather a reflection of your thinking in that particular moment.
Sometimes you don’t procrastinate going to bed. Sometimes you start your project in advance. The activity itself doesn’t actually have the power to elicit the same feeling every time. The logic doesn’t hold up that the activity is generating how you feel. The feeling you are experiencing can only be coming from what you are thinking about in the moment. Thought is constantly moving through us. Seeing this insightfully brings a new level of freedom to your experience.
3. Step Back Into the Present Moment. You are already doing this all the time. You are getting things done without deadlines, without thinking hard about doing. You are just getting done what is obvious to do in the moment. This space is available always when we step back from our thinking and feelings.
Looking in this direction – what is the most obvious thing for you to do? This drops you back into flow – where we naturally move toward our highest priorities.
A Personal Example
Here is a very benign example. Over the years I’ve noticed I have a tendency to procrastinate taking a shower. Not always but sometimes. I don’t like to be cold. I don’t want to waste time on this sort of thing. I don’t like wet hair.
Several months ago I got back from a workout and needed to take a shower. I instantly heard all the old voices in my head, “Just go do it!” and “Ughhh, you can wait until later.” And “This is ridiculous that you can’t just take a shower. You’ll feel so good afterwards.” Etc.
And then it occurred to me I could step back from this thinking. I could step back from this “battle” in my brain. Instead I could just do what was obvious for me to do. The first thing I found myself doing was the dishes. Next I did the laundry. Then I cleaned up around my home, wrote some emails and found myself in the shower within an hour.
I didn’t cajole or manipulate myself there. I just continued to do what occurred to me to do. I didn’t think my way in or out of the shower.
Listening to The Obvious is available in any moment – the present moment.
Thinking your way into doing looks useful until you realize for yourself that there is a whole other way you are already getting things done. A far easier way to operate that takes for less time and energy. That actually quiets your mind rather than adds more thinking to it.
Step back from your thinking and feelings and look at what is obvious to you in the moment. There is a whole new world waiting for you when you navigate life from this deeper space.
Everyone has a different way of understanding what The Obvious is to them and how to access this space more and more frequently. If you’d like specific support in determining your best way forward – please reach out with a call or email to set up a time to chat about working together.