If such an award existed, I think I’d be crowned world champion procrastinator, with an honorable mention for my ability to only temporarily stifle the anxiety that ensues. I’ve always struggled with how to beat procrastination, and it was no surprise to me this week when my husband lovingly described me as “procrastinatory.” It got me thinking.
Its true, I’ve been a known (and quite skilled) procrastinator for years, but something feels different about it these days. What is it about avoidance that both sparks and fuels anxiety? And why is it so much stronger in 2020? What can be done when typical strategies for how to beat procrastination fall short for me?
The pandemic = express train to procrastination station
It’s been awhile since I’ve had the bandwidth to post. Writing and creating for this blog can often be a part of my self-care, so the irony of having not posted is not lost on me. In fact, it’s taunting me, and I feel guilt, shame, and self-doubt.
It’s been so long since I’ve posted, and with each passing day it becomes that much harder to actually sit down and get something started. The thought of getting something, anything started is daunting, and a breeding ground for my – already pretty sizable – pool of misplaced self-doubt and shame.
What could I possibly share right now that anyone would find useful? How can I share about self-care when I’ve been in survival mode, barely following my own advice? This is important, and I want to give it my time, but maybe I shouldn’t, maybe there is something else I should be doing? Et cetera ad nauseum.
Stress is high, so one task is replaced by another, or forgotten, or avoided entirely, and the insidious anxiety⇄avoidance chain reaction crushes any remaining motivation. It’s yet another vicious cycle that I’m all too familiar with this year.
Next stop: Derailed motivation
I read or heard somewhere that we need to ban the use of the term “momentum” this year (how sad is it that I can’t remember the details?! In all seriousness, if this rings a bell for you, please let me know so I can credit appropriately!). So many of us are trying to gain momentum against impossible odds and strong forces pushing us back.
Most days I can say that things are at least still in motion for me, they’re just tending toward a more difficult direction. Stress begets stress, begets more anxiety, reduces motivation, enhances ennui, and the list goes on, making it increasingly difficult to push against the procrastination energy with force strong enough to make an impact, to make myself feel useful or significant.
My rational mind knows that I’m not alone in feeling this lack of motivation and the dull, constant pull of chronic stress. The trouble is, I’m searching for an answer to a question that hasn’t been formed yet, seeking a solution to a problem that keeps changing. Can I alter the course at this stage in the game?
How to beat procrastination and back on track
Coping amidst a pandemic is intense and personal. The day-to-day can be so uncomfortable as we deal with this unfamiliar situation.
More than ever we have to be creative when it comes to our self-care and coping with our circumstances. My truth is that I probably won’t ever be free from anxiety or my husband-coined “procrastinatory” tendencies, but here are some tips that helped me to FINALLY get moving again, and move a little closer to some self-love.
Acknowledge the slump [or whatever you label it]
Even in the “new normal” of this pandemic, I didn’t realize how off-balance I was feeling (again) until I tried to put it into words. Texting close friends, I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong, and no words seemed to cut it. Ultimately, I settled on “things are off, I’m in a slump.” This didn’t magically solve the feeling, but I sat with it for a few days and eventually felt ready to try something different…
Treat yourself with compassion
I need to be kind to myself without judgement or criticism. I don’t need to be kicking myself for feeling drained of motivation. I don’t need action items to add more pressure to “fix” it. I need to feel my feelings, and I can empower myself with sympathy and comfort (and maybe some wallowing). Will I still be frustrated and reactive at times? Heck yes, but that’s ok.
Remember: Good enough is still good
For the task that needs to be completed, but hasn’t yet, perhaps good enough is ACTUALLY good (and it might even be awesome). It’s not easy to lower expectations or reduce our standards, particularly when we’ve already done the lion’s share of compromising this year. I know this is a tall order when so many are functioning on the bare minimum, but right now, I need it to not just be “okay” that I’m surviving, I need it to be awesome.
Ask for help, especially when you don’t want to
When I get caught up in a low-motivation slump, it’s so easy to isolate, even unintentionally. In general, I don’t like to ask for help, and putting myself out there seems to take more effort when I’m struggling. Usually that’s when I need it the most, though. Help doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive, either. I’m not talking about hiring help or outsourcing, but rather, finding some support and putting trust in something outside yourself and your surroundings. Stay connected; it counts as self-care.
Do the thing you’ve been putting off, or at least get it started…
It doesn’t have to be perfect. The anticipation is so often worse than the reality. Taking a step to get “the thing” started might be just liberating enough to build some precious momentum…or at the very least, slide away a roadblock.
CONFESSION: I’m so tempted to leave this post in draft form for days to perfect it. I want to read it over and over for corrections, and find more words for other tips and tricks to help. I won’t do that though – What good would it do if I couldn’t follow my own advice?
So here it is, the cheat sheet for my future self to keep chugging along, even if the track is heading off into uncharted territory.
The fact is, there isn’t a perfect way to get through this time, and what works today might not work tomorrow. Undoubtedly, I’ll need to course correct again (and likely in the near future) but in the meantime, I have a decent method to help find my way to some recognizable turf.