Burnout to Leadership

Ep#24 The 4 steps to overcome procrastination

March 04, 2022 Dex Randall Season 1 Episode 24
Burnout to Leadership
Ep#24 The 4 steps to overcome procrastination
Show Notes Transcript
  • How to manage time better, even when you think you're a pro.
  • Burnout and procrastination.
  • 4 steps to overcome procrastination.
  • Improve your actual work results.

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Hi, everyone, my name is Dex Randall, and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello, my friends, this is Dex, and today we're gonna talk about why we procrastinate and how to fix it. And I'm so pleased to be getting around to doing an episode on procrastination at last. Just joshing with you. First, I'm gonna mention, I'm gonna talk about the precise time management process I use in the future episode is very powerful, I guess, no matter how good you think your time management is, if you're in burnout, I guarantee there's room for improvement. Meantime, if you are struggling with overwork or managing your workload or work hours, listen to Episode Five, Overworked, Episode 12, Saying No, and Episode 22, People Pleasing, seriously makes a big difference. I guarantee they're gonna help you value your own time, energy, and expertise more and elevate your actual contribution and success, 'cause you're not selling time, you're selling results, right? Results in fact, as defined by other people's implicit needs. But anyway, that's the topic for another day, back to procrastination. If you're a terrific scheduler, but you wander off plan at times, or if you don't even like scheduling, preferring to work kinda creatively as inspiration strikes. Basically, if you catch yourself doing unplanned or non productive things when you've got important work to do, then this episode is for you. I guess let's face it, no matter how good your work habits are, how imperative or inflexible your deadlines or what career stage you're at, procrastination is always an available option, and it's generally a very painful one after the fact. We all procrastinate and we know how deeply it affects our productivity and success, and in fact how unpopular we can become when people expect results from us and don't get them. How many of us are aware why we procrastinate and what to do about it? So I'm glad you're here because in this episode, you're gonna learn enough to be on to yourself about your own procrastination, and you're also gonna learn the tools to deal with it. So what gets us into this mess of procrastination in the first place? In my case, it used to be that I had a task that I either didn't want to do or didn't know how to do, or politically didn't agree it was my place to do it and felt a bit resentful about it, or I thought it wasn't in the best interest of the company, the client, the product or whatever, or I simply couldn't jam it into my schedule within the timeframe, or sneakily because I had other work that have more appeal, probably because that work was my idea. Anyway, that's all the stuff I used to tell myself, and I'm sure you've got your pet reasons too, but I'd really just take it away and argue a little bit in my head about it wanting to prove my case, and then I would procrastinate, push it to the back of the pile, miss a deadline, quietly hope it will go away and all of that. But curiously, I would also procrastinate just because I prefer to duck out for food or coffee or think about some more interesting thing or check my messages or go on social media. And once I started procrastinating on one task, all my other work began to look kind of uninvitingly gray and possibly avoidable, too, because procrastination is a compulsive habit, once we start, we encourage our brains to look for other opportunities to escape. And then when procrastination becomes habitual, we're basically then gonna need to de condition that habit, which means forgoing a possibly exciting activity for one we don't like repeatedly, it means giving up those little dopamine hits. Anyhow, as seductive and compelling as the urge can be to do something other than the task at hand, we all know we're gonna pay in the end. So here's the fix, and I guarantee you can do this if you A, have a brain and B, are willing to feel a little bit awkward and not be real good at it at the beginning. So here's how I taught myself how I learned in coaching to overcome procrastination in four steps. And step one, first, you need to become aware that you're doing it, that you're slipping off pace. When your brain urges you to switch activity to get off task, slide away for pastures green somewhere, it's gonna tell you not to notice using some excuse, but you can notice, you're suddenly be looking at your phone screen, not at your work, and you'll notice that and your hastily flick away and ignore that knowledge, so just don't, you can register the switch and become curious about it. And I use this example a lot because it's graphic and also true, so when I noticed I'd shut off my chair, it's a signal to my pre frontal cortex, my executive thinking brain to perk up and take notice. And my awareness can also be signal when I snatch and look at my phone or social media, or I glance at my schedule for a nicer job to do. Whatever your go to actions are, I know you could tell me what that escape moment looks like for you. So it's about deciding to bring that subconscious awareness to consciousness, basically blowing your own escape plan, so that's step one, you're basically interrupting your urge to flee by noticing it. Step two, once I noticed my escape plan, step two is I retraced my steps, and I look at what I was doing when the urge to procrastinate arose. Personally, I look for what I was doing that I didn't think I could do, 'cause that's one of my real big triggers, not knowing how to do something, I hate that. And I also check in to see if I'm genuinely hungry or just anxious, and the answer for me is usually anxious, based on fear of failure. Other feelings like irritation, frustration, tiredness, and many others can probably all be in the mix but fundamentally, mine was anxiety based on fear of failure and not being able to deliver a result on something that I promised to someone usually. So you'll have your head liners, it could be letting people down, worrying about looking dumb, not completing something on time, losing money, knowing you have another urgent task to do next, or simply the sudden thought that you argued with your partner earlier in the day, you'll work it out, it's often detectable while disappointment in yourself. So are you judging yourself somewhere? So that's step two, get forensic, find out what you're escaping. Step three, once you know the what, ask yourself why? What's the sentence going through your mind about the task that you're avoiding, see if you can pick that up. It might be self criticism, fear, worry, dread, panic. What's your brain telling you about maybe an impending fail or an early mistake? At times, also we procrastinate because we don't want someone to find out that we've already failed or are about to, we put off the awkward conversation. So listen to your inner critic berating you or warning you about consequences. Or if you're resenting some task, listen to the monologue about that. Your mind is telling you why you should escape, but the escape urge can be so swift that you might not be conscious of it. So the trick is stop mid escape and try and tune back into it, and you won't want to, because the escape is designed to make you feel better, and you haven't had the escape yet, so you don't feel better yet, so your brain's gonna wanna get there really quickly. But if you pause long enough, you can discover what's going on, and then that gives you choice about what to do next. The thing you are running away from will always be a feeling, but keep listening guys because you're losing results, losing money to this feeling, you're losing relationships to this feeling, so you need to stay with the discomfort just for a moment. If you're beating yourself up about something, the feeling might be inadequacy, failure, fear, anxiety, maybe embarrassment, shame, frustration, irritation, panic, humiliation, disappointment, anything like that. You can have a look around, see what comes up for you, but it really doesn't matter what the feeling is, what matters is it's a feeling you don't want to feel, so you're bailing out to another activity, that's going to create a nicer feeling, instant relief, okay, it's a distraction. Probably you're gonna get a dopamine hit doing that, and possibly also a kind of temporary split second restoration of self esteem. But to continue my example, once I eaten a couple of the biscuits, the shine will wear off you. Well, you call them cookies if you're American, I call them biscuits. Anyway, once I'd eaten a couple of them, the shine would wear off, it would still working, and I really remember my feeling of failure, and I want a couple more. You know how that ends, basically, continued consumption of the thing followed by brutal self judgment, hopelessness, helplessness, and eventually despair and still the bloody original job never got done, and now there's even less time. So to put it bluntly, you're not doing the important thing, because you're having a feeling. How much time, how many results have you sacrificed to procrastination? Every time you have a self critical thought and a feeling you don't like rises up for you, you're basically just running away, so how is that affecting getting your work done? How do you feel in the evenings after work when that's happening? What about the urges you might get to check your messages at night for those time bonds, and maybe your ability to be open, honest and friendly with the people you are letting down? How does it affect your trust in yourself and long term, basically, how is it gonna affect your career and your income? So step three then is just becoming aware of the feeling you're trying to run away from when you have this procrastination urge. You're gonna love step four. Step four is feeling it. So a feeling is just energy in your body, it's just sensation in your body, it can't actually harm you, it's just emotion, energy emotion. Fundamentally, it's your body communicating with you, it's just information, so maybe it's telling you, "You're angry and you need to protect yourself, or you're embarrassed and you might you to rectify something, or you're panic because you fear some repercussion and you need to soothe yourself." That's it. Any emotion, when it's left unmolested, will pass through us in about 90 seconds. And when we let that emotion pass through us consciously, it's given us the information, it's done its job, and we can act on that if we need to. So let's say even that the emotion is humiliation, rather than procrastinate endlessly, you could just tune into the tension, the vibration, the shaking in your body and watch it for 90 seconds. You could just compassionately observe without trying to change your experience, just witness it. Witness what's happening in your body, and then it will pass through and fade away. So if that's true, all the horror stories your mind concocts to avoid that experience, that feeling or any feeling, all of those horror stories don't make sense, do they? Procrastination anyway, it doesn't get rid of a feeling, it just postpones it, which really in the long term, it strengthens that feeling, it comes along more frequently. So have your feelings to the extent you're willing to feel any feeling, you'll be able to achieve any goal, anything you want, because you're never gonna back off taking action on your goal because of a feeling, you won't need to procrastinate, you'll just keep going. So that's step four, allow the feeling you were trying to avoid so you no longer need to procrastinate. That feeling no longer controls your behavior, no longer owns you. And it really it's just rinse and repeat. Step five is disinvest yourself from your procrastination habit. When you follow those four steps, you basically started to de condition your urge to run away from your work, your self criticism, your feelings. You've already got a little bit of power back, then simply repeat the exercise next time the urge to procrastinate comes up because it will, if it's a habit. I mean, don't worry, just allow the feeling again, repeat this process, and each time you're willing to do this, you're de conditioning the urge more, and over time, that means the neural pathway, that habit weakens, and it becomes easier and easier not to procrastinate. So this five step process that I've outlined here, four steps and repeat, it's a basic practice that I work with all my clients in burnout, and typically in burnout, procrastination has become a real big problem for most people, there are generally speaking, peoples and situations we just can't face anymore. So if you can relate to that, imagine if there weren't anything you needed to avoid, imagine if you were never on the back foot with work, imagine if you were just quietly confident and calm, you are no longer nervous of being found out in some way, and that's really what happens when you successfully manage burnout with coaching, you get back on your A game. So if that's you and you want some help, come and talk to me if you'd like at dexrandall.com. In any case, thank you for listening today, I really appreciate that. I hope what I've been through today is helpful to you, promise yourself you'll give it half a dozen goes, not just one when it feels awkward at the beginning, and it's gonna work with you. You can visit my website at burnouttoleadership.com for the show notes and please forward this episode to anyone you know whose got a problem with overwork, overwhelm, procrastination, and all the difficulties that come with that. If you're in burnout, ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me, at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.