My road to procrastination has been an evolution. I wasn’t always this way. When I take the time to think about it, I can see it happening in 3 parts. First, the era of no problems. I would tackle anything and everything in a systematic way far before it was due or immediately if it was needed. Then, I became slightly laxer. Putting off things like writing a paper, not because I was actually avoiding it but simply because there was something I’d rather do. Mostly I wanted to spend time with friends or needed the occasional mental health day. Finally, an emotional break that caused me to begin to fear. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of doing it wrong. Fear of failure. Fear of letting people down. It may sound crazy but for me it is a very real sense of dread. It has kept me from evolving and most of the time even starting. I get excited about a project, gather the materials and then stall out. I’m not sure who I’m worried about letting down or be judged by. I get very little judgement from my husband and kids. They don’t place that burden on me but I sure as hell place it on myself. I have some preconceived notion in my head telling me that I am failing them or that they feel some way that they don’t actually feel.

I am working to change my propensity for procrastination. I am tackling it one project at a time. The projects are sometimes small, and others are larger and broken into smaller pieces. I find that by making each step more manageable I don’t put it off as much. Beginning is the key. Taking the time to sort out the steps of a project allows you to determine how to move forward and perhaps set a deadline for the given pieces as well as the project as a whole. You may even find that you can work out of order and assemble the final product later. This won’t always work but it is nice to have the option.

Working on my inner dialogue is also part of the undertaking. When I find myself projecting my fear of failure on my family, I begin simply by asking what they think. Getting their honest opinion helps me to silence the negativity running through my brain. They know I have these issues and are happy to help me through rough spots. I find that if I give them the opportunity, they are my biggest cheerleaders. I don’t need them nagging me about deadlines. For some reason this builds resistance in me and I put things off just to be annoying. It’s the stubborn 4-year-old in me. But their support of me, telling me they like what I’m working on, or gently reminding me of why I’m tackling something, gives me the nudge I need to take the next step or toe the line.

It isn’t the inherent unpleasantness of a task that keeps us from doing it. It is a matter of being unable to cope with the negative emotions surrounding it. Emotions like anxiety, self-doubt, low self-esteem, and insecurity. In reality procrastination isn’t a time management problem it’s an emotion regulation problem. We put things off even though we know it can have negative consequences. Ironically the short-term gain of putting off a task actually has negative long-term costs. When returning to the project you may feel increased levels of stress, anxiety, and self-blame.

The act of self-compassion goes a long way in managing the negative emotions that drive procrastination. Approaching yourself with compassion when things don’t go your way or forgiving yourself for procrastinating actually decreases the occurrence later. It decreases psychological distress, which in turn reduces stress levels and encourages you to act. Self-compassion has no outward requirements, it is simply meeting your challenges with greater levels of acceptance and kindness instead of regret and rumination.

This is why coaching is such a wonderful option for many. Our negative emotions are tied to pivotal moments in our history and coaching introduces a kind hand to guide you through the emotions and into a place of self-acceptance and love. Working with a coach can enable you to face those things that are blocking your ability to move forward and are keeping you rooted in the past. Understanding pivotal moments in your life and how you feel about them can unlock your evolution. Once you have done the work to move through those things you will find greater satisfaction with your life and begin meeting your goals. Your reward? Deeper contentedness and happiness.