Procrastination became a close friend of mine. I Mean, the kind of friend that was always there, sitting next to me while sipping a cup of tea and writing my to do list. It was also my buddy when checking my phone and thinking “I should reply to that email now that I have the time; but before, I’m just going to check Instagram for a few minutes.” Minutes turn into a half an hour, and all of the sudden I got caught up in another thing that had nothing to do with answering that important email. When I realized that I had spent too much time procrastinating that important task, I would assure myself that I would not spend as much time on Instagram next time and that I would get that [fill in the blank] done tomorrow. And guess what? That’s right, tomorrow turned into days (and even weeks).
Yep, procrastination knows how to divert us from our daily tasks, from our weekly work schedules and hence, from our long-term goals. What I identified some time ago was that, behind the things I put off, there is usually an enormous element of resistance and fear: the fear of not succeeding, the fear of failing or of not getting the results I want. When it comes to putting myself out there through my products or words, I can spend a long time convincing myself that I’m not ready, that they don’t look or sound as good as they should, that I need to take another on-line course, watch another tutorial or spend more time improving my technical skills.
After living with this “friend” for a while and realizing that it is not the kind of friend that brings joy to my life, it has become easier to identify when I’m fearful of doing what’s important to me at that moment. Many times I put off things that I had planned for the day. I go to the kitchen and make myself yet another cup of tea or play with my dog. I check social media, WhatsApp or organize my closet. I look for something sweet to eat or do anything that brings me immediate gratification. And when I’m finally out of excuses, it is already too late (or so I think) and it’s time to prepare dinner. At the end of the day, I didn’t accomplish what I was set to do, even though I had honestly believed I would.
I have heard countless times, awareness is key. And it is. However, we’re talking about habits here, which require not only that we acknowledge them, but that we deliberately take conscious actions. cut distractions, keep accountable and show up to make the change. Gretchen Rubin, one of the New York Times best selling authors, has written extensively about habits and procrastination.
In an interview with Forbes a few years ago Rubin said: “One very good way to form habits, and that goes very directly towards procrastination problems, is scheduling. For most people, if something is on the calendar they are much more likely to do it. There’s a specific time and expectation that that’s what you are going to be doing. Something that can be done at any time is often done at no time.“
Lately, I have been talking to other entrepreneurs about their weekly struggles and challenges with procrastination. It is relieving and reassuring, in a way, to see that many of us face the same issues. So the question is how can we, as women working from home, change a pattern that does not contribute to our long-term goals, creative projects and happiness?
Here are 5 ways to beat procrastination and start living in the daily joy of creativity.
Structure your working days and hours - Start by making a list of the things you want to get accomplished during the week. Estimate the amount of time that each task will take you and grab your weekly calendar. Once you have listed them, prioritize them by importance and time sensitivity. Then add them to your agenda and allot a time per day (s) and hour (s). In my case for example, if I know that it takes me between 2 to 4 hrs to draft a blog post, I will prepare my lunch the night before, exercise early in the morning, and plan to be in my home office all the afternoon. I will not schedule meeting friends or running several errands that day. It doesn’t always work that way, but I am doing better at not scheduling anything social on the days that I need to be writing my weekly blog posts.
Schedule less - By not adding too many activities to your daily calendar, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to work on those personal projects you’ve been wanting to start (or finish). The satisfaction of being in your studio or home office doing what you love will be an incentive to schedule quieter days and get more done. No one can do your work as passionately and beautifully as you can. The same goes for not making a huge to-do list of the tasks you want to get accomplished during your work week. I am culprit in this area. Every week when I review the things that got done during the week, there are always a few highlighted that I didn’t get to do. By scheduling less, you’re not putting pressure on yourself to get everything done (on top of the daily chores at home) and you’re prioritizing the ones that are the most important. Here’s a link to a book called Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Busy Moms that is on my read list for 2019.
Cut down on distractions - Keep your phone out of sight. Simple but not easy. If you need to be reached, turn off the WiFi and internet connection so that you only receive important calls. Laska Paré, my life coach, advice this some years ago: When researching a topic, product or idea on your computer, only keep one tab open at a time. Once you find the information you need close that tab and open a new one. This will reduce the temptation of shopping on Amazon while reading that blog when you should be replying to that email. Another example is, if sending that newsletter is important to grow your audience, do not check social media before you’re done drafting the email. If you’re like me, chances are you’ll spend too long scrolling throughout Instagram instead of focusing on doing the work in front of you. To avoid postponing important tasks, it is indispensable to eliminate those external distractions from our surroundings. For instance, placing smartphones in another room or not checking personal emails while doing computer work will help improve our concentration. According to this article from The Guardian, being constantly interrupted reduces our IQ.
Keep accountable - About a year ago, I started a weekly accountability meeting. My friend, the wellness entrepreneur, Lizzie Alexander and I would meet and talk about our projects and give each other ideas and feedback. Aside from sharing, we would also write down homework for the next week. It would be anything from designing a logo, doing market research or reading each other’s articles. Thanks to the pressure of compliance and having the support from another person in the same situation, this blog was finally launched. Additionally, Lizzie saw progress in my work that I didn’t see myself and vice versa. Then, a few months ago I started an accountability group with other expat women in Jordan. We have been meeting for months now, one hour every week. During this time we talk about our struggles, challenges and achievements of the week. We also track the amount of hours worked each week. We’re honest with what is not working and we ask for help. It’s working! Consider starting an accountability group. Reach out to people in your community. I am sure there are plenty of people in need of moving forward with their projects as well.
Visualize the feeling of satisfaction - Waiting for you on the other side of the mountain of fear and hard work is a big feeling of satisfaction. The process is in itself rewarding, frustrating, joyful, stressful and fascinating. Seeing yourself getting things done with ease and savoring the fruits of pursuing your passion is exciting. Before starting to work on my blog, I was doing the morning guided meditations by one of my favorite wellness mentors, Kris Carr. She firmly believes that what we focus on attracts more of the same. Kris states: “Our thoughts have the power to create our reality.” And this applies to all areas of our lives. If we want to have a positive outcome for our home based business, health journeys, finances and personal projects, we must work hard and believe that things will happen. A few months later, I can honestly say I have a very similar feeling of satisfaction to the one I was visualizing before.
The struggles of us entrepreneurs are real but so are our dreams and passions. By not giving in to daily procrastination, we can experience the joy of creativity. It is my hope that we do not get discouraged by the setbacks we encounter along the way. Otherwise we will never now the wonderful things that await for us on the other side of fear and resistance.
What about you? What are some of the struggles and solutions you have found along the way? And what are you working on improving at the moment. Le't’s connect. Please leave your comments in the section below.
Thank you for being here. Namaste.