Struggling with procrastination can feel like an impossible problem to solve. Something that’s always getting in the way of your future success.
This is because of how the brain works; it’s always seeking pleasure and doesn’t like to be uncomfortable.
Instead of letting your brain win, you can learn how to overcome this and stop procrastinating forever.
The truth is that procrastination isn’t an identity but instead is a habit. A habit that you can 100% break.
In this episode, I share with you the five step process to stop procrastinating once and for all.
Here are more resources that will help you with this episode:
- How To Stop Procrastinating (blog post)
- Productivity (podcast)
- The Top 9 Planning Mistakes I See The Most (blog post)
- Time Scarcity (podcast)
- Time Management Tools (free course)
- Grow You (coaching)
Full Procrastination Episode Transcript
Welcome to the Design Your Dream Life podcast where it’s all about designing your life on your terms and now your host, Natalie Bacon.
Hey friend, how you doin? Welcome to the podcast. I don’t know about you, but for me, I have been enjoying all of the little things about this summer that I did not anticipate enjoying. Chicago is finally starting to open up a little bit. I know we are much later in our openings than a lot of other cities. So you may have already experienced this, but for me, I have found it just so delightful to go get a mani pedi, to go out, to eat, to see other people in the city, walking around.
And just to see a little bit of the old vibrance that I used to love so much about this city come back to life. I never realized how much I took for granted all of those little things that, um, I didn’t know, could even be taken away. So I hope that as you start to, you know, move around and do different things at whatever pace is comfortable for you, that you find joy in the simplest things that maybe you hadn’t found so enjoyable before.
What else do I have for you before we get into this lovely topic today, we’re going to talk about procrastination. I have some new free trainings that I think you’re going to love. If you go to the resources page where we have all of our free trainings, it’s just at Nataliebacon.com/resources. You will see all of the latest new trainings. There is a training on Conquering Anxiety and Overcoming Self Doubt on How To Live An Intentional Life on Shifting From The Scarcity Mindset to the Abundance Mindset.
And I’m going to be creating more trainings for you. These are typically 30 minutes to an hour, and they are some of my best work. So hop on over to the resources page and access a free training. If you are an online business owner or you want to be an online business owner, if you are a corporate employee who dreams of transitioning to be an online business owner, I am coming up with a brand new program.
It is going to be a very high end program. I am only going to take 20 people. It will sell out the first round. If you’re interested, you can get on our waitlist at Nataliebacon.com/interestlist. That’s one word, just interestlist. This program will be for women who want to quit their corporate jobs and stay home with their families by starting an online business. I know that many of you are not online business owners, so I won’t get into any more of the details there, but I just wanted to let you know that that is going to be a new program that I’m going to be launching here somewhat in the near future. We’ll see.
Now let’s talk about procrastination. So I have to tell you, I was going to record a different podcast today. And one of my beloved Grow, You members emailed me and said, can you do something on procrastination? A lot of us have asked about it in the ask coach, and I’m struggling with it. I’d love to hear more about what you have to say about procrastination.
And I looked through what I have taught so far, and we do an entire month on time management, productivity, all that in Grow You. But I realized I haven’t talked specifically about procrastination and I could not believe it. So scrapped the old podcast idea that I was going to do today. And we’re going to talk about procrastination. I think this is going to be really powerful. I know a lot of you struggle with procrastination in different ways. And what I want to start with first is redefining procrastination. So most of you who I coach or who write into me will say something like I’m a procrastinator. You say it as if it is who you are.
So I want you to know for sure that procrastination is not an identity. Okay? You are not a procrastinator. Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. So it’s an action, right? It’s technically inaction. If you think about it, you’re not doing something, but it’s not your identity. It’s a habit. So this is an action that you’ve practiced. It’s not who you are. You are not a procrastinator. You are in the habit of procrastinating. This distinction is really important just from the get go.
So I want you to stop identifying yourself as a procrastinator because that’s what you’ll create more of in the future. You will take it on as part of your identity. So if you’re thinking I’m a procrastinator, that’s what you’re going to create. Instead, I want you to shift out of that and say, Oh, I’m just in the habit of procrastinating as an action.
So we’re just going to do some work to clean up that habit. When I talk about procrastination, I’m talking about not doing what you want to be doing, not doing what you say you’re going to do, right? Instead you’re saying, Oh, procrastination has always been a struggle for me. I’m just a procrastinator. I can’t get to that.
So you put off what you want most, and this can be something small, like a hobby or project, or it can be something big, like, you know, the job or the career or the business, or getting married and having kids it’s delaying taking action that you actually want. The reason that it makes sense to procrastinate at all is because it feels better to not do the thing that you want to do. So your brain is smart. It will always do what it thinks is best in that moment.
This includes the primitive part of your brain. That is your survival brain. So your survival brain would rather, you not do the hard thing. It would rather you conserve energy. It feels better. What doesn’t feel better is doing something new and different and hard. Your brain perceives that as a threat to its survival, even though that’s not true.
Put differently going for it, trying something new, getting outside your comfort zone, it’s all incredibly uncomfortable. So I think that sometimes we want to fix procrastination. And we think that on the other side of that is feeling really good while we’re doing our work. Sometimes you will feel good or motivated, but not all the time. And what I want to help you with is identifying that that’s what’s happening so that you still take action when you don’t feel like it. Right. When people say, I just don’t feel like it.
I’m like, why is that ever a reason to not do it? Did you know, you can not feel like it and do it anyway? I think that the biggest problem with procrastination is that you can procrastinate your entire life away. I think we get so stuck in our day to day circumstances and we don’t stop and take a step back to look at the big picture.
So we are unwilling to feel that discomfort in our day to day in exchange for the longterm results that we want. For example, let’s say you’re procrastinating getting a new job, right? You can do this for years on end. Let’s say four or five, six years go by. And you’re still in that job still feeling like you don’t really want to be in this. Isn’t what you want for your career, but you’re not doing anything about it.
So all of that time, you could have been acquiring new skills, trying different jobs, quitting, trying again. And at least you would have momentum going forward, but instead you have literally done nothing, right? And I think that people do this to the tune of 10, 20, 30 years. They stay in careers that they would not start over. I love to ask myself what I choose this again right now. Right? Would I choose this job again right now? If the answer is no, you are recreating more of your past into the future. And it’s a past that you actually don’t want.
The reason that you do this is because the path that you’re on is the path of least resistance, meaning it’s easier. And your brain enjoys it more for you to keep doing what you’re already doing. And this goes for your job. It also goes for little things.
The other day, I went on a three mile walk around the city and I was thinking how it took so much for me to carve out the time and actually get going and leave. But once I was on the walk, I think I could have walked 10 miles, right? Because once you get started, you have momentum. It’s zero to one. That is the hardest, not one to a hundred.
So when you understand this, you can be on to your brain and say, okay, I just need to get started. I just need to get going. I do this. Even with work I procrastinate, stopping working. So I will be working and so inflow and look at the time and realize it’s time to end for the day. And I won’t want to in the moment.
So my primitive brain is like, Oh, just keep going, keep going. But my prefrontal cortex is like, Oh no, it’s time to stop. You put on your calendar. You’re going to stop. So I will stand up at my desk and I do not have a standing desk. So I will move my chair out of the way. And I will stand up because that creates some momentum for me to stop working. Right? Cause I have to kind of lean over a little bit to even reach the keys if I’m standing up the keyboard. And that is just one way that it gets me to overcome the resistance that comes with any transition.
So just remember that there is always resistance in the transition and that resistance is okay. I think that the biggest misconception is thinking that it’s supposed to feel good and that when you see something on your calendar that you want for your future, and you don’t want to do it in the moment that that means something, all that means is that your primitive brain would rather have you go get a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and sit down and do nothing.
Your brain is always trying to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and be efficient. And it takes a lot of discomfort to transition to something new and different. And your brain would just prefer you don’t do that. So if you understand this, you can start to see how to break down the habit of procrastinating. Now, I want to talk with you about what I think are the five main causes of procrastination.
So I gave you this overarching reason, which is your brain and that’s reason number one, it’s basically more fun to not do the thing. It’s more comfortable. It’s more enjoyable. And to do the thing, whatever it is, you have to overcome that motivational triad. You have to choose short term discomfort to achieve and become what and who you want.
The second cause of procrastination is fear of failure. It’s thinking that you’re going to fail. So what’s the point. And by thinking this, you actually fail ahead of time. I think that the reason that fear of failure is a cause of procrastination is because of what you’re making failure mean. So if you think that failure is a bad thing, then you are going to avoid it.
But I would never think that failure is a bad thing. It just doesn’t register like that for me. So I want to encourage you to think about failure differently. I just think of it as missing the mark. You guys know that I failed the CFP exam the first time, right? And then everyone had to tell me, but you passed the bar. How did you fail this? Like, thanks. So I remember logging in and looking at failed on the screen. And my first thought was, that’s so rude. It should say, try again. That was my first thought. And then I kind of laughed. And of course I felt disappointed.
I wanted to feel disappointed and I took it again and I passed, but I never interpret failure to mean anything about me to mean anything about my future. I just make it mean I tried one way and that is not the way I take it as feedback. So if you redefine what failure is for you, that will remove the cause of it being a reason to procrastinate.
The third cause of procrastination is perfectionism, right? I like to say that perfectionism is for scared people. I see this a lot with new entrepreneurs who want things to be perfect before they produce it before they create it. And with entrepreneurship, like a lot of other things you have to produce at such a high rate to see what’s going to work, that you don’t have time to be a perfectionist, right? When you’re a perfectionist, you are afraid.
You think that it’s not ready and it’s not good enough. And you make that mean something about you. I have spelling errors and typos all the time in all of my stuff. And now I have editors and people reviewing it, but it wasn’t always that way. And I never let that be an excuse or a reason for me not to produce something. So I would rather produce at a higher rate at a B level instead of waiting for it to be an a level.
And I think that this is so counterintuitive to what we’re taught in school, but I really want to encourage you that if you want to stop procrastinating to examine why you’re a perfectionist and what thoughts you have about you and why you think it’s better to be perfect. And what that really means, right? Rather than producing and getting something out into the world, which I think is better. Even if the quality isn’t as good as if you waited.
The fourth, cause of procrastination is not having a plan. So you tell yourself, you’re not sure what to do and you spin in. I don’t know. What I like to say is if I did know, what would I do when I get stuck in, I don’t know. It almost sounds a little bit like a victim mentality where I think that something outside of me should be happening or it should be happening differently. Or, you know, I am incapable of finding the solution myself. So when I flip it around and I, if I did know, what would I do then it propels me into action. Not having a plan is not a good reason not to do something. There’s a lot of nots in that sentence. So what I’m saying is it’s on you to create a plan.
And if you’re not afraid of failing, if part of your plan doesn’t work, who cares? So let’s say that you want to get a new job, right. And you don’t know where to start. Well, if you did know what would you do? Okay. Maybe you would go on to one of the websites that have jobs, right? The first site that comes to mind is like indeed or monster. I don’t even know if those are still a thing, but you go online and you would start searching, right?
That’s something you could do. You could reach out to people who, you know, in certain industries, you know, basically when you say, if I did know, what would I do? You put your brain to work and creating a plan for you. Right. And that puts you into action. It creates momentum. So you move forward. Procrastinating is staying stuck, right? And your brain actually prefers that.
So at the core of this is you being willing to feel bad, which is cause number five. When you feel bad, you will interpret that as a reason, not to take action. So I was coaching someone in Grow You. And she said, you know, it’ll be the morning. And I’ll be with my kids. I have on my calendar that I’m supposed to go do something around the house that I decided I was going to do. And I just don’t do it. I don’t feel like it.
And I said to her, why are you letting not feeling like it be a reason that you don’t do it. So feeling bad is not a reason not to do something. I think that in the moment your brain is always going to have that resistance to start. You have to know that that’s not a good enough reason because here’s the thing.
This goes to what I taught you guys about self-accountability if you get in the habit of doing what you say, you’re going to do, it’s not going to feel as bad. Your brain is going to say, Oh, this is the part where we actually transition. This is the part where I show up for myself. I’m used to doing this in the beginning. It’s going to feel even worse because your brain’s like, no, we don’t do this. We don’t show up for ourselves.
And you’re going to have to say, Oh no, not anymore. Now we do. We show up for ourselves. So think about this and think about what you’re making feeling bad mean. If you lack motivation in the moment, why is that a reason not to take action? I always have my calendar filled out.
And in the moment, if I don’t feel like doing something, I still do it because I honor what I say I’m going to do. And I do. It’s on my calendar. Now. Let’s just say that I really hated it. And I don’t want to do it. Then the next week when I’m planning, I say, okay, I’m planning right now from my prefrontal cortex. I’m not planning in the moment. I’m planning ahead of time. What do I want to do next week? That was not fun. I didn’t like it. Do I actually want to do this?
See the difference there. It’s like the difference between you as a parent, deciding what to feed your kids and you as a parent, allowing your toddler to pick what they’re going to have for dinner, right? So you have to get in the habit of listening to that highest self, that parent who has your best interest to eat the vegetables. Even though in the moment you want to eat the candy.
Now I want to give you the five steps that I think if you do, we’ll solve your procrastination problem. At this point, I think that just understanding the cause in and of itself can help you see where you need to do the most work. And you can start to change that habit. But I do think these five steps will help you.
Step number one is to put everything on your calendar in time slots. I’ve taught this before, but I don’t think I have reiterated it enough because every time I mentioned it in passing on a Grow You call, if I’m coaching someone on this, I get emails in saying how transformational this is. So I don’t operate from a to do list. I don’t have a to do list. When you have a to do list, you always think there’s too much to do.
You, you almost ensure that you’re going to be in time scarcity and that you don’t have enough time. And the, to do list never ends, right? Because we’re living our lives and we are getting more things added to that to do list. We’re adding them instead of putting things on it, to do list and doing it. You know, whenever you have time, I want you to put everything on your calendar in time slots, right?
And you put it on your calendar as results. So if you want to apply for three new jobs, you put that on your calendar in time slots. Maybe you put an hour, three different days that week, and you’re going to apply for one job during each hour. Now, at the end of the hour, you will have applied for one job. When I live my life this way, I feel like I am leading my life.
Instead of reacting to everyone, else’s life. It is life changing. You will get out of the time scarcity and you won’t feel as rushed. It is amazing. I do this for all of my projects, for work, for everything in my life. And it’s incredible to see that when you operate this way, things are as good as done. They are completed.
And you don’t even realize it in a way, because you’re not operating from this never ending to do list. One of the things that I want to mention that I see a lot of people making the mistake of is they get hung up on how much time to give something. Just give it as much time as you think you need an err on the side of giving it less time, so that you’re really energized during it. And you feel like you got to get this done. And then if it, you way underestimated it the next week that you have the same thing, or whenever you give it more time. So you’re constantly adjusting and seeing how much time is needed for that thing.
Step number two is to turn obstacles into strategies. Now, when I say obstacles, I mean concrete obstacles in your circumstances, I don’t mean like your mindset. So I don’t mean fear of failure as an obstacle. I mean, you know, you have kids and they interrupt you sometimes when you think you’re going to be working on it.
If you have kids and you know, this is an obstacle for you to get done, what you need to get done, you know, this ahead of time. So turn that obstacle into a strategy for the kids example, what I tend to recommend people do is put extra time on your calendar at the end of the week, where you can move something to if your earlier tasks during the week get messed up because your kids interrupt you.
So if on Monday you have planned to work on one of your goals from nine to 11, and one of your kids is sick and has to come home from school and you don’t get to do that. Then you have a slot on Friday afternoons where you put anything that you were interrupted by from your kids in that slot. So you are looking at your obstacles ahead of time. And you’re saying, how can this be a strategy? Where’s the strategy here? How can I come up with a solution for this obstacle that I know is there, this gets you out of feeling stuck.
Step number three is to do what’s on your calendar. You have to follow through no matter what, again, this goes to being accountable to yourself and trusting yourself. A lot of times people want an accountability partner or they want someone outside of them to make sure they do the thing.
And the truth is that you have to be accountable to yourself. It is the hardest, most rewarding thing I can teach you because when you are accountable to yourself, you reach a level of self-mastery where you just know you’re going to do what you say you’re going to do no matter what. And you are so powerful, you can achieve your dreams.
Step number four is to plan and allow for discomfort. So when I say, do what’s on your calendar, notice that I just said, do what’s on your calendar? I didn’t say only when it feels good. So step number four is to remind yourself and to know that it’s not going to feel that good, and that’s not a problem. So when you notice the resistance and you’re feeling a little uncomfortable, you tell a more supportive story about that discomfort. You say, you know what brain I get it.
I get that you are having some resistance right now. And I get that. You would rather not do this, but I made a promise to myself and we’re going to follow through on that promise. Okay? So it’s that positive self-talk while allowing for the discomfort, not trying to get rid of it. Self doubt, you’re here. All right, let’s go. We’re still going to do it. We’re not going to make these negative emotions mean that we shouldn’t move forward.
Step number five is to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. So what I find is that people will put things on their calendar and time slots and follow through and allow the discomfort. And then they’ll realize, okay, something took a lot longer and I didn’t, you know, do a good job. And then I had to go into my free time. So now I’m beating myself up and that’s because they’re not doing step five.
So after the end of the day or the end of the week, evaluate what worked and what didn’t, if you have a task that you do weekly, and you’re finding that it’s taking more time and your distraction free and setting yourself up for success, then give yourself more time. This goes to trusting yourself and giving yourself permission to adjust and change your schedule, but do it in integrity with yourself.
So only, you know, give yourself more time. If you genuinely know that you need more time, not if you are, you know, on your phone and on social media while you’re doing the thing, right? Cause you’re only accountable to yourself. And if you want to achieve your goals and create the future that you want, you have to be that responsible parent feeding you vegetables instead of, you know, eating cookies for dinner.
Finally, I want to remind you that whatever comes after I am becomes your destiny. So you are not a procrastinator. Your brain has convinced you it’s safer and better to not do what you want to do. And that’s just your brain trying to keep you alive. But true self mastery and achievement only comes to those who overcome this primitive brain and do really uncomfortable things in exchange for building a life that they love.
That is what I’m doing. And let me tell you, it is nothing short of terribly uncomfortable, at least half the time, but it is so worth it. So when you stop procrastinating and start taking action, you create your life, the dream life that you want, and it’s not going to feel good 100% of the time. That is not life. That’s not what we signed up for. That’s what I have for you today. I will talk with you next week.
Hey, if you liked this podcast you really should check out, Grow You, my life coaching program. I coach you on everything I teach on the podcast so that you can uplevel your life. We 10x it so you get the results you want most. Just like a monthly gym membership to get your body in shape, this is a monthly personal development membership to get your mind in shape. It is an investment your future self will thank you for. Check it out at Nataliebacon.com/coaching. That’s Nataliebacon.com/coaching. I will see you there.