At first glance these obstacles to journeying all seem the same, with the same root causes and outcomes. So let’s delve a bit deeper, to help ourselves define our own predicament more clearly and see what we can do about it. To begin with I would suggest that procrastination, stalling and standing still are three entirely different states of being; let me explain why.
Procrastination is a kind of active avoidance and has a number of common causes.
- Overwhelm – having too many things to do, and so little insight into how to progress that you simply put off starting. This often happens with the accumulation of mess, but also with too many work related tasks, admin or accounting tasks and any project where we can’t see how to start.
- A chronic behavioural pattern, established in childhood, and linked to basic personality traits such as finding it dificult to focus down on something, hyperactivity and such like.
- Not wanting to undertake the task at a heart level – we can know we ought to do something, but still not want to do it, and may procrastinate to avoid.
Solutions for procrastination depend on the cause. Perhaps the easiest to solve is simply not wanting to complete a task that you ought to do. In this case you only have two choices: refuse outright to do it (which may not be possible), or bite the bullet and get on with it. Undertaking a task you don’t want to do (but have to) such as accounts for a self employed person, is best tackled at the time of day where you are naturally most energy rich and robust. For me this is late morning through to mid afternoon. For you it might be first thing, or if you are an ‘owl’, it could be in the evening.
Overwhelm is a malady of lack of clarity of information or vision, coupled with too much to do. Sometimes we can overcome overwhelm by a simple process of beginning with the task of highest priority and ignoring the rest until that one is completed. Then repeating for the next most important or pressing task and so on. Organising your thoughts can help a great deal, so writing a plan of action, which enables you to prioritise more easily is a good idea. Identifying what you can delegate, or what you need help with can thin out what needs to be done, as can accepting some tasks as low priority and letting them go for a while.
If you have a chronic pattern of procrastinating it is wise to seek help to work out why. It could be a condition like ADHD, that might respond to treatment or professional help, or it may be a pattern you have fallen into because of being overly busy for many years. In which case – as a habit that needs breaking – you could approach it by finding replacement habits that will help rather than hinder. Examples would be organisational habits, meditation (creates space in your mind and increaes stress resilience). and behavioural techniques like the 5 second rule.
Stalling differs from procrastination, because there isn’t usually an element of reluctance to complete a task. I would define stalling more as a circumstancial malady – “life happens” and sometimes, even when we are highly engaged with what we are doing, that causes us to grind to a halt. Stalling is a temporary cutting our of our engines, because we get hijacked by circumstance, and as such it is often short lived and relatively easy to overcome.
Self compassion is needed when we stall, becuase there is no fault involved, but it’s easy to get down on ourselves and start criticising our lack of motivation. Instead, try practicing self care (that will mean something different to each of us, but look for ways to treat yourself, and ensure that you eat, drink water, sleep and spend time outside as a minimum) and kind and supportive self-talk.
Usually, once we have dealt with whatever derailed us, we can actively remotivate ourselves towards the task that requires our attention. This happens in different ways for different people… for me it’s a case of listening to some encouraging audio, from a mentor I relate to, doing some related training, or reading something pertinent and motivational in itself
Standing still differs from procrastination and stalling, in as much as it is usually a place that holds us for a longer period of time, often as the result of some upset or trauma. I stood still for a number of months this year after my ex-husband died, and the time was needed just to survive all that I was feeling and dealing with around me. This is a key part of standing still – it’s often a necessary part of some kind oof healing process.
Obviously, we may still need to work or care for people at times such as this, but by standing still I mean that these are times when we are not really progressing, growing or movng forward. This is becuase our energy is focussed on dealing with something else, and that something could be something wonderful – like a house move.
The bottom line is that standing still is a necessary part of any journeying. It’s a time when we can rest and re-group with ourself, and focus intently on a particular life change that consumes both our attention and our energy. A time when we can do whatever it takes just to get through the days. A time when we can grieve, or in the case of our own illness – heal.
So, in conclusion it’s easy to see that any journey is punctuated with ‘down time’ for a myriad of reasons. We need only to accept this and to try to see exactly what is going on if we feel we are making no real progress. Then we can change what needs to be changed, and accept and support what needs to be accepted and supported. These ‘slow’ periods of life are often followed by great forward flow, so we can learn to appreciate them in the anticipation of what will follow next.
Procrastination is probably the exception, as when you find yourself regularly fighting against a stream of tasks that you would prefer not to be doing, then it’s probably better to address how you are living your one life, rather than just training yourself not to procrastinate.