If an area of your life is not where you want it to be, odds are that it’s partially because you are not taking the actions you know you should be taking. Whether you need to do research, have an important conversation, complete paperwork or head to the gym. Whatever it is, you keep finding excuses not to do it. We have a fancy name for putting things off, “to procrastinate,” but the truth is that it is just stubborn avoidance.
The key to dealing with avoidance is to first understand why you are avoiding. Here are some of the most common reasons that my clients have for avoiding doing something in their lives, and the solutions I recommend for each.
1. You like to stay in your small, comfortable box
I find that this, believe it or not, is one of the biggest reasons people procrastinate. Let’s say that you were to do your tasks early. Then what? Well, you’d have to do more. You would have time to take on the big dreams that you have been putting off because they are scary or uncomfortable. While you might say you want those dreams, the truth is that the prospect of success actually scares the pants off of you. It seems really appealing, then, to live your life in procrastination-mode, always just one step ahead of a deadline, so you don’t have time or energy to go for something bigger.
The solution: Get comfortable with your dream. Tell people about it. Think about it. Admit that it scares you, and take steps to deal with that fear.
2. The task brings up painful memories.
One of my clients was recently struggling with cleaning out her attic to make space for her new child. After a few weeks of promising that she would and then not delivering, we delved a bit deeper and found that there were boxes of her grandmother’s belongings in the attic. My client deeply regretted not having been around for her grandmother’s last days, and so the prospect of sorting through her boxes seemed like torture. No wonder she put it off.
The solution: Usually, there is something you can do to be at peace with those memories. In the case of my client, I had her write a letter to her grandmother, and read it aloud “to her” in an apple orchard (her grandmother loved apple blossoms).
3. You are too tired.
Yes, it’s true that life is busy. Many of my clients feel like they don’t have enough energy left at the end of the day to take care of other important tasks. That all they can do is rest on the couch and catch up on their TV programs.
The solution: First, ask yourself if this is really true, or if it’s just an excuse. I have found that 75% of the time, it’s an excuse, and that if you really wanted to, you could muster the energy. For the other 25%, I coach my clients to “mind their energy” by figuring out how to get good quality sleep and eat the right foods.
4. You don’t want to ask for help.
You can’t complete the task easily on your own, but you are unwilling to ask for help. This can be because you feel stupid that you need help, or that you don’t like the person you need to ask, or that you like to be in control and so would rather do it on your own. Regardless of the reason, your unwillingness to ask for help means that you are stuck.
The solution: Re-examine your underlying priorities. Is the purpose of your life really to save face? Or is it to achieve great things? Once you are connected with your deeper values, your insecurities in asking for help will seem petty.
5. You are overwhelmed.
Overwhelm is actually a very good protection mechanism. This is your mind saying “there is something huge and unknown in the future. I need to protect myself. And so you retreat to somewhere comfortable and safe.
The solution: Recognize that there is nothing about a task that makes it inherently “overwhelming.” You are the one who labels it as such. What is overwhelming to one person isn’t overwhelming to another. So choose to label your task differently. Focus on the most immediate step in front of you. Know that you are capable of so much more than this task. Truly.
6.You plain out just don’t want to do it.
Yes, life is full of things that you just don’t enjoy doing, like filing your taxes, that you simply have to do.
The solution: Develop a good sense of self-control. Studies have found that children with good self-control do better in life than those who don’t. But know that self-control is something you can cultivate if you want to. Practice making and keeping small daily commitments in your life so you can practice this skill.
7. You don’t have time.
This is probably the most common reason my clients put things off.
The solution: Yes, life is busy, and there will always be more to do than can ever be done. The secret is to be crystal clear on your priorities, how long they will take, and executing them. It’s really that simple. Don’t promise to do 20 things in a day when you know you can only do 8. Know those 8, commit to them, and let the rest go. It’s really that simple.
Are you avoiding doing something in your life? What is the reason behind it? What solution will you use to get unstuck? Write me a note and share.
Featured photo credit: A via flickr.com