The First Step in Dealing With Procrastination

You can probably put off reading this article for some other time though.
Procrastination, delay and urgency concept. Bad time management. Word later sticked to alarm clock

Alright, here I am. I am here writing. Terrified of writing. The things that hold the key to actualizing my true power, I’m terrified of. Isn’t that how it goes?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” — Marianne Williamson

I did a good job observing my reactions of avoiding my writing for the last half hour and I didn’t panic. This is important.

Because here I am writing. I spent thirty minutes doing all sorts of things to avoid sitting here and writing. Avoiding putting the habit timer on my phone. Avoiding that commitment of time. To the thing that I love to do! The thing that I feel more compelled to do than anything else!

That’s something isn’t it?

How many times have you been in that situation? You really love what you do whether it’s writing, another creative pursuit, or just something that you know you will feel good about doing.

I really enjoy writing, so why do I keep putting it off?

I’ve got to do something, something I need to do, and I’m gonna do it right now. I put it in my schedule, I’ve blocked off THIS time for THIS specific thing that I’ve been putting off.

And it’s finally THIS time. Afew minutes pass by and you realize you need to have a glass of water. Hydration is very important. Maybe if I pour a drink or smoke a bit it’ll get the creative juices flowing (see Earnest Hemingway & Stephen King.) Maybe I just need to find the right song/music to facilitate my creativity. My back is tight, let me just stretch it out for a little bit. Let me just clear up a few things in the space to get the energy flowing. I haven’t eaten in a bit, maybe I should eat before so I’m not hungry? Oh wait let me check that email that’s really not at all necessary to check.

I could go on and on. And on and on. And continue going on and on, as yet another means of procrastinating from my writing (see how sneaky procrastination can be?)

Some of these things did happen in this past half-hour.

I’ve reacted to those distractions in a multitude of ways in the past. Many times, in despair, frustration, resentment, and even apathy and defeat.

I come out the end of distractopalooza to find myself out of time, with a pit in my stomach of that “now I’m behind” feeling. Not a good one. Not ideal for creating, or communicating effectively, to feel like you are playing catch up with your life over and over again.

This time was different. This time the difference was not an absence of distractions, or a change in unconscious habits.

It was a difference in presence.

It began with a loosely distant observation of myself.

Ah interesting, here I go I’m walking into my bedroom now…now I’m just pacing back and forth. interesting…This is a big one, I tend to pace alot when I’m thinking…And the thinking gives me the illusion of doing the work.

I could’ve immediately lashed out at myself. Like an owner screaming at their dog for not doing what they’re supposed to do (please don’t do this, there are better ways.) Like a child being “disciplined” with a smack to the head or hand for not paying attention and being distracted (also not the most effective way for children to learn.)

I could’ve started getting frustrated and overwhelmed in my mind at the fact that I was here again, making the same mistakes again, on the endless merry-go-round of avoidance that I always find myself buying a shitload of tickets for, instead of just getting on the giant rollercoaster of what I want to do and going for it.

But I was calm. I was observant. From this calm and restrained presence, I was able to cultivate curiosity.

What it really was, was detachment. Detachment from my negative habits, allowed me the distance from them to observe them.

Detachment can be seen as a negative. When people negatively refer to detachment, or someone being entirely detached, what they really mean is that the person is not present in their experience. Think of someone who takes no responsibility, is ignorant of consequences of their actions or just has a listless relation to their life.

However detachment as a positive means not overidentifying with my experience, my “identity”, or my behaviors. non-attachment is letting go of expectations for my experience and allowing myself to be as is, without judgement.

This detachment or “non-attachment” as would be said in Buddhist or Yogic terms, holds the key to the awareness we need to create change in our lives. To see our behaviors, good and bad, for what they are, without condemning ourselves for them. This sort of detachment actually allows us to be more present in our experience.

What happens when I am not attached to my behaviors

By not attaching to my behaviors/procrastination/distracting patterns:

  1. I did not get lost or consumed in them. I did not stay in any one negative habit. As soon as I identified it from a point of observation, I just continued to observe myself moving from habit to distraction, to habit, to distraction. It was like following a spider around the house. I didn’t freak out and grab the backscratcher to attack it, I just followed it calmly and gently. Realizing that it was more afraid of me than I was of it (that’s the ego for you.) Waiting for the right moment to guide it out of my house.

    In the same way, our ego, or “created” identity knows that because it is a creation, its destruction is inevitable, and its existence fragile. Just like the spider. I hold no resentment towards the spider, it serves its purpose as a living organism. By observing it move from one space to the other, I can gently guide, it to just walk out of my apartment by itself. Without acting violently, aggressively or with an attachment to the idea that spiders are evil.

  2. I Was able to look at myself through a lens of compassion as opposed to a lens of criticism and judgment; which when compounded long enough turns into resentment and shame which can lead to self-abuse. Seeing myself, seeing Jonathan go through the same patterns he always does to avoid the things that give him power, the things that also make him afraid, makes me feel love for him. It makes me feel love for myself and a willingness to support me. I see the patterns of avoidance from childhood. I see all the fear of failure, rejections, guilt and shame. I see the years of unconscious and conscious abuse and the toll its taken on me. I don’t see someone that needs a push. I see someone that needs to be pulled into a loving embrace.

  3. I was ultimately able to sit down and write this piece. So many other moments where I would have gotten sucked into the trenches of self-defeating patterns that have been carved into my psyche. So many times in the past I would turn on a tv show, clean my apartment, start to cook food, go for a drive, take a nap, smoke (not cigarettes) , drink, go incognito mode ( I’m a human male what do you want from me,) download an old video game, scroll through Instagram/Reddit, convince myself that I need that thing I’m being sold on Amazon, order shitty food and even mental, emotional and even physical self-abuse. Each some iteration of avoidant behavior, shame-inducing behavior, or abusive behavior stemming from a gross overattachment to my experience. Fear of sitting with my experience and the consequences of the emotions that I may feel as a result of “failing” at what it is that I wanted to do. I could never have come to that understanding if I didn’t spend as much time as I have studying myself.

Re-framing thoughts/feelings

I wasn’t distracted, there was distraction.

I wasn’t unworthy, there were feelings of unworthiness.

i wasn’t afraid, there were feelings of fear.

These distinctions above may seem simple, maybe even too simple to be of any help. However, when you begin to speak about your physical being and all of its idiosyncrasies as something separate from yourself, some thing that is not the thing you are; in that moment you simultaneously grant yourself freedom from identification with it. Freedom from identification with it, allows you the opportunity to learn from it and ultimately change it.

If I am afraid, then I AM afraid. That is what I am. And I am, what I am. Those who actually create healthy and sustainable change are able to do so by separating themselves from their problems. From their procrastinating behaviors and distractions. When we identify with our problems, we become the problem, and when that is the case, the problem persists as long as we do. This is the basis of why many choose to commit suicide, as I can attest to myself. That the easiest way to get rid of the problem of me, is to put an end to me.

If I notice there are feelings of fear, the observation in and of itself creates immediate space. This space allows us time to become aware, study, heal and integrate this part of ourselves into a higher understanding and ultimately a more present experience.

Instead of being taken away by distraction, or being whisked away by reactive emotion to the behavior, I can stay present within it. I can ride it out. Knowing that it is a pattern. And having given myself the opportunity to sit inside of it, almost like being in the center of a hurricane, and I can come to know its inner workings without being consumed by it.

Accept procrastination, because it’s part of the learning process

If you’re a writer on here or any creative in general, then I’m sure you have felt the tug of procrastination and distraction many times before as you prepare to sit down to “do the work.” However, for those that are just embarking on a path towards change, as a creative or just a regular person seeking to evolve and change; seeing our distractions, our avoidances and what we consider our “negative” patterns are part of doing the work. These internal and external obstacles allow us an opportunity to learn from our behavior rather than be consumed by it.

The next time I feel that anxiousness of avoiding what it is I need or want to do, I’ll pause. Detach. Observe. Study. Develop curiosity around my behavior. Accept myself as separate from my patterns and conditioning. Come to terms with my relationship to my behaviors, the work to be done, and myself. I’ll begin to formulate a plan of action to change my behaviors. This is the work of learning from procrastination. Presence allows for awareness, and awareness is the first step towards change.

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