If you’re anything like me, you’ve had stretches when a particular item on your to-do list refuses to get done. It’s on the list day after day but not getting crossed off. (Welcome to my email debacle: I’m not proud but here it is.)
These are often the items we’re intimidated by or that otherwise make us uncomfortable. They set off our self-esteem or anxiety alarms.
A few months ago I had an item like this: welcome to my email debacle! It was a key email I needed to send—the first step to initiating a project.
At the time it didn’t register with me that I was procrastinating—I was just too busy with other things.
Or so I told myself.
And the email kept not getting sent or even drafted, week after week.
What’s worse, it had already taken me a number of weeks before this just to identify that the first step needed for the project was this key email!
Finally it dawned on me: I was becoming the Queen of Procrastination.
During this time, whenever I thought about moving ahead with this project I’d feel overwhelmed. I’d complete 11 other more urgent things on my list instead of doing the most important one. The one “domino effect” item that would have gotten the project going.
Being too busy is really convenient, right?
It let me off the hook because I could “legitimately” say I was too busy to do the one thing that would help me most with my larger project.
Let’s admit the truth: there’s never going to be enough time.
And we’re never going to be totally “ready” to do the ambitious, scary thing needed in order to move ahead.
The only way to get the truly important stuff done is to designate specific time for what matters most and then to actually do it.
How do we undermine ourselves?
Sometimes we work ourselves up into being overwhelmed and confused about what needs to be done.
Or we fool ourselves into thinking that everything is equally important and that if we forgo sleep we can get everything done.
But what happens is we end up taking care of the noisier, immediate things that clamor for our attention. We end up sacrificing our more challenging long-term projects by putting other people’s needs before our own.
All this self-sabotage is what Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art, refers to as resistance.
Unsure about which is the most important thing to do?
The biggest clue for me was how I felt about NOT getting the email done. The whole time I was procrastinating I felt guilty, like a coward.
Why had I made such a big deal of it?
My anticipated fear was way out of proportion to any possible response to the email.
I’ve seen the same pattern in musicians I work with. We’re all human. Our fears become magnified. They amplify our resistance, keeping us “safe” in our comfort zones and free from doing the work needed to achieve our goals.
At some point I needed to force myself to send the email.
I did. And I’m relieved to report the project is moving ahead. I just can’t can’t stand to think how long it took: all that wasted time fretting and ruminating.
The silver lining: based on what’s worked for me and many others, I’ve identified 5 Productivity Hacks coming your way next week. A toolkit for overcoming task paralysis.
To start, identify your priority item that’s not getting done. Most likely it’s whatever you’re most afraid of. The things we delay doing are the projects that challenge us the most—and that offer the most growth potential.
This week’s question: what’s the ONE thing you could do this week that would help you the most to move ahead with a key career project?
As always, I love getting your feedback, comments, and questions—reach me at Angela@BeyondTalentConsulting.com
Want a custom-tailored plan to move ahead in your career—along with tools and action steps?
Let’s talk abut what’s holding you back and how coaching could help you. Reach me at Angela@BeyondTalentConsulting.com
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