My worst procrastination story

Welcome to my worst procrastination story: If you’re anything like me, you’ve had stretches when a task on your to-do list refuses to get done. It’s on the list day after day but not getting crossed off.

This happened a few years ago: one seemingly simple item on my to-do list was not getting done. I’m not proud but here it is. I’m coming clean with my epic email debacle.

The story ain’t pretty

It all started with an idea for an article I wanted to write for NewMusicBox (the online magazine for the new music community).

I had written other articles for music publications and knew the drill: I needed to send an email pitch to the NMB editor to see if they were interested. So, I put that task on my to-do list because I had every intention of writing and sending the pitch.

This shouldn’t have been a big deal: as I said, I’d done this with other publications. But this email just wasn’t getting done.

At the time it didn’t even register with me that I was procrastinating—I was always just too busy with other things.

Or so I told myself.

And the email kept not getting sent or even drafted, week after week.

Finally it dawned on me that I was becoming . . .

The queen of procrastination

And it wasn’t a role I wanted.

Whenever I thought about moving ahead with this email I’d feel overwhelmed. So I would complete 11 other more urgent things on my list instead of doing the most important one.

I’ve found being too busy is an all too convenient excuse. It lets you off the hook because you can “legitimately” say you are too busy to do the one thing that you most need to do. The one thing you’re most afraid of.

This is a common issue: in effect, you end up taking care of the noisier, immediate things that clamor for your attention. That’s how you end up sacrificing your more challenging long-term projects, putting other people’s needs before your own.

Let’s face it:

There’s never going to be enough time in the day for everything and you’re never going to be totally “ready” to do the scary thing

In the end, you just need to do the ambitious, scary thing in order to move ahead in life.

When I finally saw my procrastination for what it was, I couldn’t figure out WHY I was so afraid of sending the email.

It was only after the fact that I realized I was not just afraid of my pitch being rejected, I was also afraid that I wouldn’t be able to write the article I had imagined.

My topic intimidated me: how to write better musician Bios—especially for composers who need to describe their own music. And though I’d helped many musicians do this, I was afraid of disappointing myself, afraid that the article wouldn’t live up to my ideal.

The biggest fear I realized was that of stepping up professionally to play a bigger game. That’s what the article represented to me as a music career coach—becoming more known in the community and being able to connect with and help more musicians.

I realized I’d turned a simple email into a scary, monstrous thing.

I’ve seen the same pattern in colleagues and clients. We’re all human. Our fears become magnified. They amplify our Resistance, which seeks to keep us “safe” in our comfort zones so we avoid doing the work needed to achieve our goals.

But here’s the thing: Knowing why you’re afraid doesn’t mean you can get yourself to take the action. For me it took much more.

My procrastination story came to a head around the time I was scheduled to attend a weekend seminar focused on reaching your potential and getting past fears.

I know, irony of ironies

Sitting in that seminar, I couldn’t stand it that I was still procrastinating sending the email. Finally, on the last day of the program, I told myself I could not return to the afternoon session until I’d sent the email.

After the morning session, with my heart racing, I ate a quick lunch and ran back to my room to type the email. And then I sat there reading and re-reading it, unsure if it was good enough or if I could get myself to send it.

But the clock was ticking and I needed to get back to the seminar—and be able to live with myself and be true to my word.

With a minute to go, I finally pressed send.

As I ran back to the seminar, feeling free from the guilt and fear that had weighed me down for months, I marveled at how crazy I had made myself over this one simple email.

Maybe the lesson I needed to learn was just how strong my own Resistance was. And what it would take to get past it if I truly wanted to get my best work out into the world.

So what happened?

The pitch was accepted. And it turned out to be more work than I’d imagined. Maybe that was also part of what I was afraid of—a bigger project than I felt prepared for. Instead of a single article it grew into a four-part series. You can find it on the NewMusicBox site HERE.

And you know what? I feel good about how it turned out. What I don’t feel good about is that it took me six long months to actually make the pitch.

This hard won lesson helped me succeed in subsequent pitches and projects and relinquish my crown as Ms. Procrastination. I learned a ton about getting past my own fears and how to help my clients get past theirs.

So now that you’ve heard my worst procrastination story . . .

It’s your turn

What’s the ONE task you could do this week that would most help you move ahead with an important career project?

And if you’re curious about how coaching can help you achieve your goals, click HERE.

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