What we don’t tell sensitive individuals about procrastination
Updated: Jul 1, 2022
I had never realised the power of procrastination more than since I became an entrepreneur.
A slight lack of clarity, a loss of confidence, doubts, the sun shining, the dog wanting to get out… and I'd just forget about what I needed to do - (I’ve actually procrastinated a little on writing this very article).
I never really thought of myself as a procrastinator; I was more recognized for being quite the opposite actually. I used to do my homework well in advance so I would stop the worry and cut through the overwhelm. I’m very well organised and also good at planning.
So what’s different now?
I had to set up my own structures and deal with limiting thought patterns.
“You’re just lazy!” - “You just gotta do it!”- “You’re making it harder for yourself by waiting up until the last minute!”...
We tend to think it’s only a question of will; however our ability to get into action depends on a wide range of factors (especially when you are neuro-divergent! Eg. ADHD, HSP, Dyslexic…).
Let’s start with the basics. Do you actually want to do it? Why?
Procrastinating on applying for a job, on launching a new project, getting flight tickets,... Try and visualise yourself achieving what you set out to do; how does it feel? Is your energy expanding as you picture yourself taking on that new challenge or is it shrinking?
I love writing, and I love what I do ! It’s aligned with my goals, my core values, my gifts, my passions… Most of the time, we don’t realise that misalignment with the task may be why we are procrastinating.
Fear of failure
In this particular case, I know I’m not procrastinating due to feeling misaligned with the task of writing my article but I know that I’ll write this article in two languages (French and English with French being my mother tongue).
Even though I am capable of writing in English, this was a massive blocker when I started my blog. I had to ask a friend to proofread my English articles or I wouldn’t dare to publish them. I was worried I may sound “stupid” or I wouldn’t be taken seriously if my articles had some grammatical errors or wording mistakes.
“Fear is simply an illusion based on past experiences that we project into the present and onto the future”
When growing up, we tend to receive praise for our academic achievements which may lead us to believe that our achievements determine our self worth.
Eg.1 You grew up being really good at school, maybe even ahead of your peers, and you received praise for that. you may have learnt to believe that love and acceptance depend on your success. You now associate making mistakes or failing with rejection. You procrastinate to avoid feeling judged by yourself or others.
> If you learn that failure is not the opposite of success but a part of it, you can develop healthier habits and expectations.
Eg. 2 If you grew up being dyslexic and finding it more challenging to read and write, your self esteem may have been challenged if you felt that these were the “primary skills and criteria you were judged upon”. Today, you procrastinate because you can’t be bothered to try as you have determined you are not good enough anyway.
> this may not have been an issue if you were recognised for your strengths and felt encouraged to use the gifts of dyslexia (creativity, communication, design, big picture…). You developed a healthy self esteem and know there are things you are better at than others. You are not scared of trying new things and failing.
Ask yourself, what are you afraid of? Try and define the fear that’s preventing you from jumping into action. Eg. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of judgement…
Try and trace back where you have learnt this limiting belief for the very first time and heal that memory as you reframe your belief and regain your power.
You may also read my article on perfectionism to go deeper with this one.
Neuro-divergent individuals, HSP, empaths… also tend to have a heightened sensitivity to both internal and external stimuli which can be overwhelming.
What can you do to cut through the overwhelm?
Externalise your executive function as much as you can (your executive function is responsible for prioritising, activating and organising tasks).
What tools, systems and processes can you set up to support your executive function? Break down every tiny little step which you will need to take to complete the task and reflect on the systems you could use to simplify the process.
Eg. Choose a software/app to create to-do lists based on time sensitivity and importance and build self efficacy.
*** Many of my dyslexic clients use programmes like Grammarly, Quilbot, or Language Tool… You may find some inspiration reading the top 10 dyslexic hacks.
Create an environment that supports your productivity (light, sounds, temperature…).
I personally like to work in quiet, cool environments where I know I won’t be interrupted or distracted. I enjoy playing some healing frequencies in the background to help me focus but always have my ear plugs at reach. I sometimes like to diffuse essential oils to support my concentration or creativity.
Make sure to fulfil your physical needs.
Eg. have a glass of water on your desk, make sure to use the toilet before getting started…
Listening to your physical needs is an ongoing process, your body is constantly sending you nudges so you can be aware of your needs and work on fulfilling them to be at your best. How can you tackle procrastination if you’re falling asleep on your laptop because you haven’t properly slept for three days? Right!?
Find YOUR way to release unprocessed emotions and nourish the energy of gratitude. The higher your frequency is, the higher your productivity will be.
Eg. Past painful experiences, melancholy, too many things to do, anxiety, too much stress… Feeling anxious, stressed, worried… are enough reasons for you to be consumed by negativity and feel completely unable to focus. Having a regular practice to release emotional and physical tension will allow you to feel more relaxed and therefore less prone to overstimulation.
Where focus goes, energy flows.
You can see, feel, imagine any potential outcome (best to worst) and all these hypotheses can lead to complete inaction.
Most of my clients need to feel intellectually stimulated and it gets tricky for them to start anything that isn’t interesting or fun even though on the contrary it may be difficult to stop doing something when they’re in their flow.
Let’s start by saying you DON’T have to wait to feel a certain way to get started. I kept telling myself I should “feel inspired” when creating my content and without surprise I wasted quite some time doing nothing, just waiting to be touched by the grace of inspiration.
Being able to build consistency and structure in my schedule is what’s allowed me to build the adrenaline I needed to start writing my article today. Inspiration just came as I started following my usual process.
Just like working on creating your processes, work on establishing a routine that gets you in a productive energy. Structuring your schedule reduces the time you may spend (over)thinking and brings a sense of security.
Eg. I prefer focusing on tasks that require high focus in the morning and be more creative in the afternoon. Although I love being creative and spontaneous, I know I am more productive when I have a certain structure in place (clear schedule, rituals, morning routines, clear processes and deadlines…).
You love learning and discovering new things but new tasks may trigger anxiety. Or, the task may simply feel too big before getting it started.
Although we may be able to visualise the desired end result, it may be difficult to visualise how the big picture looks like decomposed into little chunks.
I know that when I am about to start something new or creative, being able to gather all the ideas and scenarios I have in mind into one first little step to take sometimes feels almost impossible.
Instead of visualising yourself struggling to gather your thoughts, start by visualising yourself having clarity and succeeding in performing the task.
Margot Pauvers is a certified Holistic coach and Reiki Healer that support ambitious, sensitive, neurodiverse individuals to create THEIR authentic success.