Why Are You Really Putting Things Off?

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Last night, I watched the opening episode of The Bachelor with a girlfriend (need I remind you this is a judgment-free zone), and I made some Four Sigmatic mushroom cacao mix* instead of my nightly tea. She wanted to try some, so she quickly grabbed my mug and poured some piping hot liquid into her empty wine glass.

Naturally, I went to grab for the mug, thinking the transfer of liquid from coffee mug to wine glass would go less than smoothly. I expected we’d be looking at quite a mess. But, alas, not a drop. Then as if it were nothing, she says, “The problem with most people is they hesitate; you’ve just gotta do it fast.”

You can hear the same advice on repeat for months or years and not think twice. But when the right person hears the right thing at the right time, magic. That’s how I felt hearing that last night. Everything I’ve been avoiding and putting off in my life, maybe I just need to rip off the band-aid and do the darn thing already.

Hesitation and Procrastination: Two Peas in a Pod

Now naturally, we’re not all sitting around hemming and hawing about the perfect time to pour a drink from one glass to another. But I’ll bet each of you has something you’ve wanted to do, even planned to do, even told someone else you’re going to do, but haven’t.

My major sources of procrastination in the past year were publishing this blog and looking for other jobs. Because once I committed to doing that, it became real, and the deeper reasons I was putting it off begin to rear their ugly heads.

Why Do I Keep Putting Things Off?

There’s a lot of speculation about why people procrastinate. Some feel it has to do with your upbringing, that those raised in a very strict household may procrastinate as a form of rebellion. But a far more common reason people procrastinate is fear; fear of failure, fear of disappointing other people, fear of judgment, fear of rejection.

It might be slightly different for everyone, but most procrastination routes back to fear. And the most effective way for me to understand the source of my procrastination and nail down my fears is to write things down.

Breaking Down the Procrastination Barrier with Words

Earlier this year, I did a journaling exercise that I forgot about until recently. I started by writing a list of actions that I had been putting off. On that list were things like publishing this blog and applying for other jobs. Below each of the actions, I explored powerful questions like “Why haven’t I done this yet?” and “What happens if I don’t do these now?”

These questions helped me understand why I wasn’t taking action on things that I claimed to really have wanted, which in turn led to incredible breakthroughs.

For the question, “Why haven’t I done it?” here’s what my answers looked like:

Publishing my blog

  • Fear of judgment
  • Fear of failure
  • Perceived as time-consuming
  • Requires social media presence

Applying for other jobs

  • Fear of rejection
  • Aversion to change
  • Uncertainty of new lifestyle

Yikes. That’s a quick way to put all your deepest fears on blast. But this simple exercise can lead to unique insights that enable you to break down your personal barriers to procrastination.

Once you know that a fear of failure keeps you from getting started on a task, you can begin to chip away at that fear specifically and use tactics like positive self-talk, affirmations, and visualization to begin to move past it.

The Only Way Out is Through

I recently read Rachel Hollis’ latest book* and in it, she brought up a quote that has quickly become one of my favorites. “If you’ve gotta eat shit, don’t nibble.” If you need to do something hard, take big bites, get it done. The suffering that happens by putting something off is self-inflicted and unnecessary.

So, what are you putting off? What are you procrastinating on right now? What’s been on your mental to-do list for so long that it feels impossible? And more importantly, what are you going to do about it? Write it down.

  • Do you want to branch out from your dead-end job, but the fear of rejection by other companies keeps you grinding it out and waiting for the promotion that may never come?
  • Do you want to write a book, but you fear that opening yourself up to judgment will be more painful than the value your book may bring?
  • Do you want to leave the relationship that’s been causing you heartache for years, but the fear of being alone seems worse than staying?

It might be difficult, but ask yourself why you haven’t done it yet. Find your true reasons. Then you’ll truly be able to start to do the work to move forward. Tip that coffee mug, don’t hesitate, and pour fast.

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