In one of the Facebook groups I belong to, someone posed the question, “What’s your biggest distraction?” Guess what the most popular response was? Facebook! I had to laugh because there I was, on a Facebook page, being totally distracted from the work I was supposed to be doing. It was something that was important to focus on but there I was, for whatever reason, procrastinating from getting it done!
Many moons ago I did a podcast with Hillary Rettig (you can listen to it here). Hillary is an expert on procrastination, especially for people like myself who write a lot and her reasoning behind why we do it was an eye opener for me. She explained that it’s a subliminal response to practically terrorist levels of expectations of perfection. Absolutely impossible stuff! When we know that there’s no way we can deliver the big grand monster of a vision we’ve set ourselves up for, it feels like we’ve backed ourselves into a corner, unable and unwilling to let that imperfection out.
Perhaps there’s truth in the whole crazy perfection standard when it comes to procrastination.. But I think there’s other cogs in the frustrating wheel that are crucial to pay attention to. Because I’m well aware of the destructive and totally out of wack power of the inner critic, I’ve learned to trust my inner voice. If I didn’t, I’d be in a world of pain! Over the years I’ve come to really believe in the four steps that I mention in the video. I swear, if you find yourself stuck, go through each, combine them if you have to, but you probably will find you can relate to something there and you’re going to be able to move through the sludge.
And this is when the whole “procrastination” thing gets fascinating. I often find that procrastination is a divine messenger. More often than not, something’s not right with what I’m doing. There’s a block. I’m missing information. I need another “in”. And this was absolutely the case for me during this time when Facebook was singing her dumb (but potent) song for me to get off track.
To pattern interrupt it (step 3 in the video), I installed an appropriately named app called SelfControl which lets you enter in any websites you don’t want your computer to be able to access for up to 24 hours. I promptly entered Facebook. And don’t worry, the totally nutty concept that we are now in situations where we have to install apps to keep us from goofing off isn’t lost on me! But what can I say, it worked, and four hours later I’d made enough headway to redeem any amount of shame I felt for veering off track.
And then guess what happened?
I looked at the work and I realized that this bout of procrastinating was right on the money. The messenger had once again arrived. Completed or not, what I’d been working on frankly wasn’t working. Even in a relatively completed state it wasn’t delivering what I needed it to. This wasn’t about being a perfectionist. It was about knowing that the timing wasn’t right for me to complete this project and for now I needed to put it on the back burner.
I had to back peddle a bit. I had to put my tail between my legs. But I knew in my gut that I had done the thing that was 100% right for me and once again, not being able to do something had a purpose. And you know what? Now that it’s all passed, I’ve got such a sigh of relief that I pulled the pin on what I was doing! In fact, it makes me a little sick to wonder what would happen if I would’ve kept going against my spot on intuition.
Thank you pattern interrupts. Thank you procrastination.