What Am I Avoiding?

I used to be a major procrastinator.

(my husband might say I still am…)

I’m not sure when I started to shift away from avoidance and more regularly towards being proactive but I think it was somewhat gradual around late 20’s into my 30’s as I really started to get the hang of this “adulting” thing.

Even though I can’t pinpoint the transition, I do know that it was a conscious effort in stress mitigation.

In other words, I realized procrastination was a source of stress in my life, both in the repercussions of having to push back deadlines or opportunites missed and in the emotional weight of the inevitable embarrassment/shame/insecurity fallout I experienced.

Over the last several years I’ve developed a system to continually check-in with myself and keep me honest about mental, emotional, and tangible procrastination.

First, I check in with myself and ask

“What am I avoiding?”

Sometimes the answer is responding to an email or text or having a difficult conversation with a loved one, sometimes it’s as simple as a house chore.

For example, one thing I recognize I am avoiding this month is renewing my business licenses.

Next, I evaluate

“Is this task I am avoing necessary or self-imposed busyness?”

As an under-employed, self-employed person, it’s easy to feel like I am never doing ENOUGH to keep myself moving forward professionally. It’s certainly important to have goals and checklists but when it comes down to brass tax, a lot of it is optional (obviously client communication is not optional, accounting is not optional, for example, but social media presence is optional IMHO).

Using the above example: NECESSARY to complete my license paperwork but not due until March.

“What’s holding me back from this task?”

This one gets especially interesting when the task I am avoiding is confrontational (concern over hurting the other person’s feelings, insecurity about my self-worth if it involves “sticking up for myself”, unsure of being interpretted clearly…etc) but we’ll stick with the very tangible example of the license.

The main thing holding me back is that I realized I was out of checks and so I ordered more checks.

Except, this morning I double checked and the order hadn’t gone through.

Ugh. I ordered checks.

I will file my license as soon as the checks come in. In fact, I will complete the paperwork today and it will be ready to go when the checks arrive. Check!

I learned this last question from studying goal setting.

In successful goal setting, after you set the endpoint, the goal, you have to outline all the steps necessary to achieve that goal.

When faced with a task I am somewhat avoiding, I make a mental or physical list of all the bite-sized steps necessary to accomplish that task.

Asking myself, “What am I avoiding?” has become such a profound personal check in that I actually have the picture at the top of the page as my phone wallpaper.

Sometimes the answer is drinking water. Or quietting my body and mind for a minute or even thinking about something that is emotionally challenging.

Whatever the answer is, it is empowering to me to address what I am avoiding and move through it.

I would love to hear if you have any similar tactics to face your procrastination/avoidance. <3