There’s a conversation I have with clients fairly often about seeing the signs and using them as a reminder. Like when your bladder is full, you go to the toilet. When your fuel guage is low, you go to the garage. There is no bargaining with the bladder and the fuel tank…you might keep them waiting a little while, but at some point, you are going to have to heed the message and just go to the loo.
Stress, frustration, impatience, tiredness, lack of energy, irritation, lethargy and even procrastination are all the same. They are a message to tell us to do something. Only we put a different ‘meaning’ on them, or we ignore them altogether. The alternate meaning we usually assign is along the lines of ‘I suck’.
“I’m procrastinating, therefore I’m a lazy, good for nothing, idle, useless git”
“Oh my god I’m stressed, I have so much to do, I just need to do 82 things at once. I clearly need to give myself a kick up the ass”
“I’ve not done x, y, z, what is WRONG with me. I must be a terrible person.”
“I’m not getting there fast enough, that means I am worthless and I can’t do it at all”
“I’m tired. Never mind, more coffee. I don’t have time to be tired, I’m far too busy and important (and by extension, I am not worthy of the attention and tlc I clearly need). I slept for at least 3 hours last night, I am just being self-indulgent (and that’s a bad thing!)”
“oh my god what’s wrong with me I can’t get motivated today, I just want to go back to bed and throw the duvet over my head. I am such a waste of space.”
Recognise any of those scripts? You may have your own version of them – I encourage you to notice over the next week or two what your habitual response is to tiredness, procrastination, stress, low energy, frustration etc. I would love to hear what it is, and I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and suggest it’s not a positive, helpful response. It’s probably going to be some form of self-deprecation or self-criticism. And if it’s not, I congratulate you, you’re a rare bird!
For most of us, our habitual responses aren’t about reading the signs and acting upon them (bladder full = toilet; empty fuel guage = go fill up with fuel). Instead we ignore them, try to push through them, get irritated with the sign itself, make it about the sign “i’m such a grouch”; “I always procrastinate”; “I am so frustrated with life”, instead of looking deeper and asking what that sign is showing you.
The full bladder shows you that you need to go to the bathroom. The parched mouth shows you that you need water. The empty fuel tank says you need fuel. You don’t go around saying “I have such a full bladder, I have a terribly low capacity for fluid” (unless you have a very small bladder!) You don’t say “I have such a dry mouth, I only drank last Thursday, I don’t understand why I’m thirsty AGAIN”. You don’t consider your car lazy or self-indulgent for needing fuel once in a while.
They’re just signs that point you to very clear solutions. As will your stress, impatience, procrastination, tiredness, low energy, irritation, lethargy and all the other signs you’re currently ignoring or not investigating. The solutions may not be as simple as ‘drink water’, ‘go to the toilet’ or ‘fill with fuel’…but they also may well be that simple once you understand them.
Here’s my guide to my signs and solutions:
If I’m procrastinating, it’s most often because I’m not sure what EXACTLY to do, or I haven’t chosen a task. It’s rarely because I’m a lazy git. If you procrastinate, check this guide and find your most common ‘reason’ for procrastination…it’ll give you the solution too so next time you notice you’re procrastinating, you just go straight to that solution. For me, I notice I’m procrastinating, I ask myself what I most need to do today and if I know EXACTLY what to do. Then I go do it. It’s amazingly simple, I wish I’d figured it out 10 years ago.
If I’m frustrated or impatient, it’s usually because I am not doing something I need to do. Usually working on the project I’m most excited by at the moment. I am such a good little worker bee that I do all the ‘should’s first and run out of time to do the things I want to do. Frustration and impatience tell me to get my finger out of my ass and take some action on the things that are really important to me! I wrote more about this here.
If I’m stressed, I usually need to take a breath, step away from my desk and check if I’m trying to fit 8 years of work into 6 hours (almost always!). After I’ve taken 5 minutes to meditate or dance, (hey, I’m stressed, an hour of mediation ain’t going to happen!) I cross the non-urgent stuff off my Would Like To Do list and pick ONE thing I really NEED to do that day. Then I do that. Then I go back to my Would Like To Do List and pick one more thing I really NEED to do. And I do that. Easy peasy, no stress.
If I’m tired, lethargic, or have low energy, these could mean one of a few things: I need a snooze because I need sleep, I need a dance break because I need energy, I need an afternoon off (I took one on Monday, because I felt really lethargic and listless) because I need time out, I need some tlc. It almost never means I need to ‘push on through and get on with stuff’ – that normally wastes more time not getting things done than stopping for a walk or to read my book or to have a dance around the office, or to go for a coffee with a friend. I get that you can’t always just have a nap under your desk in the office (when I rule the world, you will be able to – power naps are the future), but there are always things you can do – stretch, chair dance, have a loo break and do star jumps in the bathroom…look for what you CAN do.
If I’m irritated, it’s a sign that either I need some self-care OR I have forgotten to take my Vitamin B6 and Evening Primrose. I get really bad PMT…and if I don’t take my supplements, I’m exceedingly irritable and short-tempered! My friends and family are so very glad that I’ve got better at reading this particular sign!
What about you? What signs are you ignoring? Where are you criticising yourself unfairly for something that is a symptom, not a cause? Where are you pushing on regardless of your empty fuel tank and full bladder? What are these things trying to tell you and show you? What is the solution being pointed to? Trust me, these are questions worth answering, because not only do you stop bitching at yourself, you also experience less frustration, stress, irritation and lethargy…maybe because you remember to take your pills, or maybe because you are doing what works. If your bladder is full, go to the toilet!
Let me know what your signs tell you to do!
My response was typically pulpit bashing: SELF-CARE IS NON-NEGOTIABLE. I know only too well how difficult it can feel to squeeze in some self-care time into an already packed schedule. However, if you make it non-negotiable, and you really take care of yourself, you find you have more time. I had a discussion with some friends a few weeks ago about having so much to do and so little time, and they reminded me of a quote from the Dalai Lama – “I have so much to do today, I better meditate twice as long.” The more you have to do, the more busy your day, the more important it is to take the time to take care of yourself.
Lack of self-care is a serious time waster! When you are cared for, you can do more, better. When you’re uncared for, life is hard, you get down, ill, tired, scattered more easily. I struggled with this for YEARS until I realised one afternoon I had spent 4 hours trying to write a blog post…I was so tired, I just couldn’t focus. Once I stopped, rested and came back to it, it took 20 minutes!!!! Think you haven’t got time for self-care? Maybe you haven’t got time NOT to take care of you?
Self-care can take less time than you think. Yes, we’d all love to do yoga for 3 hours a day, bathe in bubbles for 2 hours, read for 5 hours, meditate for 2 hours…but in reality that’s unlikely, unless you live in a cave on a mountain, alone. And have your meals delivered. But for the rest of us, who have lives to fit in around our self-care routines, and obligations to meet, we have to marry self-care with realism. Most of the time when I don’t think I have the time to take care of myself, the moment I do, time seems to expand. Take today for an example – after 3 hours or so of procrastinating and NOT writing this article, I took time out to walk the dog (before it got dark, just in case of any more whizzes and bangs) and meditate for 15 minutes. I can’t say I feel like dancing and I’m overflowing with energy, but I HAVE got enough in the tank to write an article…and plenty of time to do it despite the ‘self-care hour’ I took.
In fact, taking the self-care hour is the reason I have the time…otherwise I’d have procrastinated for another hour and had even less time and more to do! So, let’s get practical for a minute. I’m a pragmatist, and while the ideal is that you take all the time you need for your self-care, if you’re not going to go from ‘no self-care’ to ‘more than enough’ (and most likely, unless you get sick, you won’t), let’s look at what is really doable. What you will actually do. How much time can you really ‘spare’ for a bit of self-care? An hour? Half an hour? 15 minutes? 10? 5? 1?
Over the years I’ve been preaching about self-care to my clients, I have come across several clients who insisted they had NO spare time in their day. For each one of them, I asked them to find 3 minutes – in 1 minute bursts. Which they all thought was pointless, but happily they trusted me, and they found that time. For one person it was a minute after the alarm went off and before the family woke up, a minute in the loo at work, and a minute in the car before driving home. For another, it was a minute while waiting for the bus to work, a minute at lunchtime, and a minute just before bed. Everyone can find 3 minutes in 1 minute bursts.
And if you can find more time than that, hap hap HAZAH! You are well on your way to feeling so cared for that you feel cradled in the arms of love! I know what you’re thinking – what the beep can you do in a minute for your self-care? Here are a few ideas: Meditate, stare out of the window (seriously, we so rarely take the time to sit and stare but it’s so soothing and lovely!), write, stretch, hold a yoga pose, dance, breathe deeply, give yourself a hand or face massage, draw/sketch, doodle, play a burst of your favourite song, read a page of a book…I could easily go on.
Here’s what happens when you take 3 minutes to take a little bit of care of yourself: You calm down, you re-prioritise, you stop long enough to realise that some things don’t actually have to be done today and others can be delegated, your body begins to relax, you get used to a bit more self-care (and if your self-care is really crap, just this little amount can make a HUGE difference), you start to feel cared for, time seems to expand, life gets a little easier so you can get more done in less time, giving you more time for self-care – and this continues to expand. The better you feel, the more you are able to give easily, the more you are able to accomplish quickly and in a more focused manner, giving you more time for self-care…so you feel even better, and the cycle expands and expands until you find yourself taking all the time you need for your self-care and feeling GREAT!
So I meant what I said – you may feel like you don’t have time for self-care, but truly, you don’t have time NOT to take great care of yourself.
- Something to Play With -
What amount of time can you spare EVERY DAY for self-care? Add at least 3 more minutes into your life of self-care every day – to make it easier for yourself, make a list of the things you could do in the time you have (it may not be ideal, but be pragmatic – some self-care is WAY better than none!). Whenever you feel able to, add more minutes into your daily self-care routine and make it a priority – remember, it is NON-NEGOTIABLE! Want to share your thoughts on this article? Please leave a comment below.
And if you need more help with self-care, remember to pick up my free ebook about self-care.
Sometimes we get stuck with our Big Dreams…we may blame it on ‘procrastination’, but it may be that we just aren’t quite sure what to do next. Ask yourself “what is the EXACT next step to take towards my Big Dream?” If you don’t know, you’re not procrastinating, you’re stuck.
And this is NO BIG DEAL. Simply because if you don’t know what to do, all you need to do is to FIND OUT what to do! This time in history is a fabulous time to not know what to do – because we’ve got google! You can also ask for help from friends, coaches, mentors, from other people who’ve done what you want to do.
To listen to this week’s podcast, click here: When You Get Stuck On Your Big Dream
(or to download to your computer, right click on the link and ‘save link as’ or ‘save target as’)
When you’re stuck on your Big Dream, go find out what to do next and do it!
You can also subscribe to this podcast on itunes here.
May all your dreams become reality.
How many of us support ourselves fully, 100% of the time? Even when you’re gnarly or grumpy or lazy or procrastinating. Imagine how much easier life would be if you supported yourself 100%. Supporting yourself when you’re doing something ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ is about figuring out what’s behind it all and helping yourself move forward anyway. Maybe you’re being ‘lazy’ because you need to rest? Maybe you’re procrastinating because there is a better way or a better time to do what you’re trying to do?
To listen to this week’s podcast, click here: Supporting Yourself and Your Big Dream
(or to download to your computer, right click on the link and ‘save link as’ or ‘save target as’)
On a scale of 1-100, how much do you currently support yourself? Now move that up just a few points…what can you do to support yourself more?
You can also subscribe to this podcast on itunes here.
May all your dreams become reality.
Do you ever get the feeling that you are pushing a stone uphill? Against a herd of bison coming toward you? With your feet tied together? There are times in life when we seem to push and push and push, and yet nothing happens, nothing changes. Apart from our energy level, which visits the basement! And what do you do in response to the ‘nothing happening’?
Push harder? And keep pushing? Yes! Because if you want things to happen, you’ve go to put the hard work in, right? If we let ourselves off the hook for just a second, we will become lazy, idle, unproductive members of society. And this is a bad thing. What would you think if I told you that was absolute tosh? Would you think ‘yes, I know but I still keep pushing myself’?
There is a body of thought which says that when we stop pushing and start allowing things to happen naturally, organically, they happen faster than if we ‘push, push, push’. Not only is the happening faster, it is easier on us – there is a flow, a rhythm, an ease that is joyful. A surprising number of people know this, agree with it and ignore it! Me included on occasion! Just this week I was trying to push myself to do some work.
I was tired, couldn’t concentrate, wasn’t interested, kept being distracted, didn’t want to do it…and it still took me an hour to read the signs and move onto something else! Der. I had become very attached to doing this work – my success or failure had become tied into ‘getting this done’ (a ‘push’ attitude if ever I saw one!). As soon as I let go of pushing myself to ‘get shit done’, I actually managed to do something useful instead of being the living incarnation of resistance to pushing!
This does not mean forgetting altogether about what you want and giving up. It means stopping pushing and trying to force things to happen. It means stepping back from your challenge for a moment and finding out WHY it is so hard to do – it could be many things – there might be a better way, you might need some self care first, there might be something more important to do, you may have something to learn, something you need, something else that has to happen first. If you don’t stop pushing, you will never know if it could be easier to do what you want to do.
And if you collapse in an exhausted heap and the stone you’ve been pushing uphill runs over you, how does that get you closer to what you want? So, if you could stop pushing for a moment, enjoy your life and allow something to evolve naturally, what would change for you today?
Here in the UK we’ve had 2 long bank holiday weekends in a row, meaning we had a 4 day working week, followed by a 3 day working week, followed by another 4 day working week this week…and I have been tapped into the public mood of HOLIDAY. This song sums up perfectly what I’ve been doing over the past 2 weeks…
Time to refocus and get on with some stuff now!
Procrastination gets a really bad rap, but I believe (like everything) it has a positive side. So if you find yourself procrastinating…check why you’re putting off whatever it is you’re putting off. I believe there are 7 reasons for procrastination:
1, I don’t want to do it
2. I’m not ready to do it
3. There’s a better way to do it.
4. I don’t know what to do
5. I’m trying to take step 98 before step one
6. I don’t think I can do it
7. It’s not the right time to do it.
Do you want to do it? If the answer’s no is there another way to get it done? Can someone else do it? Does it even need to be done? If there’s no other way, it has to be done and you have to do it…make it fun! For example, when I do my accounts, I put my favourite music on the stereo and turn it up LOUD then just get on with it for half an hour or so. i don’t try to do it all at once, I do it in bite size chunks. And I heard this tip for gettting your filing done if you watch CSI Miami: everytime David Caruso touches his sunglasses, file a piece of paper. It’ll all be done in minutes!
If you’re not ready, what’s the next step? I had a client who procrastinated a piece of homework I’d set – when asked, he said he needed a pad to do it. It wasn’t the homework assignment that was the problem, he was just missing a bit of kit! Easy. Everytime I redo my website I procrastinate until the mental stew has marinated enough that I actually know what to do. By allowing myself to ‘not be ready’, I save myself hours of unnecessary work that I will just do again and again.
Is there a better way? I had a client who was procrastinating making some sales calls. When asked if there were a better way, it emerged that 3 of the 50 people he needed to call hated being sold to by telephone. So, for those 3 there was a much better way – go and see them! The other 47 calls were done within 24 hours, and appointments set up to see the other 3. A classic example of a teeny obstacle getting in the way of a big job.
Are you trying to take step 98 before step 1? Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves and just need to do the first steps, the preparatory steps that will allow us to do whatever it is we’ve been putting off.
Do you know what to do next? Specifically what’s the next baby step? If you don’t know what to do next, how can you possibly do it? It’s not really ‘procrastination’, it’s lack of knowledge! You need to find out what to do next.
Do you think you can do it? If you don’t think you can, you will just keep putting it off, so the work here is to either find a better way, or work on convincing yourself you CAN do it. One good way to do this is to just look for the next baby step and do that.
And lastly, Is it the right time to do it? Be careful with this – that’s why it’s last, run it through ALL the other filters first, but sometimes something else needs to happen first or there is an element of Divine Timing (when you decide to make that sales call ‘just happens’ to be the perfect time to talk to that client for example).
When you learn to trust yourself more and know yourself better, you will find you don’t put things off as much…and when you do, you really don’t worry about it because you know it will all happen in the perfect time and place.
Until then, the next time you find yourself procrastinating, rather than beating yourself up over it, just run through and find out WHY you’re procrastinating – and that will often be enough to get you moving again! And if it’s not, remember to trust yourself – you are always doing your best for yourself…even when it looks like you’re not! Trust in you.
I am supposed to be doing my tax return today – it’s 20 past 2 and I still haven’t started! Now I could use this as a stick to beat myself up about procrastinating and being rubbish (this should have been done months ago, blah, blah, blah) but really, what’s the point in that? Instead I’ve been looking at my reluctance with curiosity.
What’s stopping me? It’s not a difficult taks – all the scut work has been done, it’s just a matter of checking figures, and entering them in the tax website. Easy. So what’s stopping me? Simply that I don’t know where the file is! Seriously. That one little mini thing is the ‘obstacle’. I laughed aloud when I realised this, because finding the file was pretty easy (I just looked to my right, and there it was).
Now I’m good to go, and there’s no more obstacle (well, except finishing this!). You know, sometimes it is really that easy. It’s not that we’re lazy, or ‘bad’, or wrong, or that we need a good boot up the arse. We just need to find the file. So next time you have something you appear to be putting off, ask yourself what is the first step and do that. Once you’re moving, it’s easier to stay moving (basic law of physics!) and before you know it, that first step, next step approach will have you finished!
Right, I’m off to do my tax return…and I must think of a reward for myself for doing it (finally – lol!) – any ideas?
So this week I’ve been a little lacking in enthusiasm for the idea of doing work-type things. Talking to clients is no problem, clearing e-mails goes ok, then I get to the marketing/admin/taxes bit and I’m looking for distractions – twitter, facebook, damson picking, dog-walking, tidying up, even going for a beer with my dad on his day off! I thought it was because I was tired the last couple of days so I didn’t really stress about it. But I’m not tired today…and I’m still not that enthused! Hmm.
Now our usual response to this is to just push ourselves to carry on and ‘do’ something, anything, busy-work. I am in the lucky position of working for myself so I don’t have to ‘push’…and I notice that if I do, I still don’t get anything done anyway!! At least nothing usable! I write stuff that’s rubbish and doesn’t get used, it takes 12 times as long to complete any task, and it’s accompanied by lots of aggravated sighing! Lol.
Pointless, I think you will agree. So I’ve just been thinking ‘what would be a better plan?’ Because that’s just a waste of time. Especially as when I am enthused I can get 5 times more done in less time. So I asked myself what would I like to do right now. And it’s not sit at my desk (funnily enough!). See I think, rather than ‘push’ myself, if I can bring myself into enthusiasm by doing something I actually want to do, I’ll get more done.
It will also be more enjoyable. I know that some of us don’t have the luxury of doing whatever we want whenever we want (and if I could, I’d be on a beach in the caribbean!), but we can look at our reluctance to ‘do’ with less judgemental eyes, and just see if there’s a better way. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take my tax paperwork, my Bob Marley CD and myself outside in the sunshine!
So all weekend I was procrastinating for Europe on my weekly newsletter – it’s already written, it just needed to be html’d and loaded to my e-mail sender programme. A 15 minute job that I put off and put off and put off and … well, you get the picture. Then today to my astonishment, I got a note saying that my e-mail had been sent. Hmm…how is that possible I mused. TA-DA! Last week’s article was sent this week…no, I’m not blaming technology, it was pure user error.
In my confusion over the US dating convention my auto-responder uses, I set last week’s article to go this week. Oopsie. So, last week my newsletter readers received no mail, and this week you guys who read the blog receive no article. And luckily, I didn’t do any extra work over the weekend or they’d have got 2 at once. See, procrastination is not always bad. And now I have the whole week ahead to procrastinate some more.
Hap hap Hazah.