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Blocked roadWe can often find ourselves in a situation where what we need to do to move forward in our lives, make progress and achieve our goals is to learn how to overcome procrastination and get unstuck.  Good time management has no room for avoidance, uncertainty and putting things off.  Overcoming procrastination is high on the list of things that need urgent attention in many people’s lives, but just how, exactly do we stop procrastination?

Feeling stuck, overwhelmed and unsure how to move forward with a particular goal or project is unpleasant, uncomfortable, even painful.  If we can recognize where this is going on in our lives and learn how to overcome procrastination and get unstuck in the areas of highest importance for us, we can dramatically improve our happiness and quality of life.  Our time management depends on us being able to actually carry out what we have planned to do.                                    

I saw Ellen DeGeneres doing a very funny stand up about this issue on TV recently, and it’s easy for us to laugh about the trivial instances of avoidance in our lives.  Humour is a great coping mechanism for things which are painful, and also a gentle way to acknowledge our flaws and weaknesses and bring them out into the open.

The big thing I’ve been avoiding lately, well actually for a long time, is getting on with the tricky technical stuff to do with running my website, i.e. the AdWords campaign management, the SEO stuff I’m supposed to do myself, and trying to deal with the professionals hired to do stuff I just can’t do.  Not being able to think things through, understand, make decisions and act on these things has held up my business and even the time I spend writing, and writing is the only part of the whole thing I actually enjoy.

Many of us have things like this going on in our lives, and I know that the underlying problem causing these big bottlenecks to happen is decision making.  It’s a lot easier to get on with something when the decision making is all done and you know clearly and exactly what you need to do.  

The decision sometimes turns out to be just that you really have lost interest in pursuing whatever it is and you just haven’t admitted it yet and let go.  

But often it’s not, there’s just some irritating stuff holding you up.  You really do want to get a veggie garden going or learn to dance or get your tax sorted out or lose weight or get a regular exercise routine going or follow a consistent plan with your kids or get your home organized or whatever it is.  You’re just clueless about how to actually do it for real – and that is what’s blocking you.  You don’t have a clear idea of the exact actions involved, and there are so many of them you become overwhelmed.

The project might have multiple parts to it which all need attending to simultaneously, and getting stuck on one or two parts holds you up on the others too.

Problem solving comes easily sometimes, as does motivation, but not always.  Stresses in our lives certainly don’t help our problem solving ability, or our ability to prioritize, think of creative solutions, or gather information.  Having a big issue in our life that we’re stuck on adds to our stress levels, and so it goes on, self perpetuating.

Being stuck can make us anxious, depressed and even angry.  It can make us look for scapegoats and excuses.  And there may well be very many legitimate reasons and excuses for why you’re struggling so much with one particular thing.  But instead of playing the victim and blame game, recognize the hardships you’ve encountered and use that information to be kinder to yourself and encourage yourself to persevere.  You may be stuck on something, you may have very many problems going on, but you’ve still managed to keep going with what you could do.  Give yourself credit and recognize what you have managed to achieve.  If you write a list, you might be surprised how much stuff you really have got done, although it might not be obvious to you or others on the surface.  

Give up worrying about what others think or trying to justify yourself.  Getting defensive sets us on a path to not feeling capable and responsible.  We need to feel capable and responsible!

You know the familiar pattern, where you get lots of little peripheral things done, dancing productive circles around the thing you’re avoiding.  This is not all bad all the time.  Sometimes this gets lots of little distracting niggly things out of the way helping us concentrate on the big, scary task because we’ve eliminated a lot of distractions whilst avoiding it.

But if you’re going to get that thing moving again, at some point you’re going to have to start somewhere and do something.  

The best place to start is often with a list, a pad of paper and a pen, and lots of quiet time to do some thinking and planning.

Unfortunately, at this time, you might not be able to concentrate even if it is quiet and you are undisturbed.  Those ideas and planning points may come to you at odd moments like when you’re in the shower, driving the car, or half asleep, and you don’t happen to have a pen.  Don’t you hate that?

Take heart though, because when this starts happening, at least it shows your mind is trying to focus on the problem and sort out how to tackle it.  Just leave lots of notebooks and pens all over the place, and possibly try to arrange some kind of dictation machine, or even ask others to write something down for you.

If there are going to be a lot of notes involved in trying to nut out the procedure we need to follow for our project, and as we constantly update it as we learn more and solve problems along the way – we need to keep these organized – yes, in folders.  Folders are good, mmkay?  The folders need to relate to the separate parts of the project.  Questions should be written or typed neatly as we formulate them, and if we find any answers these need to be written in, and then made part of the master plan or set of procedures we are creating.

Finding the right questions to ask can be extremely difficult and frustrating, almost as much as not being able to get a satisfactory answer to those questions.  But we must be open to continuing to look for the questions and the answers, and persevere.  

If we keep bringing our mind back to the desired outcome and keep referring to our notes to remind ourselves what we are looking for, what we are trying to achieve, the questions and the answers will dribble in.  Receive them gratefully as they do and categorize and note and file the hell out of them.  If you’re dealing with advice you’ve received, keep easy to follow notes about what you were told, when, and by whom.  Contradictions will make themselves clearer this way, and new questions will emerge.

If allocating time in your routine to devote to the task has not been working, try different times and places.  Even trying a different time of day or a different room in the house or even getting out of the house altogether to focus on the planning needed for your project can make a difference.  If anything starts to work better, or you get any clear ideas coming up, pounce on them and embrace them.  Don’t let the nasty “all or nothing” monster steal your progress.

Above all, remind yourself where this dreaded difficult task or project lies in your priorities, that it is still important to you, and that you still believe in it.  If you know it’s high priority, ask yourself some curly questions, like “what am I scared of?”,  “what will happen when I succeed in getting this done?”,  “if the work involved was as easy as something I know how to do, like making dinner or driving the car, how hard would I be prepared to work at it?  How many hours a day would I be prepared to put in?  What would I be happy to give up to see it done?”

So, I’m getting my writing going again, because I know how to do that, and while I’m here at my desk I’m digging down into lists, folders, questions and procedures about all the many other things I need to learn how to do.  Tenacity and perseverance, however little we can muster, will keep things moving forward.  I will learn how to overcome procrastination and get unstuck, and as I do, I’ll write more about it and really nail this thing.  What I know for sure, is that decision making is crucial to taming this beast, because we can’t get on with something if we’re not exactly sure how to.  In order to make good decisions, we need good information.  To tenaciously seek out that information, wrangle it, nail it down and make sense of it, we must constantly remind ourselves of how important the desired outcome is to us, and of course, what that desired outcome is.

Comments   

#5 Marjie Morris 2011-05-08 22:55
Everything you said makes sense...I will do what you suggest! There IS light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks for your caring insights!
#4 Lynn 2010-12-11 03:10
Once again I feel that you have lived with the many inner struggles I experience, except you've got a better handle on how to deal with the challenges. I used to have a handle on life but it broke off.,,Still looking for the right glue to put all the pieces back together again. I m kind of feeling like Humpty Dumpty right now,,,
#3 Regina Wood 2010-10-01 23:42
I enjoy your email messages very much and I hope one day to put all your ideas and suggestions working for me.
Thanks.
#2 Pauline Dossin 2010-09-15 05:43
This should REALLY make a difference;-)
#1 Pauline Dossin 2010-09-15 05:41
Hope this will REALLY make a difference!;-)

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