It seems we spend much of our lives waiting or is it otherwise known as procrastinating?
The changes in this world have hit many of us in the face with a fear that we have otherwise been way too busy to acknowledge. All of a sudden we are now facing those big questions about life, what is important to us, how we can manage with less, and making the most of what we have. It is pretty confronting, so as humans we “put off” making tough decisions for “tomorrow”.
Are you waking each day with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, anxiety creeping in and sometimes wishing you could sleep through all this uncertainty and wake up when it’s all over? It is exhausting and no way to live, yet you don’t want to let on how anxious you actually are so you probably find yourself, putting on a brave face for the family, showing up as best you can in work and life. Let’s explore what is going on and how to move ahead, albeit in small steps.
The Waiting Game
You probably had plans at the beginning of 2020. Perhaps you were going to take that leap and change jobs, finally leap out and create that business that you have been dreaming about, maybe 2020 was your year for travel and taking a grown up sabbatical. Your plans are now on hold and you are wondering if they will ever eventuate, so you wait – wait for the opportunity to move forward with these plans, but when? For anyone that needs structure and goals you are likely really struggling with this waiting phase.
What to do during the Waiting Phase
There is still hope. As humans we need hope, we need to believe that there is something better that emerges from this unprecedented global pandemic. Keep planning, keep dreaming and keep hoping; there are opportunities that will emerge and turn this waiting time into a productive time. So, during this waiting time, consider your approach to change and get comfortable with change as its (change) here to stay. As you adjust to change, try to focus on what you can control to keep moving forward. Making lists (as simple as they maybe) helps, creates purpose and gives you a reason to keep going, as well as providing focus when you need it most. What have you wanted to do that you have been “waiting for the right time”?
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Maybe it is timely to engage a friend or confidante to create accountability on what goals you can continue to progress, having the support will help to eliminate the fear. Maybe you can work on a joint project or plan. Waiting will only leave you wishing you had done more or spent more time productively during these uncertain times. Keep in mind that your mental health is important to manage and if you are struggling; reach out for professional support. By giving yourself a focus point you will be supporting overall mental well being.
Waiting vs procrastinating
If you’ve found yourself putting off work, you’re not alone. As the pandemic drags on, many of us are dealing with anxiety, isolation, and burnout.
Similar to waiting many of us had high hopes at the beginning of quarantine. We’d read more books, tackle long-overdue home improvement projects, and make use of our now-free commuting time to get ahead at work. It has been demonstrated that the good intentions for some has not worked out that way. Where we thought an abundance of time would be great it has been eaten up with bigger expectations as there is a perception that there is more time available.
Have you found even small tasks, which seemed easy to complete before, are feeling harder and harder to tick off? Suddenly, minor, administration tasks feel like climbing a mountain. This experience is related to a lack of motivation. To see how we can turn this around let’s look at why we procrastinate, especially during time like the current crisis. To make some sense of what is happening; here are five reasons for procrastination as well as some suggestions to provide motivation.
1. Additional Stress
Many of us are under a high degree of stress right now; this can be because of general anxiety about the world, job loss or change, fewer social interactions, isolation, additional responsibilities, illness and loss. Stress weighs on your mind and leads to keeping the mind distracted, takes up energy and tends to focus on the worst case scenario. Stress feeds into anxiety, feeds into perfectionism, feeds into procrastination. Before you know it you are thinking, “I just don’t have the energy for that task today”, and it gets pushed to tomorrow. You are left with that nagging sense of not having achieved even a simple task.
Suggestion : Refocus the Stress
Create a simple daily routine. Start with some gentle movement or exercise. Start small and build up. A goal of a five minute walk around the block or through the garden or house is a great place to start. Add in some breathing while you are walking and observe the difference. Ask someone to hold you accountable and let them know when you have completed this.
2. Absence of Incidental Interactions
After a weekend, many workers (now) are back to the kitchen table or home office, perhaps the weekend has been low key and it seems it is more of the same, regardless it is the same space and therefore distracting leading to procrastination. The morning commute is a walk from room to room. Whilst there are benefits to a brief walk to work the commute time for many workers is an opportunity to progress into the working week. The commute provides a time to process the weekend and mentally focus on the working week ahead. A healthy balance of preparing for work at the beginning of the day and then disengaging at the end of the day cannot be underestimated. When there is little or no change to circumstances and environment a differentiation can be challenging.
Suggestion : Disengage from the Work Day
This is where I would suggest a meditational walk to symbolise the end of the working day. The benefit will disengage you from the work mindset and refresh your mind and body with some air and breathing, add some music or a guided meditation.
Changes so quickly to how many have adapted and changed the way we work have impacted how we prioritise the important aspects of our life. Generally our anxiety levels have never been higher and this can put a perspective on work, making it a secondary priority and causing some de-motivation especially with an unclear future. It is important to keep a routine, as a routine creates purpose. Without purpose we are simply directionless which leads to multiple challenges.
Suggestion: Write a Simple Plan
Planning the week ahead helps to keep focus. Aim to complete three tasks each day. This could be two admin tasks and time invested on a larger project. There is nothing more rewarding and motivating than ticking off tasks once you have completed them. Sounds small, yet to finding your flow – will really help.
4. Less Socialisation
The office is as much a location for socialisation as it is a workplace. Less time spent in the office is certain to create less social connection. Work relationships provide stimulation; create an interest and interaction and also a motivation in our lives. Our work related friendships are a large part of a working life, creating feelings of belonging and satisfaction at work.
Suggestion : Create a Blend
Whilst working from home has its benefits. Try to add in some work in the office days during your week. Observe the difference in your mindset after a day in the office. (Safely and physical distanced of course). The enjoyment of getting up, dressed and heading out the door to an office will provide a motivation in itself and reduce procrastination.
A huge and increasing presence of burnout is impacting our workplaces. Burnout is considered; a combination of feelings, including exhaustion, cynicism, and detachment. Workers “switch to doing the bare minimum instead of doing their very best.”
Moreover, employees and business owners who feel burnt out are more likely to switch employers and more often to take sick days, in the case of business owners; not show up consistently. “Burnout impacts both our energy—making it hard to do much of anything—and our self-regulation. Procrastination can be a sign or outcome of burnout,” This means, when we’re heading into a burnout zone, our reaction may be to avoid assignments we know are important.
Suggestion : Seek Support
It is time to take stock and seek support to begin to manage the burnout before it presents with physical ailments and potentially disease. Burnout needs to be taken seriously and addressed as soon as possible. It is not a matter of “just keep going”. If you have a hint that you are experiencing burnout, please reach out.
Procrastination crops up when humans resist confronting what they perceive are bad endings. It becomes a strategy for humans to emotionally cope with a perceived threat. Proactively check in with your colleagues, to determine how to open the conversation about burnout to begin with, through a healthy discussion about life and work.
If you are struggling with motivation, experiencing procrastination and feeling generally lost without focus and clarity.
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I can support you to create healthy and positive routines to keep you progressing.
As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe