When it comes to procrastination, most people talk about what causes it and how to cure it.
If we’re always looking for the cause and the cure, we miss the opportunity to receive the wisdom.
What if we asked a different question: what can I learn from it?
Our procrastination can be a portal for self-awareness, providing valuable insights into ourselves and how we create our best work.
Among the many things we can learn from our delayed action or complete inaction is where we have misalignment in our life. Misalignment is an incongruence between the things we say we want and what we really want or our highest and deepest values.
In looking at my own procrastination and in my work with clients, I’ve seen five areas of misalignment emerge repeatedly.
I share them here to help you focus your procrastination in a different direction. The next time you find yourself procrastinating, instead of taking the path of shame and blame, try investigating one of these areas to see if you have misalignment.
For each area of misalignment, I share an example to bring it to life and the “tool” you need to crack open the broken place and let more light in.
Misalignment: The ultimate outcome that will result from the action you’re procrastinating isn’t really what your heart desires. It’s a “should” or an expectation that you’ve internalized from external sources. This could be the immediate outcome or the longer term result that you expect from this action.
Example: You know you should spend time making prospecting calls and sending emails to clients and prospective clients to generate new business. You’re not doing it because on some level you don’t want that business. Maybe the business you really want is not working with individual clients, but leading group events.
Being willing to admit to yourself what you really want is the first step to taking consistent action toward it. When you truly desire the outcome, the “painful” actions are more tolerable.
Misalignment: The process you believe you need to follow to get to your outcome isn’t aligned with your strengths or values.
Example: You know its best practice to make cold calls to generate business, and you do want the business. But you don’t make the calls. Perhaps because you’re not your best on calls. Maybe you connect better with people when you meet them in person.
Tool: Self-awareness. Open-mindedness. Flexibility.
Remember that there’s more than one process to get any outcome. Just because something is “best practice” for many people doesn’t mean it’s the best practice for you. Understanding how you work best is crucial.
Misalignment: You don’t know the reason why you “should” do what you’re not doing. Or you know the reason, but the reason isn’t relevant to you; you’re using someone else’s “why.”
Example: Your reason for why you should do your prospecting calls is that it will help you create new business, which will generate more consistent income for you. This is a good why only if you’re primarily motivated by making money. If your top values are about having fun and creating adventure then money isn’t a compelling reason.
Tool: Values clarification. Self-honesty. Introspection. Reflection. Deep listening to yourself.
It’s easy to get trapped in the belief that the things that other people’s value are your values too. Motivation comes from motive. What’s your reason for wanting to do the thing you say you should be doing?
Misalignment: The language you use around the actions you are avoiding creates a meaning for you that is not aligned with your values. Language shapes our perception. We associate various words and actions with certain types of energy, and if that energy is not be aligned for us we won’t want to spend time there.
Example: Common business-building words like “networking” and “prospecting” may carry a negative energy for you, keeping you away from the activities associated with those words. Changing the descriptions to “connecting” and “conversations” may be enough to shift the meaning for you of what it looks like to do that thing.
Pay attention to the physical feelings in your body when you hear certain words. What’s another word you can use for that activity that makes it feel better for you to spend time there?
Misalignment: The energy of the people you are working with isn’t aligned with the energy that brings out your best work. This could be your clients, business partners, the people on your team, the people around you in the space where you work, the people you hire to help you (coaches, personal trainers, assistants, etc.).
People carry energy, and energy is contagious. Surrounding yourself with the “right” people — people aligned with your desired energy and values — is crucial.
Example: One of my clients was a real estate agent who couldn’t get herself to send prospecting mailings to prospective sellers. In other conversations she would complain about her seller clients and tell me that she preferred to work with buyers. It made perfect sense why she would procrastinate on sending mailings to potential sellers.
Tool: Self-honesty. Introspection. Awareness.
When it comes to your clients, business partners, team, and other support, consider who do you really want to work with? What is most enjoyable for you? For people who surround you but who you don’t work with directly, the important tool here is awareness of the energy of the people around you, and how you respond to that energy.
Your Next Action
The next time you find yourself procrastinating, put that procrastination to productive use by engaging in self-inquiry in these areas. When you feel aligned in your outcomes, actions, purpose, language, and the people you surround yourself with, you will find greater flow and ease in your work.
I’d love to hear your result with this. Please share in the comments!
- To be clear, there are many other reasons why we procrastinate, don’t do what we know we “should” do, or don’t do what we say we want to do. This piece is just focused on the misalignment. ↩