Note: This blog post contains audio version at the very bottom of this post. Narrated by: yours truly. Enjoy the ride.
I was listening to Jenna Kutcher’s Podcast the other day, Episode 405. 5 Email List Growth Hacks You Need Right Now, in case you want to go there and see it for yourself. It’s a good listen. Among all the good things, Jenna said something that hit just the right spot, and I know it will hit some more spots over there when I share it. Are you ready?
Jenna said “We use potential problems as a tool for procrastination.” Uh, that’s one is deep if you ask me, and I have been there more than twice. And a few more times than that. Let me repeat one more time. ” We use potential problems as a tool for procrastination. So, what’s procrastination, how to stop it and how to actually start making some action – today? Let’s dive into this beautiful topic. This one melts my heart since I have spent the entire morning trying to figure out how to clam my blog on Bloglovin’ – doing exactly what I’m about to talk today. Procrastinating. What a lovely paradox.
What’s procrastination all about?
You’ve probably been there, I sense it. You know that false promising intention of next year, next Monday, next weekend or tomorrow? When it somehow feels like all things will be put together, you will have more time and you will actually start doing that thing you have been prolonging for a while? Yes, that thing. And than the day comes, and instead of doing that one thing exactly, your mind gets this incredible stamina and connects that one assignment or action that you were supposed to do, to not only all associations of it, but the roots and history of everything related to that topic. You know what I mean?
Or it’s like when I want to call my accountant to ask something that I have no particular interest in but I need it for business purposes. Or when I’m afraid that she might ask me things I really don’t know or don’t feel like talking about today (because, of course, I slept too much, or too little, or the wind is really strong today, or it’s my first day of period, and I’m just not in the mood for that kinda talks, claiming and protecting my energy). So, I don’t do it, until a point I’m embarrassed of myself in front of myself, and looking myself in the mirror feels scary because I know it will let me know what I’m trying to hide.
Thinking to much forward
That’s procrastination. Basically, when you don’t do the things you need to do because you don’t like them, you’re afraid of them or they are unknown to you. And it’s all about staying in the safe zone.
Procrastination is also when you’re thinking of setting a web-shop for you website (yay for you!) or setting up that newsletter (yay for you again!), BUT, you start thinking about how to figure out VAT things, or how to set up Pay Pal, or how to create an automation sequence for your buyers, or even how to make and additional offer, aka up-sell. And that is all before you even have a website. Or before you have the product ready. That’s what Jenna meant when she said that we use, let me just quote that one more time, “potential problems as a tool for procrastination”. Yep, that one inspired me that much that I made a whole blog post about it. But procrastination topic is, what I feel, so very widespread and important and I had to tackle it.
Here’s how it was for me a few years ago
When I was just creating branding for Oil On Paper with my dear girl Kath from SeventyTwo Studio, I remember mentioning it to friends on my sons birthday party. I was explaining how I imagine this creative business of mine, what’s the blog going to be about, how I plan to make money this way, and a few other things. And one of them said something like, “Oh, boy. Well how do you think you will make them pay you, how you plan to perform the money transaction?”. What this person meant was the technical side of it, you know. Bank cards, paying online and stuff.
Honestly, at that point I had such a beautiful vision of my creative business, even though I still had absolutely NO idea what I was going to sell. I was intuitively lead towards what happens to be my job now – brand photography and creative business education. And all things art, life and beauty. Yes, I had no business plan and no strategy whatsoever.
Cross the bridge once it’s in front of you
Still, I had no intention thinking about how to figure out setting up a web-shop or receiving payments for or delivering my courses. That was a bridge I was thinking of crossing when I’m actually in front of it. And I remember I was really surprised to hear this question from this specific person, but just know I am realising that these things stop people from making some important and big decisions and moving forward.
What happened, of course, is that I have found someone to design, create and set up my website (That was Kath, once again. We used Flothemes templates with some sort of e-commerce WordPress plugin), and Teachable of course. A platform that hosts and receives payments for my courses, and than very simply transfers payments to my Paypal account, without me having to anything with it. (It wasn’t as easy the first time, but that’s another story).
What would have happened if I have spent weeks or months figuring out how to do all these things before I was even close to the problem? Nothing. I would procrastinate on doing what I actually had to do first at that time – create a blog.
Why do we procrastinate?
As we all are different, the reasons behind procrastinating will be different among us all, I guess. It may be adulthood and taking responsibility, it may be fears of being judged, not being good enough, not knowing much, and whatever goes on internally. But here’s what I figured out. You can have a reason once, for not doing something, and not starting with something. You can have a reason twice, too. But the third time, you don’t have a reason, you have an excuse.
So, here’s where I want you to go a bit deeper and ask yourself what is going on. What is it that you want out of this life (yes, I always start with the big questions, why playing small?), you know, what is your big vision and big dream. Ask yourself what do you want to leave behind, how do you want to live and how can you make it happen.
Procrastination is like trying to hold the pieces together, and grabbing a few more pieces to stuff yourself to the fullest before you take the leap, before you jump right into the cold water. We’ve all been there. Standing on the rock or booty deep in the water, breathing in and out and waiting for courage to show up so we can finally enjoy the softness of infinite waters of an ocean, sea or a river. If there is a bit of wind out there, the courage shows a bit later, once again extending what is to be ours. Joy. Of life, of creation. And we do deserve joy, both of life and creation, now. And fulfilment of completing a task, moving one step closer to our dream. Doing that one next thing that will move the needle forward.
There is no perfect moment in the future where you will know it all, have enough information and do everything perfectly. The best thing is that you don’t NEED to do everything perfectly, you just need to start. Now. So what can you do today to get closer to your goal?
How to stop procrastinating?
I know you’re stirring the pot, I know you’re starting to boil and you’re eager to start something on your own. Maybe you are already there, on the way forward. Somehow you’re still spending too much time thinking, trying to figure it all out, to be precise and determined, and to have all pieces tied together. Let me try to make it easier for you. You don’t have to. Your idea is a starting point, and not something you need to follow. From there on, you explore, evolve, expand and transform.
That is the best part if you ask me. Did you know that when I first contacted Kath about blog and branding, I wrote to her that I wanted to sell linen kitchen towels. Linen towels that I was about to sew, even though I didn’t know how to use sewing machine back then. And I still haven’t learned how to do it to this day. I changed a lot and my creative business started to look so much better than I once imagined it. Through this process I have learned new things about myself and discovered a whole new passion. Not only that, I have invested in my knowledge more than I thought I ever would. I started taking new turns with my photography, bringing a whole new level to a hobby and a freelance side hustle of mine.
What’s wrong with starting tomorrow?
So, you’re thinking you’ll do it when you move into your new house, when you find that new apartment, or when your kids start going to school. Maybe when you quit your 9-5 job, and when the summer is over, when the weather is nicer, when you’re older and experienced and you have more free time and what not?
That may or might not come. We cannot know. The time to start is now. And I don’t mean quitting that job, or opening a company or employing someone, or doing something big and shiny. It’s not about the grand things.
It is about taking small steps towards your dream. It is about building forward momentum. For you it may be about doing a research, putting a headline “Follow the dream” on a blank notebook that is going to become your creative business/dream all-in-one notebook. I have a few of those already written out. Sometimes I look back to see if I missed on something, but mostly I keep writing new things and not looking back.
Breaking it down into simple factors
Math was never my thing, truly, but everybody kept repeating that I will need it once. I don’t know if I ever did and I don’t know if this is the time to put prime factorisation into action, but here’s what helps me break the cycle of procrastination.
Breaking things into simple factors. What this means is that if I know what my next step is, starting a blog, or launching a web-shop, or starting that newsletter, or painting more, or whatever that means for you, I break the process into a simple step by step action list that I can follow and check off from my list once I do them. This is how I motivate myself to do the next thing, and the next one, and the next one. It feels like creating a guide for yourself so you don’t loose track, always know what’s the next thing to do and become more motivated once you see the work you have already done. Having smaller bites will make the digestion easier. In both ways that you now thought of.
The best part is at the very end
Unintentionally, I left the most important part for the very end. The motivational part. If you already know what needs to be done but find it hard to take that first step anyway, here’s how to help yourself go through this.
Think of the end result. If you take that action today, now, and take the next 15 minutes working on it, no matter how small (ordering supplies, buying a domain, calling a designer, writing a rough plan, calling that accountant…), what will that bring you one step closer to? What is your dream? Where do you want to land? What will that bring into your life? What is the goal? How will your life be better if you do that action today? Why are you doing this all?
Think about it. Have it in your heart. Will it allow you to eventually quit your 9-5, or spend more time with your family in the long run, or help you make more money, help you finish a project you have been working on for a longer time? How will you benefit from it if you continue making small steps forward, if you do the one next thing that will move the needle forward?
This is how I sat down and wrote this blog post hoping it will help someone, sometimes in walking towards their dream. Maybe that is you.
Thank you for reading.