I keep putting it off – emergency advice for high level procrastination problems. This post is for high level entrepreneurs and creatives that are just very frustrated and temporarily stuck right now.
There comes a point in every entrepreneur’s career when they just can’t seem to action their next step. It’s not just psychological, it’s definitely not laziness, and it’s tied up with all kinds of complicated issues, which often affect other people as well as the entrepreneur themselves.
Putting off important tasks, even things that you know you really want to do is called procrastination. There’s a scientific explanation for it, and it’s perfectly normal.
However, it’s a problem for many high level creatives and entrepreneurs, and I’m asked about it all the time. This post is a wake-up call, to help you start over and finally begin those important steps that you have been putting off.
For high-level entrepreneurs, run of the mill advice often doesn’t cut it. You don’t need advice on how to tackle your finances, face up to difficult situations or change direction, you’ve already been there and bought the T-shirt.
When procrastination hits you at a higher level, it can take you totally by surprise.
If you’ve taken the time to read this post, you may be feeling frustrated with yourself. Feeling guilty, foolish or annoyed at your own inability to simply get on with the obvious next stage in your life, such as writing a book or pitching to the media (which is the reason I end up working with some of my clients), makes the problem worse.
Procrastination is simply fear in a different form. It’s a negative feeling, designed to keep you safe from harm. If you decided you wanted to base-jump off the Empire State Building, you might procrastinate a little along the way, chicken out, talk yourself round, and generally not be 100% focused on the end result the whole time, because the part of your brain that recognises danger would be screaming at you to reconsider.
A similar thing happens when you approach any important task. The more meaningful it is to you personally, the more you are going to be at the mercy of the very efficient, but slightly dumb part of your brain, that generally stops you from doing dangerous things.
Little kids haven’t fully developed their sense of danger, and they mainly do so second-hand, through parents and guardians. Being shouted at when they try to grab a cup of hot coffee hurts less than scalding coffee, but the kid doesn’t see it that way. They simply associate the emotional pain of being reprimanded and scared with cups of hot coffee, and hopefully avoid them in the future.
A similar thing happens as you get older. Fear of shame, public humiliation, disappointing people, and a host of other negative scenarios can haunt us for life, especially those formed during the early years. Kids are fairly fearless, it’s adults that let their heads get the better of them.
Focusing on your high-level task – what is it that you’re afraid of? Are you scared that you’re not good enough, that you’re not as competent as you’ve made yourself out to be? That you’re going to find the task difficult, and have to go through the emotional pain of failing? Scared you’ve already peaked and the only way is down?
If that’s the case, it’s time to work on those feelings as simply a thought pattern that needs attention right now, and recognise that it’s incredibly common to feel this way. Even Hollywood stars and multimillion album selling musicians feel like that sometimes. Coaching can help, as self- help in the way of courses and books.
As long as you are taking action on this, you are also taking action on your situation. It’s just an extra, preliminary step to ensure your success (and happiness).
Perhaps you’re scared that once you commit to a particular path, it’s going to cause problems in other areas of your life.
One of my first clients was an actress whose relationship was rocky. She felt that her partner would disapprove of the new direction she wanted to take, and this was making her procrastinate, even though the whole world seemed to be at her feet at the time.
This type of procrastination requires a short time-out from the task, in order to focus on solutions and planning. Perhaps you need some concrete support from loved ones, hired help or relationship counselling, or to make peace with something or someone, or to renegotiate the terms of a deal before you can comfortably commit to your next step.
Don’t underestimate the influence of your personal life on your professional obligations and path, but figure out where the lines need to be drawn.
Finally, procrastination because of finances is also incredibly common. Entrepreneurs walk a tightrope, often with glorious successes punctuated by periods of extreme financial tension. No matter how successful you appear on the surface, money anxieties and worries can eat away at everyone from successful business people to stars of stage and screen.
Most people pretend that they don’t worry about the future, but take it from me, they bloody well do. Yes, even multi-millionaires with a string of successful businesses. Often the financial situation of an entrepreneur affects their close circle or team, who they have come to value, love and rely on. It’s often at this point a formerly confident entrepreneur can start to hesitate and feel overwhelmed. You are where you are because you take risks, but THIS RISK is well, riskier.
In this case, it’s wise to take a day or two to look at your finances. Not the most fun advice in the world, but your procrastination is always, and I’m repeating this for dramatic effect – ALWAYS pointing to a problem that requires attention, in order to allow you to move forwards in a safe, empowering and successful way. Simply knowing that you took the time to assess the situation, will often give you the peace of mind you need to continue, even if you are staking the world on your next bold move.
To sum up – procrastination is a sign that you need to step away from the task for a short time and assess what’s really bothering you. Simply addressing these issues in theory, can be enough to dissolve the need to hang around, and give you all the fuel your new fire needs to burn more brightly than ever before.
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