Your procrastination has a purpose

by | Jun 30, 2020 | completion, goals, habits | 0 comments

 

A few weeks ago, I was working with Martin a very successful entrepreneur based in London. We’d set up becurrent for him and his team a few months prior and things were progressing swimmingly. He’d hired us to do a weekly check-in and we were on our 6th or 7th one.

I noticed these three items which would have been innocuous if it wasn’t for the fact that they’d been moving around on his board since the first time we looked at his action list. Martin is one of the most naturally productive clients I’ve ever worked with. And yet he kept moving these three actions over and over. Today. This week. Today again. Back to this week. If I have time. Today. This week. It struck me because these three actions seemed glued to one another. Nothing in common on the surface. Other than Martin seeming unable to execute them.

One of the tenets of becurrent is that you can unabashedly declare an item complete and never look at it again [with accountability] or decide to do it later or delegate it. You’re the master of your ship and what gets [or doesn’t get] onto your board is your decision and your decision alone.

I suggested to Martin that he remove these actions from his board, for now. But he declined. And that went on for a few sessions. This week. Today. This week. At some point, I poked a little harder. What was the deal? Why was he moving these items around without executing them or invoking his right to declare them complete and close the chapter?

He then revealed a why he hadn’t been aware of most of his life.

Each item had a different story. And yet, a common thread.

Reviewing the balance sheet for his company was loaded with anxiety that his performance was not as strong this year and looking at the documents would confirm his fears. Not looking at them was keeping him in an illusion of comfort, although he could sense he was perpetrating his own cover-up.

Making his travel arrangements to NY had a deep wound associated with it. That trip would be his first since his divorce with Emily. They used to visit NY almost every fall of their 10-year marriage. He feared the flood of feelings that would overtake him passing each bagel or antique shop they used to visit holding hands and laughing as they crossed crowded avenues, being yelled at by furious taxi drivers.

Purging the basement was a serving of emotional protection with a pinch of avoidance and a dash of denial. His beloved mother had passed away a few years back and the basement was full of her life. Letting go of what was packed away was going to trigger all sort of difficult feelings. Not purging the basement was postponing a dreaded visit down memory lane.

His procrastination was serving a purpose and becurrent revealed these unconscious motivations. It allowed Martin to confront a reality he’d avoided for some time.

I suggested he open the balance sheet and take a look. Whatever was true was true, and not looking was not solving anything. The numbers were nowhere near as frightening as he’d imagined. He actually found a couple of opportunities for savings and a few creative ideas to bring in new clients he’d previously not seen.

He decided to postpone the NY trip to next year, when he would most likely be feeling better about going. Or not. And he could postpone again.

He decided to ask his brother to purge the basement with him. They had wanted to spend quality time together and this beautiful act of letting go of the past was an opportunity to connect with him and honor their mother. He was now looking forward to clearing the clutter. I suggested they select a few items that really reminded them of her, and to freely release the rest – most likely stuff she didn’t care about.

Procrastinating is a strategy that can protect us from feelings we don’t want to feel, but in the long run, not a very good one. We eventually need to deal with what we’re avoiding. We can’t close our eyes and hope a situation we don’t like will just go away. We can decide to postpone it, but then, do just that. Fully choose not to deal, and get to it later. Avoid this half-assed in between state that zaps our energy dry.

Update at the time of printing: Martin is happily back with Emily and they’re renewing their vows in NY next fall. Emily will wear this gorgeous off-white laced blouse Martin and his brother found among their mother’s things in the basement.

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