EPISODE 74: “Why can’t I stop procrastinating even though it causes mental stress?”
Do you find yourself constantly thinking you want to get things done but never actually doing them? Are you the classic procrastinator? If so, you’re going to like this episode.
If you’re like the person who asked this week’s question, you may often procrastinate and then feel bad about it.
In this episode I talk about the probable causes of why people procrastinate and some possible solutions if you’re a procrastinator.
In this episode I talk about:
And, like in every episode, I talk about possible solutions that you can use to change your behaviors and stop procrastinating.
As well, I will talk about the personal “strategy” that I use to beat procrastination.
Move your attention from what starts your procrastination cycle.
You're listening to episode number 74 of the Transform Your Life From the Inside Out podcast. This is a Monday Q&A episode and the question that I'm going to answer this week is, why can't I stop procrastinating, even though it causes me mental stress? So the question is, are you a procrastinator? And if you are, you're probably going to love this episode. Keep listening.
Hi, I'm Jim Fortin, and you're about to start transforming your life from the inside out with this podcast. I'm widely considered the leader in subconscious transformation and I've coached super achievers all around the world for over 25 years. Here, you're going to find no rah rah motivation and no hype because this podcast is a combination of brain science, transformational psychology, and ancient wisdom all rolled into one to take your life to levels you've never thought possible. If you're wanting a lot more in life- to feel better, to heal, to have peace of mind, to feel powerful and alive, and to bring more abundance and prosperity into your life, then this podcast is for you. Because you're going to start learning how to master your mind and evolve your consciousness. And when you do that, anything you want then becomes possible for you. I'm glad you're here.
Averting Fear to Stop Delay-ism
Procrastination. Now, the question that I have is, how does it actually show up in your life? And probably a lot of people listen to this episode, and by the way, it's not going to be that long. It's going to be hopefully under 20 minutes, and I want to give you a couple of brain hacks to start eliminating procrastination in your life. But how does it affect you? Over the years, I've done a lot of research on what procrastination is, and I found a lot of different research and, you know, it says different things. What I've observed, and I'll explain this a little bit, that I've seen that procrastination more than anything is fear-based, which we'll get to in just a minute. But in reading all the articles that I've read over the years scholarly articles, research, etc, there's several things that people say procrastination is, some people say, some scientists and psychologists say it's fear-based. Some and I even heard somebody say, "well, we have conclusive evidence to prove that it is stress-based", which we'll talk about in just a bit. And that's interesting that the person who wrote this in said she procrastinates, but it causes her even more mental stress, and there is some research that shows that procrastination is stress-induced. Some people say that it's a lack of self-regulation, meaning managing your behavior. Some people say that it's brain-based, because what happens is we get into procrastination as a result of time perception and a lack of self-awareness.
Now, what I look at- I look at all of this and I'm like, okay, every bit of this makes sense to me and I can see this in my clients and people in my coaching programs. But I'm not so concerned about what the cause of stress is because I have a simple way around it for you and something when you start practicing, it will make it very easy for you to actually get yourself into action to, I don't know if I want to use the word push through, but to get yourself to do things that in the past you've been procrastinating on doing.
Now, let's go here first, this is what I've noticed over the years. I said a bit earlier when I started that procrastination is actually induced by fear. And what I've noticed over the years, and it just dawned on me one day, but I've noticed that many times people get into procrastination to avoid fear, but they will get into an avoidance behavior that will look like procrastination. So let me give you an example of that. Many, many years ago, I was coaching, when I coached highly in the real estate industry, I was talking to this agent and she told me earlier in our conversation that she really had a fear of prospecting. Which by the way, the real estate industry is an eat what you kill industry, you kill nothing, you eat nothing. And she was saying things like, "you know, I don't" and she couldn't even see this in herself. She said, "I, you know, I'm not making the kind of money that I want to make. I'm not making a lot of money." And I said, "Well, tell me about, you know, your typical day and your typical week", and she goes, "Oh, I stay really busy." And I said, "you know, tell me what you stay busy doing." And it was all busywork. It was all things that was, you know, these things weren't going to make her money. But they were all things that were an avoidance behavior, which means that she avoided prospecting because if she prospected she could possibly be told "no", and in her mind, that was rejection. So therefore she got into procrastination when it came to prospecting because she didn't want to be told "no." And I saw a lot of that. And I've seen so many people over the years that they get into avoidance behavior so that they don't have to actually be rejected by people or they're not judged.
I know you've heard me say before that our two biggest fears are the fear of abandonment and the fear of inadequacy. And if we don't put ourselves out there, and we procrastinate putting ourselves out there, we therefore, by default, we actually avoid being judged, you know, being rejected, or being told that we're not good enough. The interesting cycle here is that, let's say for example, that you know, the examples I just gave you resonate with you. Well, putting yourself out there is fearful for a lot of people. So what happens is fear makes us feel bad. And the way for us to you know that the irony here the way for us to avoid feeling bad is to actually avoid the behavior altogether, meaning avoiding even thinking about putting yourself out there. Therefore, let me go procrastinate and while I'm procrastinating, let me get into self-deception and fool myself into thinking that I'm actually doing something that's going to generate an outcome for me.
And here's something else this is brain-based. Once we go into procrastination, in that moment, there's an alleviation. Let's say, for example, that I don't want a prospect. And I know that I have to prospect and so I'm actually procrastinating so I don't have to prospect so people don't tell me "no." But guess what, if I go into an avoidance behavior, and let's say I go do some busy work, like working on a flyer or just something that's busy work, like a deep breath. What happens there is that's instant gratification. That's relief for us because we feel better because we're now we're no longer confronting, you know, being told "no," rejection, inadequacy, whatever it might be and then that's instant gratification for us. And the unfortunate thing about the way the brain works is the more that we do something, the more habitual it becomes, and the more habitual it comes, the more that it happens automatically. Therefore, if we get into procrastination as an avoidance behavior, the more that we actually get into procrastination as an avoidance behavior, the better it feels, because like I said, we're not going to put ourself out there and then what happens is we get rewarded. We feel good for you know, avoiding the behavior, but then we actually get into procrastination and it becomes a cycle for us. Now, I said a whole lot there, but hopefully that makes a lot of sense to you.
Now when I say people get into procrastination, they get into what I call "delay-ism." And that delay-ism is either positive or negative. And negative delay is, and this is why people will say things like, "you know what is I was going to do something today to work on my business." Now go back to the entire scenario that I gave you is they don't want to do it because they're going to be judged if they put out a video or an Instagram post or do a Facebook Live or show up at work or do a listing presentation or a client meeting or whatever. So what they do is they go into delay-ism, both positive and negative. Negative would be is, you know what this person might say, they would say, "you know what I meant to like put out that listing presentation", or "I meant to go to a meeting", or "I meant to shoot a video or whatever. But I just spent two hours on YouTube. And I don't even know why. I mean, I didn't want to do it. I knew I should be doing other things." Or "I've been posting on Instagram or, you know, I've been watching kitten videos", or whatever it is. But that's negative delay-ism. It's something to distract you. Now on the flip side, it's also delay-ism, but people can get into positive delay-ism. And that could be for example, like, you know what, I don't want to actually do XYZ because of all the reasons I just talked about earlier why people get into it, so I'm going to clean up my office closet or I'm going to clean the house today or I'm going to organize my desk or organize my office or whatever and I know you get the point. But that's also positive delay-ism, either way, negative or positive, they're both delay ism. And they actually prevent you because they're a form of procrastination. They prevent you from actually executing on things that you know you need to do to create the outcomes that you want.
Now, the cycle gets even worse for some people. And this may be you know, the person who wrote in as well, is when she said, "Why can't I stop procrastinating?", which we're talking about that right now, "even though it causes me mental stress." What she didn't clarify is, I don't know what mental stress means to her. But for many people, what they go into next and that may pertain to the person who wrote in, is they go into guilt and they go into shame. And it sets in because for example, a cycle would be this- I need to do X, Y, Z, which is you know, whatever the target behavior is, but then what they do is it happens brain-based and it's unconsciously they get into the fear of inadequacy or the fear people are going to judge me or whatever, then what they do is they get into delay-ism, which is either positive or negative. Now what happens is their target, you know, behavior never happened because they're into procrastination. Then what happens, the next part of the cycle is the game, not the game, but the guilt and the shame sets in. Because guess what, you didn't do what you needed to do to hit your goals. And look what we have here- we have another vicious cycle.
Also, when I started, I said that procrastination was a form of stress relief. And research has shown that your level of stress affects what you do. And when you're, you know, when you're distracted by, you know, things that stress you, you're likely, it's funny that our brains are just crazy the way they mess with us. But you're likely to put off things that cause you more stress, or things that have been stressful to you and you put it off which actually is even more stress because then you get into what's called the procrastination accumulation effect. And basically, that's when you put things off and then you actually feel stressed because of that, or you put things off because they're stressing you out. Let me rephrase that, you put things off because they stress you out and then you get stressed about putting things off that stress you out. And again, that's the procrastination accumulation effect. And the person who wrote in, that may be what she's getting into. So essentially, is that you leave things undone and you feel overwhelmed. And again, that's an other vicious cycle.
Okay, so how do we fix all this? How do we actually, I don't know the right word for this, but how do we start taking more action and how do we actually get into action and out of procrastination? There we go. So you hear me say in so many episodes, there's a common thread that runs through a lot of episodes and that is about calming your mind and calming your body. I don't know the exact episode, I think it's number six where I talk about living from your highest potential. And in that episode, I talk about how many people think that your highest potential is all about creating something in the external world. The highest potential that I'm talking about is living from your innate, inborn potential as a cosmic being. What, you know, where are you and what state are you in when you're living at your highest potential? And that state is that you're living with silence, silence of mind, because that is power. That's why I definitely recommend things which, you know, you've heard me talk about a lot- meditation, self hypnosis, mindfulness and awareness. So what you may want to do is get online and just you know, Google a mindfulness training or awareness training or self hypnosis for you know, silent mind or something like that. Okay, that's one thing that you can do.
Secondly, I think it was, who was the guy who wrote "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People?" Okay. Yes, Stephen Covey. And I believe in the book, it's been a lot of years, but they had in their process management. And they had in their what's called the Eisenhower matrix. And what they said in the book, I think it was the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", is that Eisenhower was so effective because he had four categories that he put things into. And basically, he just managed his behavior. So that's something else that you can do is actually just Google that "Eisenhower matrix" and look at the four categories that Eisenhower used to manage his behavior. That's another way to get out of procrastination.
Another way which, and guys I'm hitting the highlights right here because I want to give you a brain hack in a moment. Another way is emotional management. Because do you notice when you get into procrastination, you're in your emotions? You're into fear or overwhelm or stress, or whatever it is, and notice These are all emotions. And I'm going to share with you that our level of emotional intelligence in the world is very low because guess what, all over the world, we go to school and first grade and we're taught, we're taught mechanical things. We're taught linear things. We're taught math and science and reading and, you know, first grade, I think, now, I don't know what they learn but back, you know, when I was in first grade, we learn reading now, they probably learned when they're four years old, or three years old. But notice school is all about left-brain analytical things about the world, but what we're never taught in school, at least in the public school system that I was in and in the US, is we're not taught emotional management. And what's vital is that we learn to manage our emotions. Also, I want to point out here is many times, and I'm not going to go into this deeply- it's a whole different episode- is that people actually want to manage their emotions because they want to manage how they feel. Here's the thing. You may want to write this down and learn this, is that you feel like you think, which therefore means we also need to learn to manage our thinking. So, consider that for a moment. If you actually feel good, you are having feel good thoughts. If you are actually emotionally feeling bad, you are having feeling bad thoughts. We must learn to manage our emotions.
And then a whole different vein, what I've been taught over the years in shamanism, is that we have emotions because we're, you know, we're biological creatures as well and we're human beings are we're incarnated. And you know, we're cosmic beings that have incarnated into a human body. We have emotions, but here's the thing, and notice your own life and actually just look back for the past half a day. Most people live their life entangled in their emotions. And what I've been taught is this exact phrase, "a lifetime spent in your emotions is a wasted lifetime." So I've been taught to obviously because we have emotions and they happen just, you know brain based, is have the emotion, experience emotion, acknowledge the emotion and move through the emotion. But so many people get trapped in their emotions. And I've seen people get trapped, the masses, for a lifetime in their anger, in their hate and their shame and their guilt and all these things. So I'll leave it at this but definitely, we want to look into and this reminds me I probably need to do an episode on emotional management.
Okay, couple more things here. and then I'll tell you how I approach because I'm just like you. I mean, I grew up on the planet, obviously. And I learned how to be a procrastinator and I want to tell you how I get through it. Okay, one more thing here is also procrastination can be completely habitual. I don't know what episode it is number five or so you'll see the title but go back and listen to the earlier episodes at least one through 10. But number five, I talked about the prefrontal cortex, which is the thinking part of the brain. And I talked about the reptilian part of the brain, which actually is a part of the brain where our habits are housed. So we can prefrontal cortex think all day long, "oh, I need to get that report out." But what happens is the reptilian part of the brain, some people call it the monkey brain, that part of the brain might be habituated to actually get into fear or procrastination itself or whatever and it sabotages the the prefrontal cortex, thinking part of the brain.
What I want to share also, and you'll hear in episode I think, number five on habits, is that your reptilian part of the brain, the oldest part of the brain, will always win over your thinking part of the brain. Always. Well, yeah, almost almost always. Let me give me an example here to demonstrate it though. Let's say that you're watching the weather. You check the app on your phone and it's like tomorrow is going to be cold and rainy. And it's going to be nasty outside. Stay inside all day long. And it's a Saturday, you know you're at home or going to go to the home office or go to the office or whatever. And you you start thinking, "Okay, if it's going to be really nasty tomorrow, then you know what I'm going to tackle, I'm gonna organize my office. I mean, it's a mess. And I've been wanting to do it for a long time. Yep, that's what I'm going to do tomorrow." So the next morning, you wake up, you open the curtains, and guess what, the weatherman was wrong, and it's beautiful outside. Then what you do is you start thinking, because what happens is, the office, wanting to the office is left brain analytical, but we're driven by the reptilian part of the brain, which is habitual. And then you start thinking, which actually activates the limbic system, which is the middle brain. "You know what it sure would be nice to go to the park today." And then you get into the emotions about that which comes from the limbic system and notice that the analytical thinking is "I've got to clean the office", but the emotions kick in from the limbic system, the middle brain and you're like, "you know, I'm going to go to the park today." And guess what? The Office never gets cleaned. And I've been there before. And that's how I came up with a hack that I want to share with you.
So obviously, we're brain driven. But let me give you the hack that I came up with, literally, I came up with this myself a lot of years ago. And I came up with this when I had to make a phone call that I didn't want to make. So let me walk you through the process. It's really, really simple, is if you think about and every one of you listening, think about a phone call, in the past that you didn't want to make, and we've all had them. So you didn't want to make the phone call. So what you did is you procrastinated and put it off and procrastinated forever, like hours or days or maybe even weeks you put off a phone call. Now, I want you to think about that very same phone call. And I want you to look at how you felt emotionally before you made the phone call. And look at all the fear, which I talked about earlier, and all the stress that was associated with that phone call. Now, think ahead, the phone call's already been made. Think about how much better you feel after the phone call has already been made. The stress relief is already been taken care of because you actually obviously went through the process I just told you about earlier. So you had a lot of stress about making it but then you made it and then you alleviated the stress. Hopefully this making sense. But here's the thing, it dawned on me many years ago, because I'm a master hypnotist and I've always known that part of the brain does not know the difference and research demonstrates this between real and imagined. And it dawned on me, I'm like, "you know, I haven't even made that phone call yet. And it's been a source of stress to me." Now, what if I imagined that I already made that phone call? If I already imagined that I'd already made it, how would I feel? Which obviously I would like have no stress, how would I feel and as a result of that, guess what? It's now easy because I'm not stressed to actually and I'm going to give you a little twist here. If I'm not feeling stress, what I can do, is I can pick up the phone and make the phone call.
Now, here's the caveat and the twist. What I had to do to keep myself in that calm, and I wasn't like freaking out or anything, but to keep myself in that state. That easy state to make the call. Here's what I had to do. And I learned this inadvertently as well. We did this a lot of you know, as a hypnotist, but I remember one time I was at my chiropractors and he was going to actually adjust my neck. And he said, Hey Jim, he goes "I want you to focus on your toes. And I want you to wiggle your toes." And the second I did that he adjusted my neck. And I thought wow, that was a great diversion technique because what he did you probably heard me say this a lot. He moved my attention and my attention was not on the adjustment it was on my toes. And when the attention was on my toes, guess what, I was not paying attention to my neck. Now you might already be seeing between the lines here. So once I imagine the call has already been made, I move my attention to anything but the call, even as I'm dialing. Why? Because my attention is somewhere else.
To give you another example and that that might help you out. Working with a shaman as many years as I have, I'm on a very significant regimen of things. And there's many holistic things that I take and herbs and tinctures that I make and stuff like that. And my brother in law has me on something that is not pleasant tasting and I drink it every And I remember one day then I'm like, "okay, here I go again," which was I would like procrastinate drinking it because it tasted so bad. And I remember one day I sat there with a cup near my lips and I looked out my kitchen window and there was a bluebird, Blue Jay. And I was I was looking at the bird. And as I was looking at this beautiful bird, I started drinking, this tonic that I was taking. And I noticed that I drank the tonic all the way down, not a problem very quickly. Why? Because my attention was moved somewhere else. So I share this with you. Because the easiest way to get out of procrastination, notice when you're actually procrastinating, that's where all of your attention is. Fear, stress, worry, procrastination, fear, stress, worry, procrastination. But if I actually move my attention to something else, and then start engaging in the behavior, now and then moving my attention, I'm already in the behavior.
And research also demonstrates, let me give you another example here. Let's say that you're procrastinating on cleaning the kitchen. This podcast, actually, I'm shooting it or not shooting geez habits. I'm recording it the day after Thanksgiving and a lot of you basically here in the US are like, "Man, that kitchen is a mess. And I don't want to clean it yet." But notice what happens once you start cleaning and you wash that first bowl. What most of us don't do is say, "Well, I'm going to stop right there." We clean the whole kitchen. It's easier to keep doing something once we started it. So what I share with you, and hopefully this all makes sense, is that let's go back to the example of calling somebody. You procrastinate and you don't want to do it, therefore you don't start by dialing the phone. So what we do is we move our attention, as if we've already made the phone call, which then releases the procrastination stress. Then what we do is we keep our attention moved to anything but the phone call, even as we're picking up the phone and we're dialing the phone, because guess what once that person says "Hello." And if the answer, you're on the phone, now you're in the process of it. So this process that I just gave you- And hopefully it makes sense- This process is the process that I use and being 100% transparent, I don't really know that I'm an air quote, bad procrastinator, but I'm going to share with you I can definitely procrastinate. I mean, there are just days that I don't want to do things. And the way that I get through it, I'm going to keep it simpler. I'm going to tell you how I get through it. What I just gave you is kind of a process that I figured out over the years.
The way that I get through it is I say two words to myself, because I can procrastinate going to the gym, I can procrastinate, you know, ordering dinner or making dinner or whatever. I can procrastinate a lot of things. And for me to stop my procrastination, it's very easy. Here. This is really simple. This is what I say is I say to myself, "stop talking" and I immediately execute. And what I do when I stop talking, what I really mean, meaning for me, move your attention, execute. And the thing about that is I learned many, many years ago as well, when I was 18, is that when we condition ourselves, we actually respond to the world based upon the conditioning, which you've heard me talk about a lot. So when I go into and I say "stop talking," and then I execute, meaning some form of physical behavior, I'm already engaging myself in a behavior that I was initially procrastinating against. Hopefully that made sense to you guys. But this is an easy way to stay out of procrastination. Stay out of the emotions, simply move your attention. That being said, you might have heard me say before, and if you have not go over to my website, Jimfortin.com -The link will be in the show notes and download the Master Thought Formula, where I show you quite literally how to transform your thinking very, very quickly. I think it's like a 90 minute video series. There's no charge and candidly, it's one of the best pieces of content that I've ever put out, the best pieces of transformational content let me say that I've ever, ever put out to help people to transform their lives. Okay, that wraps up this episode. And the next episode coming up on Wednesday, is you guys have all heard you see all the memes on Facebook and Instagram, you gotta change your mindset, change your mindset, all these people screaming about changing your mindset. Well, I'm going to prove it to you next week, and I've talked about it here in the podcast. Changing your mindset never works. Why? Because mindset is analytical prefrontal cortex, left brain and everything you want to change is actually either limbic system or reptilian brain or subconscious identity. So if you've tried to change your mindset before and you have failed and that applies to everyone listening, then make sure you tune into the Wednesday episode. Okay, thanks for listening, take care and make it a great day to day Bye bye.
Thank you for listening to this entire podcast. If you're the kind of person who likes to help others, then share this with your friends and family. You know, if you found value, they will too. So please share via your social media channels. Also, if you have questions, I'm here to assist. You can email me questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I may even use your question for a future podcast episode. Also, if you want transformational content like this daily, connect with me on Instagram, my Instagram name is @iamjimfortin. Finally I do have a personal request. I believe that we're all here to help others and to grow and evolve ourselves. Together, you and I, let's help more people. If you would, please leave a review on iTunes and a good one by the way. I'd be grateful and through your assistance together, we can transform more lives. Thanks for listening