If any month is the month of hope, it’s January! People are pumped with it, ready to tackle goals, do better, be better. Bye-bye procrastinating!
I’m all about a positive mindset, but have you ever watched what happens to a gym in the month of January? I’ll tell you…when I was a personal trainer/group exercise instructor in graduate school January was nuts. There would be a line of people outside of my classes so long you would’ve thought I was giving away free deodorant! Then the 2nd week of January would roll by and 5-6 people from a 40 person class were gone. The next week, double that. The last week of the month…the same 10-12 people who consistently showed up before the new year were left.
What happens during that time is not that people are unmotivated, lazy, or are fearful of commitment. Life happens. Yes, life. And when life ebbs and flows back into what it was before January 1st, we easily find ourselves back where we started. Going to the gym after work does not remove the burnout you feel from your job at the end of the day. It doesn’t keep you from driving your kids around to activities, making dinner, meeting friends, wanting to stare at a wall, or taking care of your elderly parents. If we are going to change 1 aspect of our lives, we need to change many.
And we can’t change many aspects of our daily life in 1 month just like we can’t expect to lose 5lbs after our first walk on the treadmill. It takes reflection, time, patience, a legit plan, and support.
You are not lazy. You are not unmotivated. You may not even be a procrastinator!
When we put things off, there may be a good, positive reason we are putting it off…
The Messages We Hear
Before we get into the positives of procrastinating, I want to take a beat and talk about the messages we hear during this time.
These messages of the new year all seem to be focused on the media telling you what you need, what you aren’t doing. If you aren’t doing what you “should” be doing (i.e, eating healthier, going to the gym, reaching all your goals at once) you must be procrastinating.
New year, new pressures, yikes!
Then shortly before or after those messages we get riddled with the media telling us what we need to accomplish our goals…a new yoga mat, a better phone, a course to take, a coach to get you motivated, a book to read, and the list goes on.
There’s such a strong focus on what you aren’t doing, and what you may lack in your life that no one seems to ask what you ARE doing and what you do have!
At any moment in time, you are doing something and I believe that whatever that is has meaning to your life and to your personal needs. Procrastinating can be your intuition calling out, a message you need to hear, a whisper of protection.
Let’s now explore a few of the main positives of procrastinating…
1. Prioritizing What’s Important
Sometimes, you are procrastinating from the things you want to do because there are simply things that are more important. I see this a lot with parents. They want to do something for themselves, but then their kids are sick, need a cuddle or help with homework and that’s ok! Prioritizing what’s important in your life whether it’s putting extra time into a work project, caring for someone else, or spending time with your spouse may be more important than whatever it is you believe you are procrastinating from.
There is research out there that shows us that spending time with people we care about correlates with lower levels of stress and mental health resilience. Don’t feel guilty about prioritizing what’s important in life over reaching a particular goal. Hang out with your kids, go see that friend, spend time with your partner because that connection matters to you, and reaching other goals can certainly wait. Maybe it’s completing a project that will solidify a raise at work or maybe it’s prioritizing your self-care over the work project because your mental/physical health is more important than the raise!
The bottom line is if you are prioritizing something more important, you are not procrastinating, you are focusing where your heart is in that moment.
2. Restoring Cognitive Function
Our brains work in mysterious and also not so mysterious ways. The best example here I can give is that instead, you feel motivated after work to do something for yourself, but the workday was a doozy, leaving you so burnt out that you just want to sprawl out on the floor and stare at the wall. While you are staring at the wall, you think you are procrastinating, all the things you need to do, and how you’ll never reach your goals feeling this unmotivated. Yet, you can’t move, and staring at the wall is providing you with something right now, so you stay there in this emotional turmoil that you believe is between procrastinating and motivation.
What is really happening is that your brain is overloaded and is actually processing all the information from the day. When it’s highly active, your sympathetic nervous system has control, which means your mind and body are in a current state of stress, and your neural pathways are working hard to connect to each other to access information, memory, etc. particularly in the frontal lobe…all the pieces you need to stay “on” for your day to make your decisions.
When we are burnt out, our parasympathetic nervous system tries to kick on to calm us down. This is why you want to go stare at the wall, watch Netflix, and chill or whatever it is that leads you to procrastinate from what you actually want to do. Listening to this urge is actually a good thing. It’s giving your mind a chance to calm down, re-connect neural pathways, and actually increase gray matter in the brain that contributes to building cognition and self-awareness. So next time you believe you are procrastinating, remember you are actually re-structuring your brain in a positive way!
3. Natural Rhythm
A lot of us are forced into these boxes of time. Working a particular shift, at particular times, on particular days that do not necessarily line up with our natural rhythm. Perhaps we are morning people, but we work at night, or we have work meetings at the end of the day when our energy is fresher in the morning. These boxes we are in, may not match with our natural rhythm and so after we find ourselves in these boxes we may find our energy is wasted by the time we actually have the time to do something for ourselves.
If you find yourself procrastinating, it could actually be that your natural rhythm is off. You can build awareness of this by noticing the times of day your energy waxes and wanes. Once you know this information, you can be more strategic is when you take action on the things you want to do rather than trying to force it at a time that doesn’t work for your natural flow. There is a lot of power in understanding this flow and how you structure your day.
If you are procrastinating, remember there is a bigger message behind it and whatever that message is, holds positive power for you and what you actually need. Whether it’s that your brain needs time to heal, you need to get more in touch with your natural rhythm or that you are prioritizing different needs, there’s a reason you aren’t moving forward. The next time you find yourself struggling with procrastination, you can remember this post and keep building onto that awareness that there’s a bigger message at play here.
Your mind and body synergy are powerful resources to your thoughts. They know what you need and the reasons you put things off. Becoming aware of that can be huge for you! For example, your unconscious may be telling you to avoid something out of fear perhaps. Maybe fear of failure, commitment, or even fear of success. Those are things worth exploring if you find yourself procrastinating repeatedly and there’s not a reason you can put your finger on.
What is your mind/body trying to tell you about why you are avoiding whatever it is?
In that exploration holds the answer to the truth, the positive power of procrastinating.
Does this post resonate with you? If it does tell me on social or if you want to explore more, I’m happy to support you on that journey. Reach out to me here.