Why We Procrastinate and How to Finally Do What You’ve Been Putting Off

“Low key change helps the human mind circumnavigate the fear that blocks success and creativity.” ~Robert Maurer   I’m currently working on my doctoral dissertation. It’s something I’ve been working on for many years. It’s something that I deeply believe in and want to complete, but I’m also the mom of two small kids and I run my own business. Making time for to work on my thesis is low down on my priorities. And for years I’ve been able to justify it to myself that I don’t work on it as much as I should because I don’t have the time. That may well have been partly true while my children were younger. But now as they’re getting a bit older, I realize that my procrastination is also about something else. It’s about all the stories in my head that make working on this project unpleasant. It’s about the fear, the self-doubt, the worry about not being good enough, the doubt about whether I’ll ever be able to finish, and the expectation that it’s going to be a really hard and frustrating process. Because I do have time. I have time to read and work on other projects that interest me. In fact, I make sure I create the time because I enjoy working on them. This is something that I’ve only recently realized. Recognizing it has been so empowering. Because I do want to finish it. I’ve dedicated so much time and energy to it, it would feel really good to complete. Since recognizing this and recommitting to the project, I’ve been experimenting with an idea that so far has been really helpful, and I’m excited about its potential. Sneaking Past Fear the Kaizen Way The idea comes from the Japanese art of Kaizen. In his great book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, Robert Maurer describes it as a gentle and elegant strategy to maintain excellence and realize dreams. He explains how when we try to do big things and make big changes, it triggers our stress response and makes us avoid. So the solution is to make tiny, incremental changes, so imperceptibly small that you don’t activate your stress response. All kaizen asks is that you take small steps for continual improvement. As I was reading this I could immediately see where I was going wrong. Each time I sat down to work on a paper I’m writing I was thinking about how I could make this a brilliant paper that would make the biggest impact and so do justice to the participants of my research. Wow, the weight of the pressure. No wonder that felt like a big ask and made me avoid it. The two strategies I have been working with involve asking small questions and thinking small thoughts. 1. Ask small questions to dispel fear and inspire creativity. Big questions, such as “How can I quit my job and find my purpose?” tend to overwhelm [...]