We spend a lot of time thinking about how procrastination stops us from getting work done.
But do we overlook the things we unwittingly tell ourselves whilst we’re actually doing the work?
Over the past few days I’ve been working on a few different things: writing, broadcasting, and bread making. I am enriched by all of them. But, one of those tasks – the writing – provided me with an unexpected insight.
The challenge with the writing isn’t only the getting started. It’s also keeping the writing process going.
Mid-way through the drafting of a book chapter, I became aware that I was in engaging in quite a lot of negative internal dialogue.
“Why are you even bothering?”
This dialogue went along the lines of, “This is complete shit what you’re writing. You thought you were good at this yesterday, but you were wrong. Clearly, you’re useless at this. Why on earth do you carry on trying?”
The feeling I have when I notice that internal dialogue is similar to the one I have whenever I see the evil Cersei Lannister (above) appear on-screen in Game of Thrones.
The section I was working on yesterday was in a different style, a section which demands a lot of checking and rechecking. That makes for a jolty kind of writing experience.
The rational side of my brain doesn’t really think I’m ‘shit’.
The rational side of my brain recognises what the emotional side is doing. It recognises how the emotional side is more likely to talk like this if the day is hot, or the deadline is fast-approaching.
Knead. Knead. Knead.
I stopped what I was doing (deliberately mid-sentence), and took myself off to the kitchen where I started to make some bread. I adore bread-making. It’s physical. It’s tangible. Every loaf is unique.
The internal dialogue whilst I was kneading was entirely different.
This time around there was mild tension around the possibility that the dough may not be elastic *enough*. Then it became preoccupied with the possibility of the dough being over-kneaded. I kept on going.
In a sort-of meditative state, I thought about the radio work I’d done last week in Edinburgh. How I’d not been aware of any internal dialogue when the faders went up. How I’d trusted the producer and host sat beside me.
Why the difference? Trust, probably. Adrenaline too. There was no time to be distracted by anything. Nothing distracting me.
While the bread was proving I returned to writing. More vigilant this time. A much-smoother writing experience, even with the stop-start nature of the chapter.
It’s not just about procrastination
Convention dictates that we spend a lot of time on procrastination as the block to getting things started. But do we need to spend time avoiding the distractions when we’re actually doing the task?
How aware are we of that process going on in our heads? How helpful is it? Are we succeeding in spite of it. And if we are, what change can we bring about if we challenge that engrained thinking?
Jon Jacob is ICF Accredited Coach, specialising in management, executive, and leadership coaching at the BBC, media organisations, and further education establishments.
To discuss how coaching could benefit you, contact him on 07768 864655 or at email@example.com. Jon Jacob is @TGoodCoach on Twitter.