The vicious cycle of procrastination and how to tackle it

Today’s episode of the podcast is all about procrastination – and if you’re thinking you’ve heard this 101 times before and don’t need to listen, please do, because you’re in for a treat!

In this episode I look at procrastination from a different perspective than the way we usually hear it spoken about, and share my real life and practical tips for how to tackle it.

If you struggle with procrastination you will learn a lot from this episode, so I can’t wait to hear what your biggest takeaway is, please do connect with me on social media and let me know.

And if you know someone who regularly beats themselves up for not getting things done, then please share this episode with them too. I would really love for you to do that!



  • How to slow down your procrastination process
  • The role of self compassion in procrastination
  • Practical tips to prevent procrastination



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Hello and welcome to this week's episode of The Dream Business Podcast. And as always, I am your host, Teresa Heath – Wearing. If you are new to the podcast, let me take a minute to introduce myself. I am a business marketing and mindset coach. I am a speaker, a podcaster, and an online business owner, and I help small business owners through my membership, one-to-one work and my mastermind.

So welcome. I am very grateful you are here and if you listen for a while, then obviously I'm very grateful you are here as always. Now, I mentioned last week that I am doing completely clean episodes and they are not being edited. So after 290, whatever this is, episodes, I have always had them edited.

And then I just thought, you know what? I wanna simplify my life and simplify my business life. And actually I've been doing this for a long while. I pride myself on being authentic, so I just record them as is, and you get them. Obviously, if I mess up, I delete that bit as I'm recording it, so you're not gonna get me really making huge mistakes or say in bad language, so we should be fine.

So today we're gonna be talking about procrastination, but I don't want you to think, oh yeah, we've, I'd know about this, or I've done stuff on how to try and work better and be more organized and manage my time. We're not actually looking at it from that point of view.

I listened to a podcast and as if you are in my world and have been for a while, you know, I learn continuously. It's very important to me to constantly develop my knowledge and understanding of things, and I just love it. I'm one of those people that like, Could happily go to university for their entire life, I think, um, if they paid me, obviously.

But, um, I really enjoy learning new stuff and I was listening to something weeks back about procrastination and they gave a different view on it. And so then I started to do some research as I do about what procrastination is. And I was kind of like surprised and relieved to find out some of the stuff that I did, because what happens when we procrastinate is we think we're lazy.

We think we're either really un organise, really lazy. We get really frustrated with ourselves and we just think, why can't we get on and do it? And that really bothers us. And we know we're smart, we know we can do these things. So why is it that we don't do the things that we know we need to do? And when you run your own business, procrastinating can be really, really damaging for you because if you are putting off sending that proposal or reaching out to that podcast or connecting with that customer, then that can lead in loss of money.

It's not just a case of, you know, you're gonna get told of by your boss. It, it really is a case of that could effectively stop you earning the money you should be earning, um, or the potential to earn money that you could be earning. So imagine my delight and joy when I did the research and it said, you're not lazy.

People who procrastinate are not lazy people. And do you know what? For a long, long time I was told I was very lazy, uh, by my family for things like I would, uh, park as close as I could possibly park in a parking space, like if I had to walk somewhere. And then I realized actually I'm not lazy. I'm really efficient.

Like that's my aim to be as efficient as possible. And I think lazy is such a horrible word, especially to be calling ourselves. So I was over the moon. When I discovered that actually it's not laziness, it's actually to do with your emotions, which I just thought like this is ace, but also like blew my mind a little bit because often so much comes back to us and our feelings and.

And our own mind and our mindset, and it was just really reassuring to know that even something as practical of this comes back to it. So it's the fact that you are trying to avoid feeling in a certain way, okay? And by procrastinating, you are avoiding that one feeling you don't want to feel, and you are then moving to a feeling you want to feel.

Let me try and break it down and explain it. And I think this is gonna be really helpful to you and anyone else, you know, who is in business that procrastinates. So if this is something that you, uh, can share, I think they're gonna really love this. Especially if they've been beating themselves up thinking, I dunno why I can't get this done.

So if any friend has said that to you, you need to share this episode with them, and I think you're gonna learn a lot from it. Okay, so let's take you doing a proposal or something for work. So you've got a proposal to do and you know that you need to do this proposal. You know that that is one of the only ways that you are going to be able to get that business is by doing that proposal.

And you know that actually when you've had the meeting with them and you're having a conversation with them, you're really excited about it and you think, yeah, this is awesome. I'd love to work for this customer. But what we try and avoid when. The emotions that no emotion is bad, but what we're trying to avoid with some of the emotions are the ones that don't feel great.

So the emotion could be bored, it could be anxiety, it could be insecurity, it could be frustration, it could be self-doubt. So, Actually, when you think about some of those things and you think about, what if I was doing a proposal? Well, there might be an element of you that has serious self-doubt about the proposal.

And in fact, when I think about it, lots of people I know do this. So they might be really confident in the work that they can do or, or they might not. They might think, well, I've never worked with this type of person before. And the self doubt is kicking in. They might think, yeah, I would love to do this work.

I'm a little bit nervous about how much money I'm gonna charge them. And you might be feeling anxious about that. You might be thinking to yourself, I, I just dunno if this is right or if this is enough. So in our head, before we even get started, We think of the activity and our brain immediately goes, what do I know about this?

And it's basically brings up some of those emotion, oh, I'm anxious about it, or I'm having some self doubt. Of course, unless you are over self-aware, you don't know this is going on. This happens in a millisecond in your brain and all it does and the thing that it really kicks in is makes you go, I don't wanna feel like that cuz no one wants to feel like that.

Although none of these emotions are bad. And I remember like, You know, some of the things we say to our children or have been said to us as children of like, don't cry, don't get upset. And it's like, no, it's fine. And I have to say, I have conversations with my husband when I'm angry about something or upset about something, I'm like, I am allowed to have those emotions.

These emotions are fine when they're in the right place. And actually, you know, I don't wanna stay here very long, but there's nothing wrong with me feeling them. But on the whole, we wanna avoid them and this is what's happening when we are procrastinating. It is just our very, very smart, clever brain trying to keep us safe from those emotions.

We don't want to feel, but we probably don't even realise that we're feeling those emotions. Because one of the key things about mindset, and one of the key things about doing this work is slowing yourself down enough, which we don't do. And even with all the practice that I've done, it still takes work.

But slowing yourself down enough to go, what's happening here? What's going on here? But okay, so let's ignore that side for to begin with. So what normally happens is within a very quick millisecond of a moment, our brain goes, oh, I don't wanna feel like this. So what our brain does very kindly is go, let's do something else that makes us feel nice.

Like we don't wanna feel nervous or anxious. We don't wanna have the self doubt. So why don't we clean your desk? Because that's nice. We always feel such a sense of accomplishment once we've done it or we like doing that cuz we could put some music on and you can sing while wiping down your desk like, so what it's trying to do is it's trying to replace that emotion.

And give you a nicer feeling. So it's procrastinating you in order to make you feel differently. It's not that you are lazy and you can't be bothered to do that thing, it's the fact of even when it's a, even when it's an emotion where you might be bored. So let's say. You've been putting off. In fact, I was just about to say, let's say you've been putting off, like doing your admin for your finance, but I think that's probably down to like anxiety For me, when I think about it, it's not boredom of just doing the same thing.

In fact, I quite like on occasion doing a very monotonous task, but for me it's probably the anxiety of, oh my God, how much money have I spent? So that, it's funny that that's just come to me as I was talking to you. But anyway, so like even when it's a boredom task, it's still not laziness. It's just that you don't want the feeling of boredom.

So what your super clever brain and very kind brain is trying to do to you is go, let's feel something else. Some something so much nicer. Why don't you go cook some food? Why don't you DM your voice, your friend on voice message? Uh, because that's much nicer and you like to have a laugh and that's great.

So basically it's trying to put off that feeling. It's trying to stop you from feeling that way, which is lovely and great, however, It's just making it worse because what's happening is it's almost reconfirming. You will definitely feel that way. Cuz also as well, you don't actually know that by the time you've done the thing that you will feel that way.

Like it's just the thought of sitting down, doing my accounts that make me feel anxious. I could do my accounts and come out the end of it and go, awesome. I feel really good about that. In fact, I'm, you know, I normally do, to be fair. Um, even though I go, I still spend too much money. Um, but it could be that you finish the proposal and think, now I feel really confident about that.

I feel really happy. So it might not even be that that emotion comes into fruition. So it's not even the case that you are in that emotion at that point. It's your brain going, How might I feel, or what might come up from this and trying to protect you before you can get there. So the problem is you go off and you do a lovely new activity to replace that mood.

You know Canva is a good one for me. I love designing stuff in Canva, although I don't need to. Um, but what happens is you feel good for a little bit, and then when you get to the end of that feeling, because emotions come and go and move all the time. You're just back to square one and you feel worse. And you feel worse because now not only do you have the initial emotion of doing the task of the anxiety or the self doubt, but then you can lump on thanks very much, brain, a whole load of shame and annoyance and.

All these things that basically make you feel even worse because of the fact that you've put the task off. So you'll beat yourself up because you're like, oh, I still didn't do that task, and I've got to the end of the day. And instead, I've just spent all afternoon peeing around in Canva and actually, Really what we wanted to do was get that one thing done.

So it is actually more like a vicious circle of every time you procrastinate, you are trying to avoid a feeling. You feel good for a bit, but then you have that feeling back again and chucking on top the shame and the guilt and the frustration. So actually, although our brain is trying to be really clever and really kind, it's actually making things worse for us.

And although we think, I don't wanna do this right now, let's do something else. And maybe not even that consciously. It's not doing us sunny favors. So what do we do about it? How do we stop the procrastination? How do we move past that feeling or manage that feeling to get past? So I've got some tips for you in how you can manage your procrastination, but before I give you those tips, I want you to go on social media after you've listened to this episode and tag me in into a post and tell me what's your favorite thing to procrastinate with?

I want you to share it on your social media. Tag me in so I can see how you are loving procrastinating, and what kind of things do you try and either avoid and what thing do you do in order to avoid that thing? Like what's your favorite procrastination?

Okay, let's get on with these tips. So how do we fix it? Now I think the key thing to know here is it's not about time management. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan. I've done some stuff recently on it and I do some tactics and tools and things, but actually when it comes to procrastination, it's not about managing your time.

It's about managing your emotions, which are, this is why I love the research I did on this so much cuz it really tipped on its head for me, it's like, oh, it's not that I'm just really bad at time management. And when I think about. The coaching I've done over the years and some of the people who are like, oh, I'm so disorganized.

I don't get stuff done, and how I've tried to support them with time management stuff. Actually my view now is, is completely flipping. It's really gonna be digging into, well, why don't? Why? What is stopping you doing that? What is it that you think is gonna happen when you do that? So, how are we gonna stop these?

These wonderful procrastination tools that our brain tries to fix. So if it's about emotions, it's about slowing back down again. And actually, for me, this is the biggest and best thing that you can ever do. Also, for me, mindset is about getting curious. It's about being to being the scientist, not the judge.

So it's about. Kind of asking questions and, and trying to understand something rather than sitting there going, you're useless because you procrastinate and you know, what do you think you're doing? And that sort of thing. So I think the first thing to think about is that slowing down process, and it's about trying to, and if we think about the brain, it's about trying to rewrite what our brain knows.

Because what happens is it very quickly goes to a neuro pathway to go, what do we do here? How does this work here? And over time, It's like, um, it's like you're going down a road, right? So you are going down a track and there's, you are come to the end of the track and there's two ways to go. And what happens is when you choose that one way.

And imagine these attracts in your brain, the more you go down that path, the more that path gets established. So, you know, they probably put some concrete down and then they put some street lights down there and, and that becomes like as you get to the end of the road and you're constantly given the choice of that path there or that path there, the one that you keep going down, which is lovely lit and has a, you know, nicely concreted and now is a road.

Compared to the very dark and dingy and overgrown, scary looking other path, you're always going to keep going down the one that's the most familiar, the one that you know the most. And that's what our brain does. So our brain likes to do the familiar thing. Cause it's like being here before, go to write proposal, don't like to do it, put it after 10 other things.

And of course, every time we do that, It cements that pathway even more. So now we have to slow ourselves down to go, okay, I'm here at the end of this road, and the easy route would be to go down that path. And it's the same when it comes to. Anything really like, you know, that almost becomes a habit. So get to the end of the night, have a glass of wine.

Whereas if you're saying to yourself, I don't want a glass of wine, I really don't wanna have a glass of wine tonight, actually, when you reach the end of that path, it's really hard to go, okay, I know that pathway is so very clear. In fact, now it's a motorway because I go down that path so often. However, I'm gonna have to do this very uncomfortable, scary thing and go.

I'm gonna make myself feel very much out in my comfort zone and go down this other route of this scary path and then try and build that path up. And then as the more you do it, you start to build that path and the other path starts to grow over and they get potholes and it gets rubbish. So this is what it's about.

It's about rewriting those habits and those neuro pathways, if you want to be fancy, which, you know, I like to feel fancy sometimes and pretend I know what I'm talking about. Okay, so how do we do that? So some of the ways in which we can do that is we need to think about that emotion so we can either, the first thing that we could do is slow ourselves down.

And give our chance ourselves to actually question and chance to think about it. So the next time you find yourself about to procrastinate, about to put something off. And this FYI can take a lot of effort and a lot of skill, like doing this on the fly is hard. In fact, I did an episode not so long ago, we'll link up to it in the show notes talking about how I use these tools and how I manage to use it on the fly.

But this takes practice. So sometimes you're not even gonna be able to catch it, but the more you think about it, the closer you get to catching it. So if you've done it, don't beat yourself up. Just go, oh, that was interesting. I procrastinated again. Why did I do that? So, and I know this science, even as I say the words coming outta my mouth, it can sound a little bit like, this is where I'd swear a little bit of a.

Jerky thing to do, like, oh yes, I will just sit there and go, you know, why did I do that? Teresa, like, I know it sounds like a real nobby thing to do. However, it's not, I promise you the skills and the benefits to your life are huge. Imagine, just imagine thinking to yourself, I've got three proposals to do today.

I've got this, this, this, and sitting down at your desk and just getting them done and leaving your desk at the end of the day, like boss, that. Amazing. So if these things can help with that, then surely it's worth a go. So asking yourself, why do I not wanna do that proposal? And if you're doing it, you know, if you're getting to the point and you haven't stopped procrastinating, you're, you are on the verge of doing it.

Then sometimes just even asking yourself that question will slow you down enough to go, okay, I hear you. I know you're nervous, I know you're anxious, but. You are confident we've done this before, you're worth the money and having almost like a pep talk to yourself and then stepping into it might be a way, but like I said, that takes some time and skill.

So some of the other cheats almost that you can do is give yourself a reward that's bigger than the reward you'd normally procrastinate with. So, uh, for me, let's say in fact the podcast, this is ironic that I'm doing an episode on procrastination cuz I was meant to do this yesterday and I really didn't wanna do it.

And I think for me, my justification is something like a podcast, I've really gotta be in the mood or otherwise you are gonna get a terrible experience. But for me, The reward. So let's say I don't wanna do this podcast, then I think, oh, I'm gonna do those things in Canva cuz I much prefer to do that. Well what's a reward That's even better than that.

So for, for me right now, the sun's shining and I want to go and stand in my garden and look at my seeds growing cuz I'm a bit sad like that. Um, so for me, I could say, okay, you could. Put off the podcast and mess around in Canva doing that social media post. Or if you do the podcasts now, you can have an hour off and you can go and sit in the garden while the sun shine in.

Like I would much rather do that, like 100% much rather go and sit in the garden. So make the reward of getting the thing done even bigger than that small satisfaction of like messing around in Canva or cleaning your desk or whatever. So that's definitely something that you can do. So if you've got something that you need to do and you keep putting it off, you keep procrastinating, what one thing can you do that's even better to get done once you've done it?

So try and give yourself a better reward. Um, the next thing you can do is self-compassion. So this is always a really nice thing to do. And it's a little bit like I said, in terms of being the scientist, that self-compassion of slowing down and stopping and asking the questions, or if you do procrastinate, what makes that vicious circle even worse is when you go into the shame guilt cycle, and then you procrastinate again.

Shame, guilt, cycle, procrastinate again. Like you just keep going down and down and down. So actually, if you can stop, if you have procrastinated and you've done something else, rather than going, oh God, why didn't you just get that done? I'm so annoyed with you. Like, rather than doing that, have some self-compassion.

So what if, if you have children, and this is always a good way for me to kind of do these things. It's like one of the things that I am, I've not been great at is I'm Celiac and I shouldn't eat gluten. And sometimes I do. And what happens is I am pretty much an all on nothing person. And what happens is when I eat gluten, I beat myself around the head or I used to beat myself around the head and I'd be like, well, stuff it.

I've done it. Now let's eat all the gluten. And I literally would. Have doubled the amount that I would've had or I'd let it ruin my week. Whereas now because I have that element of self-compassion, or I practice self-compassion and I practice it as if I'm talking to my daughter. So let's say my daughter was Celiac and she ate something that was got gluten in it.

Would I say to my daughter who is, you know, 13, you're an absolute idiot. Why did you do that? That's pathetic. You know, you're not allowed to eat gluten. Just don't eat gluten. Would I say that now? Of course I wouldn't, because I might have a conversation with her and she might go, “But it's so hard Mum.”

And I would go. “Oh man, it is. It is really hard and it sucks and I really feel for you.” But then what I would probably say is, “okay, we've done that. Let's forget that. Let's not worry about it. It's gone now. You know, I understand why you did it. You understand why you did it. So let's pick something really yummy for dinner that just happens to be gluten free and let's do that and let's cook together and let's really enjoy that food.”

That's the way I would do it if it was my daughter. So why do we treat ourselves like dirt? Why do we speak to ourselves like we're an absolute idiot? Because we need to imagine that that's us. We need to give ourselves that same self-compassion of. Okay, you said you were gonna do that, you didn't do it, but that's okay.

Like you're a human at the end of the day, and actually when we've done a bit of digging around in it, when we've gone on scientists, you are nervous about doing that proposal. You don't wanna mess it up and you're super anxious about making sure you price it right, but you have no chance of getting that, winning that proposal if you don't actually do it.

And the longer the time goes on, The less likely you are gonna get a yes because they are waiting for you and they need the proposal to be done. So I know it's gonna make you feel uncomfortable, but you can do uncomfortable things and let's do it like the next availability. So that's the other thing to do.

So give yourself a bigger reward than you would if you were procrastinating. Have that self-compassion and imagine you're speaking to a child, a younger you, someone you love, that you wouldn't give an absolute kick into. Um, the other thing that you can do is you can break down the task, so this is a bit more practical, but if the task seems so big and onerous that that's why you keep procrastinating, because actually it just feels so overwhelming, then can you break down that task?

Can you say, okay, today my job is just to do this one element tomorrow my job is just to do this other element. What's really interesting is once you get into it, you normally find yourself doing more than you would've agreed to do anyway. So for instance, I will probably do two or three podcasts now I've started, because once I get into it, it's like, ah, yeah, it's not that bad.

Uh, I'm all good and it's fine. And then the last tip I've got for you in terms of how to try and prevent this procrastinating is make your go-to thing even harder. Okay, so let's say my go-to thing is, uh, DMing people or having conversations. So as I record this episode right now, my computer open on my other screen is my WhatsApp.

And literally I will see a voice message come in and a couple of friends and I, we love a voice message and we could voice message each other all day. So if I shut that down and I actually muted WhatsApp, It would be a little bit harder for me to then go to that as the procrastination, cuz rather it just being on my other screen and me going, oh, message is coming.

I'll just pause doing this thing and I'll just listen to that. It just makes it that little bit more difficult. If you are doing social media and you want to scroll and that's your procrastination, maybe log yourself out of stuff because having to then get the login to do it just makes it that little bit more difficult.

There are a few different ways in which you can try and let me recap them so you can make the reward bigger. So rather than the small reward of, I'll just DM my friend cuz that's nice. I will give myself a bigger reward that when I do those activities I'm gonna go and sit in the garden or I'm gonna go and have a bath.

That's not my thing, fyi, I get really bored. Um, I do like the hot tub though, cuz it's bigger and I can kind of lull around. Um, Yeah, so the reward needs to be bigger. The second one is give yourself some self-compassion. If you've gone and done that procrastination, don't beat yourself up, cuz you're just gonna keep going down in that circle.

Stop. Imagine you were talking to someone that you love. What would you say to them? You wouldn't go, well, you're a lazy idiot. Like you would be kind and go, don't worry about it. We can do it tomorrow. Um, Break the task down. It's a very practical one, but it's a good one. If it feels overwhelming, then give yourself one step of the many steps to do and the final one, make your normal go-to procrastination even harder.

So log out of things, put your phone on a do not disturb or whatever it might be, and just make that a bit more difficult. Okay. I really hope you find this useful. I really hope you are sharing this with your friends so that they can learn not to beat themselves up because you know what? Running a business is hard.

Being a human sometimes is hard, quite frankly. And one thing that we're really good at is treating ourselves like dirt and beating ourselves up. So today, love on yourself. Be so kind to yourself and actually give yourself some of that self-compassion that you would give to the people that you love. You deserve it.

Okay? Have a wonderful week, and I will see you next week.