We abhor it. We’re told it’s one of the biggest things (if not the biggest) that holds us back from our greatness. We’re taught that we should just keep moving, no matter what. We’re inspired by action, and with good reason — movement feels good.
As a society, we value swift and consistent action above all other states of being, which is why I’ve felt like such an incredible failure when I’m not in that state. Can you relate?
Recently, I wrote about one such time, when I experienced a slight (although it felt enormous at the time) case of existential angst. I won’t mince words: it sucked. I felt like I was failing fast and hard, and I was feeling fairly desperate to get myself clear, calm and back in action.
SIDE NOTE: “Successful” and accomplished people have crises, too. I wish “they” would tell you that when you decide to become an entrepreneur, or somewhere along the way. It’s normal. You’re normal. Here’s a great article about riding the wave.
Back to my point (I can’t exactly procrastinate when speaking of the fatality of procrastination, right?): Procrastination is BAD. Action is GOOD.
But what if you’re mis-labeling your inaction?
And what if not all apparent inaction is bad?
procrastination: the act or habit of putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention.
percolation: the gradual spread of information, ideas or feelings through an area, a person or group of people.
I was so frustrated with myself for “procrastinating”, but I was actually percolating. I was simmering, stewing, infusing and exploring. I needed that space and time to allow myself to walk down the path of desire and clarity; to talk with my girlfriends, my man and confidants; to take mini “vacations” from thinking about what to do; to appreciate and savor the fruits of my previous labors; to spend afternoons in the steam room. I didn’t need run in a straight line to nowhere.
How to know the difference:
> Do you know what to do and you’re just not doing it, or are you exploring what to do?
> Do you sense that you need some time and space, or do you sense that you are just stalling?
> Do you sense that no more thinking/feeling/exploring is going to make much difference?
Therein lies your answer.
How to not get stuck percolating:
When you’re cooked, you’re cooked. You’ll know. If you don’t, ask a trusted girlfriend what she thinks, and take your cues from there.
What to do if you’re procrastinating:
Think of an area of your life where you’d like to see more momentum.
Ask yourself: “Am I procrastinating or percolating?”
If you’re procrastinating:
1. Right now (don’t procrastinate!), write down the 3 most important first steps (make sure they’re small enough to do in 15 minutes or less)
2. Do the first step immediately, and the other 2 within 24 hours.
3. Pat yourself on the back and figure out the next 3 steps.
NOTE: Don’t overthink whether or not you have the “right” steps. If you’ve been procrastinating, you just need to get moving. You’ll feel better.
If you’re percolating:
1. Decide that you will have more clarity on Monday evening.
2. Take a vacation this weekend from thinking about it. Each time your mind wanders to this problem/challenge/issue, just tell yourself that you will revisit it on Monday evening.
3. Spend the weekend doing things you enjoy. Enjoyment creates relaxation, and relaxation creates clarity.
4. On Monday evening, revisit the query with a blank slate and see what emerges.
NOTE: “Digging” for solutions in an anxious state is like scrambling to find your car keys when you’re late — your freak-out is only going to increase. Take a break from “digging”, take a taxi, and enjoy the scenery. When you go back to looking, you’ll probably find your keys in the most obvious place.
In the comments below, share your favorite tips for overcoming procrastination or inviting percolation, and let us know how you navigate these waters.