I was sitting at the hotel lobby table staring at my computer screen. The blinking cursor on my Google Doc causes my right eye to twitch. My mind was blank except for my inner critic saying “you’re already failing–miserably.” I had silenced most of the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee (the voices in my head who have nothing good to say), yet my lack of sleep and desire to be home caused me to want to give up. My book deadline loomed and I didn’t have the luxury of hiding from it.
Traveling for the better part of a month was thrilling. My spring had already included a soul-filling trip to Kenya, a retreat for space-holders in Northern California, and a wedding in Rhode Island. I love to travel, yet hadn’t anticipated the exhaustion I’d feel after so many back-to-back trips. As I had been learning more about myself the last few years, I knew I had a high capacity for going as long as I took care of myself. Until this exact moment, I thought I had been doing just that.
There was no question that I had been focused on staying grounded. Long nights of peaceful sleep, clearing my own energy, not compromising my boundaries, creating time to maximize my brain power, and exploring creativity in new ways through writing and quiet time. So, why did I feel so unproductive? The culprit: my much-needed morning routine had begun to suffer. My workouts felt like I was trying to fit them in instead of feeling spacious. My eating schedule sometimes left me hungry before I went to bed since it was too late to try to eat. And my sitting time had increased to the point that my lower back was feeling the pinch.
As I sat there at this Rhode Island hotel listening to whatever playlist the front desk person had chosen to blast over the sound system, I closed my laptop and flipped open my journal. The words didn’t flow as easily as they normally do, so I began writing whatever was in my head. No judgment, no wondering what others would think if they read these words, no hoping for an epic breakthrough – just words.
When I was done with journaling, I put my head on my husband’s shoulder and asked him for ideas. He suggested a walk, so we packed up and wandered out. It didn’t feel as if I had time for this, yet nothing else was working. Providence isn’t a hopping place on a Sunday, so we stuck with the slow vibe. Hand-in-hand window-shopping, snapping photos of commissioned street murals, smiling silently to passers-by, taking in all the brick architecture.
By the time we arrived back at the hotel, I felt the urge to grab a coffee. A little smile finally crossed my face as I sipped the delightful lavender oat-milk latte and walked back to our original seats. I could feel the energy shift. It was then that I opened my laptop and the words began to pour out. Not that the words were as delicious as my coffee tasted, yet they were words – and I was typing them. Chapter 8 of my book was flowing out of me. And so it went for the next few hours. Motivation had found me–or had I found it?
Waiting for motivation is procrastination.
Have you ever been in a predicament where you know you have something incredibly important to do, yet you find other things to fill your time instead? That client proposal is on your to-do list, yet your kitchen counters are covered in dishes and it feels like clutter in your head. Or that article you need to write must be turned in on time, but your desk is a mess. Or you’re finally in launch mode and everything feels overwhelming so instead of finalizing the copy for the email you need to send out to fill the program, you clean out your email inbox (something you haven’t done in weeks.)
I call this Productive Procrastination. You’re being productive, yet the thing you know you MUST DO is not getting done. Any time I’m in a mode of Productive Procrastination, my husband will find me washing dishes or even organizing my closet and immediately ask me what big to-do list item I’m avoiding. (How does he always know?)
On the other end of the spectrum is Pointless Procrastination. That’s when you wander around your house moping around and complaining that you have something to do but you don’t do anything. Or doom-scroll through social media looking at everyone else’s successes causing you to go deeper into the dark hole of gloom. Or sit on your couch binging your favorite series because you know staring at your computer screen doing nothing will feel even more pointless.
Procrastination isn’t wrong or bad, we just have to make sure we’re not pretending to wait for motivation. If procrastination is delaying or postponing the inevitable, why are we pushing off the inevitable? At some point, we’ll have to get it done (unless it shouldn’t be on our list in the first place, but that would mean we could just delete it and move on). Well, I brought this up with a mentor of mine recently and his response shifted my whole perspective: “Procrastination is unprocessed emotion.”
As I started looking at why I kept procrastinating the writing of my book (for 6+ years), I saw the answer almost immediately. A vision of a reader writing a bad review about my book popped in and I felt tears spring to my eyes. I had been working for years on layers and layers of unprocessed emotions and limiting beliefs. How was that still in there causing me to delay my writing?
As soon as I said it out loud, my energy shifted around my writing schedule. I knew that both Productive Procrastination and Pointless Procrastination were keeping me from the success of being a published author. I was delaying the inevitability of someone writing a bad review while also delaying my message getting into the right hands. Because I was focused on what could go wrong, I couldn’t focus on what would go well. Because I had this unprocessed emotion inside of me, I wasn’t allowing myself to show up fully for the people who needed to read what I was writing. It all came down to my true intention.
When I first started writing the book that would eventually become this one, I read almost every book about writing books and finding the motivation to do so. I followed authors on all the social media platforms so I could see how they did it. I gobbled up every bit of advice anyone was willing to share. I asked lots of questions and listened intently to all of their answers. I listened to podcasts about writing books and even looked at every Instagram post tagged #authorlife. I saw how some authors woke up at 3am to write during the magical hours since the energy of the world was quieter and they could think clearly. Others got away to an Airbnb for days and weeks at a time without connection to the rest of the world to stay on track. Still others waited for motivation to strike so they could get the words out of their heads. The funny thing about motivation is that you can do literally everything in your power to get motivated, yet motivation might not show up. Motivation, at its best, is elusive.
When I started running in my mid-20s, I wasn’t super motivated. I didn’t run to keep me in shape, I ran so my brain would stay steady and calm. I found that I had to run in order for everyone around me to believe I was a stable person. In order to keep from procrastinating each morning, I would put my shoes next to my bed and wear my running clothes as sleepwear. When the alarm went off at 5am, I hit the trail. By the time I got home, I was motivated to rock the day. I didn’t wait for motivation, I set an intention and motivation followed.
Waiting for motivation is procrastination.
Over the years, I’ve had so many conversations with people who have big dreams of starting their own business, getting paid to speak, and sharing their message with the world. I can see their excitement and feel their desire, yet something stops them from doing it. These aren’t conversations I have once or twice, these people come to me over and over sharing their dreams and then waiting for the motivation to make them a reality. They’re procrastinating instead of setting an intention. They’re so comfortable in the job they don’t love, getting a salary that barely supports their family, and finding excuses for why they can’t do what they know will be life-changing.
Catie and I had this conversation more times than I can count over the course of 10 years. She knew she couldn’t stay in her job much longer and was falling behind on her bills. Catie was working more than 60 hours a week, pushing her mind and body past the point of exhaustion, and then would get pulled into meetings where she was told she wasn’t doing enough. As we talked through what she could do, I finally got up the courage to say what I’d been thinking for years. “If you keep complaining about this and you don’t do anything, I can’t be here for you anymore. Watching you keep yourself miserable is no fun and I’ll have to stop being your friend.”
I wasn’t telling her to work with me, I just knew I had to put up a boundary if I didn’t see any action. I’m not available for complaining without action. This conversation became the turning point for her. She showed up at the Brilliant Rebels Retreat and within a few months, she had built her own book of business up to the point that she gave her resignation. Just 6 months after making the original decision, she had more than replaced her previous income with much more on the way.
Last week, I got this message from Catie after hearing about her most recent win: “If we hadn’t done this work together, it would have taken me so much longer to know when to make these shifts.”
INTENTION + ACTION = MOTIVATION
Catie stopped waiting and took action with intention. Sure, she could have waited a few more years and made it easier, yet she knew she’d be even more miserable if she kept waiting. She didn’t feel like she could do it, yet with support and love, anything is possible if you truly want it.
Motivation isn’t elusive. Motivation doesn’t come from some unknown source or whatever combination of perfect sleep, eating, and mindset. Motivation happens because we set an intention and take action. If you’re waiting for motivation to show up, you’re just procrastinating. So, how can you get motivated if you’re not feeling it?
FIND MOTIVATION NOW
Sometimes motivation comes from changing your scenery, shifting your mindset, or resetting your energy system. Instead of Productive Procrastination or Pointless Procrastination, here are some of my favorite ways to find motivation to get shit done. Try one or a mix of the following and leave a comment below with your favorite way to stop procrastinating.
1. Turn off your devices. As Anne Lamott says, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” Put away your screens and grab your journal. Allow yourself to unplug for a bit and see what shifts.
2. Check in with your energy system. Maybe you need to move your body, clear your head, meditate, or take a break. Allow yourself the grace to get clear before you move forward.
3. Find your tribe. This was why I built The Brilliant Rebellion. Find the people who will support you in getting clear on what’s standing between you and motivation.
4. Ask yourself why. Why are you procrastinating? Do you need a break or are you just delaying the inevitable? Allow yourself to see the truth and make a shift.
5. Change your space. Getting out of your office, your home, or your city can sometimes be the catalyst for motivation. Take action by shifting your perspective and hit up a coffee shop, coworking space, or your favorite spot to focus.
6. Call a friend or mentor. Who has your back no matter what? They’re not going to try to fix it for you, but you can allow yourself to vent before taking action.
7. Scream into a pillow. Sometimes we have trapped or unprocessed emotions stuck in our body and allowing yourself to let them out will make room for you to find motivation. Punch your bed pillows, scream, run around in a circle, throw a temper tantrum, or do some breathwork & toning. See what comes out!
8. Clear your calendar. Look at what’s on your calendar for today – can it shift to tomorrow or next week? Allow yourself the space to find intention so you can get back on track.
9. Take a nap. When kids get cranky, they are either hungry or need a nap. You’re a human and naps are magical. Grab a snack and then lay down for a bit. A 30-minute nap may be just the ticket.
10. Start. Instead of procrastinating one more minute, start something. Start working on that business idea, create a vision board, set up a meeting with someone who can support you, and do something – anything.
Motivation follows intention & action. What will YOU do to stop procrastinating and start motivating?
I’m walking alongside you as I finish writing my book, Brilliant Rebel – Do The Work You’re Really Here To Do (in your hands starting January 9, 2024!) Tell me how I can support you – or check out our upcoming Experiences & come play with me in person. I’m so here to help you make your dreams a reality.