Mindset

How Procrastination Can Lead to Your Best Work

Because sometimes, procrastination isn't procrastination.

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Procrastination has gotten a bad rap. And, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the badness of it, and to browbeat ourselves over it. I get it. I’m an experienced perpetrator, judge and jury when it comes to the subject of procrastination, often handing down my own verdict: Bad Writer! 

As I’ve mentioned here I’ve been working on a memoir. And, for a while it was simply pouring out of me.

Until it wasn’t. It’s like the river of ideas just stopped flowing. I fell into what most people would call the abyss of procrastination, which kind of fascinated me, to be honest. I'd start by beating myself up, then by trying to pep myself up and then just giving up. It was a cycle that went on for days.

Then I realized, I was talking about the story with everyone I know, flushing out an idea for a title, discussing through lines, themes and what was underneath certain scenes, asking my family about specific events from childhood, clarifying my memory. The fact is, I’m thinking about this memoir all the time, like a hundred times a day. Also, I read some books about writing memoirs and connected with other memoirists to discuss various aspects of the genre.

That’s when it hit me. This is my process, not my procrastination. And, not just about writing. This is the way process shows up in every area of my life. 

So, when isn’t procrastination, procrastination? When it’s part of process.

The truth is, I noodle. And, I noodle, and then I noodle some more. Then, the pieces start to fit into place, like a mystery puzzle when you don’t exactly know what it’s going to look like completed. At that point, often the project really cranks, like it has a mind of its own, until it's a little jewel of creation. It becomes the product of what I now call Productive Procrastination.

Ah, there’s a reframe!

I think this new recognition of procrastination deserves some love here. Productive procrastinating can actually be very helpful.

I ran across three TED Talks recently that sparked more thought along these lines.

One of my favorite TED Talks, "Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator", Tim Urban talks about what happens when we procrastinate and how the "instant gratification monkey mind" takes the wheel, involving us in everything except what we're wanting to get done. Fellow procrastinators, this talk is a must-see. It's hilarious and my guess is you'll see yourself in what he describes. 

I say the monkey mind can be a great friend to creative productive procrastination.

In a fascinating TED Talk, “The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers,” psychologist Adam Grant concluded that some of the most original and creative thinkers procrastinate, they incubate. “Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in non-linear ways, to make unexpected leaps.” He says, “Procrastination can be a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue for creativity." As a result of this process, "some of most creative people are fast to start and slow to finish." Yes!

The creative process is not rational, “the true essence of creativity is unexpectedness.”

That really takes the pressure off. Some of the most brilliant people I know are 11th hour geniuses. No matter how much time they have, they continually pull off brilliance at the last minute.

Author Manoush Zomorodi in her TED Talk “How Boredom Can Lead to Brilliant Ideas,” says, when you engage in mundane tasks you enter “default mode. Your body goes on autopilot and your brain gets busy forming new neural connections that connect ideas and solve problems.” You can probably recall times when THE idea or solution or word or thing came to you while you were doing something mundane, or by rote, like driving or taking a shower. Not that you should be bored while you’re driving, but your body is on autopilot so your mind can wander somewhat.

So, here are some ways to be a Productive Procrastinator:

  • Get bored. Do nothing. Stare at the wall. And...
  • Be still and just think. That’s it. Just noodle. Don’t take notes, don’t try and catch a thought. Just allow your mind to travel. Set a timer if you want to. Know that you’ll remember what you’re supposed to remember.

    “You call it procrastinating, I call it thinking.” Aaron Sorkin

  • Engage is some mundane, autopilot tasks: laundry, dishes, mow the lawn, any by-rote physical task.
  • Allow your imagination to take flight. This time take notes. No editing. No judging. Just free associate, mind to paper.
  • Be in nature. Being around such alive energy, it’s definitely where I do some of my best noodling.
  • Idea-storm, word-storm and brainstorm with others.
  • Keep trying new ideas and fresh ways to look at things. Sometimes it’ll take several passes before it’s the winner.
  • Know that “bad” ideas are simply pre-great ideas.

Remember, reflection is the Productive Procrastinator’s secret weapon. It's how ideas germinate and generate.

Then, put your project on your dance card. Make an appointment with yourself to get back to work on moving your project forward.

And, relax. There will be plenty of time to procrastinate again!


Mastering The Art of Fear

 How to allow fear to work for you instead of against you.

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Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash 

By Cindy Yantis

I think about fear a lot. I mean, at times we all do, right? Lately it's been a very loud companion as I dig deeper into writing my memoir. No matter the situation, whenever it shows up I run the gamut in my relationship with fear. I see it, dread it, fight it, am pissed off at it, run from it, cry with it and am utterly fascinated by it for the never-ending lessons and conversations that derive from it. 

Recently I listened to Linda Sivertsen's Beautiful Writers Podcast when she and guest co-host, Martha Beck interviewed author Glennon Doyle. They were discussing Glennon's extremely raw bestselling memoir, LOVE WARRIOR, which is sitting next in my Kindle queue. I'm an admirer of all three women and their work. This was a great interview where they delved into a wide range of topics centering on their commitments to being completely truthful in the expression of their stories and the way that stretched and freed them.

I was listening in my car and suddenly realized I kept exhaling, loudly, and my whole body was vibrating, my stomach like the engine room of the Titanic. Honestly, their conversation scared the sh*t out of me as I wade tender-footed into the pool of my own stories, uncovering little places where I've been hiding, often in plain sight, fearful of how it might be received. It was big. And, it couldn't have come at a more opportune time because this fear of expressing my deep truths to someone other than my cats, often has me paralyzed. 

When I sat feeling the bigness, what I discovered led to a more expansive aha: this engine in my belly, this fire that made me exhale like a dragon, is a fuel, an ammunition if you will, like I haven't experienced in a long time. Like it goes deep and wide, echoing back decades, the kind of echo you hear in canyons and see when you look at your reflection in a house of mirrors. The truth is, this reverberation has been growing louder for a while now.

[As an aside, although it's not really an aside because it's such a big part of my story, I've been on a 30-day cleanse, eating only clean food. The intense vibration I felt I couldn't feel before because I was numbing out on an addiction to sugar and overeating. Now, I could actually FEEL the raw fear in my belly which turned into food for my soul and fuel for my work when before I was feeding emotions that numbed me from feeling anything else. It feels incredible, honestly.] 

I had lunch with a friend recently and we got into a great discussion about fear. He said he believes fear drives everything, good and bad. It's a constant no matter what. I think there's truth to that.

And, it got me thinking about how mastering fear rather than fighting or trying to conquer it might turn fear into an ally instead of an opponent. It's like mastering an art form; at times you feel the art might kill you, until you reach a place of working with the art, willing the art, arriving at the mastery of the art. Could it be the same with fear? 

The famed music producer Jimmy Iovine in HBO'S THE DEFIANT ONES said things turned the corner for him early in his career when "fear became a tailwind rather than a headwind." What a game-changing shift in mindset! When fear is a headwind, getting in your way, it can be so strong that it keeps you in place, stagnant, stuck or pushes you entirely away from what you want. It can feel like fear has a power of its own.

When fear is fuel for intention it's the tailwind that catapults you forward. Gary Zukav said in SEAT OF THE SOUL, "Every action, thought and feeling is motivated by intention...your intention creates your reality." When intention is aligned with your fear-turned-into-fuel it's a very powerful forward momentum.

The game-changer is the knowledge that we are the ones controlling our fear, not the other way around. 

I had a friend a few years ago who used to say when she was afraid of doing something it made her feel truly alive, to go into the fear and do it anyway. 

That can be called many things: courage, bravery, boldness. They all give fear a new role in the game. 

Invite fear to be your partner, to work with you instead of against you. Is it a fear of rejection or of failure or of success that you have? If you take fear by the hand and move forward with it into each of those arenas, you take control and allow fear to morph and transform into passion and action.

Put your fears, as kindling, into the fire of your own engine. Then, just watch what happens. It could create the tailwind you've been waiting for. 

 


These Words Can Change Your Mindset

 

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By Cindy Yantis

I recently reconnected with an old friend with whom I'd been out of touch for several years. She's going through a challenging transition which includes selling her home, something she doesn't want to do, but has to. Interestingly, I went through a similar transition at about the same time we'd last spoken. So, the timing of our phone reconnect all of sudden seemed rather divinely directed. I shared something with her that someone said to me during that time that shifted everything for me. And, when I said the words, she had a very similar reaction.

It got me thinking about how much words, when you hear them at the right time, can shift mindset in an instant.

From a place of boy-have-I-been-there, I shared my experience with her. I was laid off in 2008 and was out of steady work for over two years. I was in a daily struggle to try and keep my house. During that time, my friend and financial advisor, Lisa Gould, was a lifeline of truth. We often discussed various alternatives and on this particular phone call it was a brass tacks breakdown of what it would take for me to, in fact, hang on to the house. And, it literally felt like hanging on for dear life. I loved that house and my identity was ingrained with being its owner, making every little inch of it mine and sharing it with others. It gave my life a meaning that came from years of creating the meaning, by habit, by stories about the American Dream and that home ownership was an integral part of being a successful adult. I felt like a failure if I couldn't keep my home. 

When I discussed all of this with Lisa, during the brass tacks chat, she said, "Wouldn't you rather set yourself up for success than protect yourself from failure?" 

Wait, what? Say that again, I said. 

"Wouldn't you rather set yourself up for success than protect yourself from failure?" 

I still remember where I was sitting when I heard those words. Literally everything shifted in my body, my face felt flush and I felt alive, like I had choices. And, what shifted was my mindset.

And, the reason it made such an impact in that moment, is that I was ready to hear it, to receive and to incorporate it. That's when mindset shift happens. You hear or read something just at the moment when you're ready. It wasn't until she said it that I saw that's exactly what I'd been doing: trying like crazy to protect myself from failure.

Protecting yourself from failure is looking over your shoulder, stopping the bleeding with a bandaid that doesn't hold, being in a constant state of shame for fear of what others might think and always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's painful and a self-generating cycle of doom. You feel like a loser.

Because here's the thing, since what you focus on expands (another phrase that's a true mindset shifter), protecting yourself from failure focuses your attention on the impending failure. 

Setting yourself up for success is looking forward, cutting your losses and moving on so they're not shackles holding you down. It's knowing that your circumstances don't define you, it's what you do with and about the circumstances, that do. Setting yourself up for success becomes all about intention. When you focus on your intentions for success, then success expands. 

Gary Zukav in The Seat of Soul said, "You create your reality with your intentions." So, if your intention is to protect from failing, then you'll be in that state. And, if your intention is to continually be serving your highest good with your choices which lead to success, then you'll be living in that state. 

Well, that changed everything for me at that time. Literally in that moment, my home became a house, brick and mortar. It removed the emotion which is what was keeping me so attached. The emotion is what linked to the shame and feeling of failure. In a success mindset, it became a transaction that freed me to rebuild. Was it hard? You bet. Short selling my house was a huge financial hit. But, I recognize it as a moment in my life, a circumstance I went through. Once it was done it cut the chains that held me back, in so many ways that went beyond selling the house. Because when your mindset is changed it effects everything.

I remind myself often of Lisa's words. And, when I find myself in a conversation like I had with my old friend, I share them as well. With life's ebbs and flows, this phrase has ongoing benefits in my life. It's one of my mantras now.

Whenever I see Lisa I tell her how profound it was and that it needs to be the subtitle of her book! 

What words or phrases have shifted your mindset? Make them a mantra and share them with others. It's the best way to not only expand your own life, but expand and raise the collective consciousness as well.