Mastering Procrastination: Turning Fear into Productivity

I’ve been in this state of metamorphosis for quite a while now where I’ve recognized areas in my life that need improvement and rather than wait on the improvements to magically take place, or rely on something outside of myself to wave a magic wand and *poof* all my desires are made manifest, I’ve been doing the work to get it done. In essence, I’ve been doing some deep inner work to not only improve my career and my business but to also improve my overall wellbeing to become the creative dynamo that I know myself capable of being. This has included taking classes to help improve my business and marketing efforts, expanding my comfort zone and allowing myself to be more transparent about the process. It has also included realizing that I am a procrastinator. As a matter of fact, I’m so good at procrastinating that I work procrastination time into my schedules.

Back in June I attended a talk with Cass McCory who empowered us to see procrastination as a super power which by doing so, makes you 1st aware of the procrastination, but it also helps you navigate that state of being by knowing what exactly is happening, and how we can use it to our benefit. It also helps you avoid the pitfalls of procrastination.

Learning how to reframe procrastination was super helpful, but the buck doesn’t stop there. Part of the power of knowing something about yourself is using that information to figure out why you do it in the first place and also to determine if doing that thing you do, serves your highest good.

One thing I’ve come to realize though, is that there are levels to procrastination and the deeper I dig into it, the more I realize that not all procrastination is made equal. Sure, it all results in you putting off a task for a later time but there are nuances to it.

Procrastination is one of those things that gets a bit of a bad rap, but I don’t think is always a bad thing. Waiting to respond to an email for example gives you time to figure out how to best move forward as opposed to jumping in head first without properly thinking things through and that’s just one way procrastinating can be helpful. I had a client recently who emailed me about something she needed that I wasn’t responsible for. You see, she had been working with two designers and the other designer had the information she was requesting but before I responded which I typically do pretty quickly, I let it sit and it was at the very moment that I decided it’s time to write back, that she emailed me again with a retraction. Waiting can be wise.

One thing I’ve come to realize though, is that there are levels to procrastination and the deeper I dig into it, the more I realize that not all procrastination is made equal. Sure, it all results in you putting off a task for a later time but there are nuances to it. For instance, I’ve learned that I procrastinate when the project is too easy and won’t take too long so I’ll wait until the last minute to complete the work (again, working that time into my schedule). I’ve also found myself procrastinating to avoid dealing with certain clients or situations. A great example happened with a client who worried me so much that I would get anxiety every time my email notification would go off. And although the task I had to complete could have been completed relatively quickly, I found myself avoiding the task so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the person attached to it. On the one hand finishing it early would have ended the relationship quicker, but the thought of having to have a conversation with this particular client gave me the jitters so I put it off until I couldn’t. There are other times when I’ve procrastinated because I was stuck on a particular concept and couldn’t see a way to move forward. But one of the biggest revelations I’ve had is the fact that I sometimes procrastinate because I’m afraid. When I came to this realization it was like a light bulb had gone off and suddenly I could see why there was latency in my career and how it had been driven by fear.

Fear based procrastination can be the most crippling type of procrastination

So how does this show up? For me, it all began with an idea of doing something that I’d never done before: teach people how to hire a graphic designer or illustrator which later manifested itself into my series: Hire Like a Boss. You see, I had had two very specific projects in 2023 that brought me to the realization that, 1 – not only does a client’s budget dictate the type of service they receive but on the flip side, undercharging for my services attracted clients who didn’t align with the way that I typically conduct business and attracted clients who don’t necessarily value my value and 2 – no one is really preparing businesses, regardless of their budget how to hire professionals outside of Fiverr type spaces and how to have conversations with these professionals to bring their projects to life in a painfree, smooth and easy way. No one is teaching people how to actually do this and how to value the service and opinions of the professionals that they choose to work with in a way that doesn’t make their service providers break out in hives. So I remember at the same conference where I sat in on Cass McCory’s procrastination talk, I got a chance to speak with Ilise Benun who is a marketing genius and super generous with her information about my recent experiences as well as my desire to expand my business to work more consistently on financially lucrative projects and how I still enjoyed being the guiding light for my clients who have never worked with a professional before but I could no longer afford to do it at the rate that I was doing it. So she gave me the idea to somehow figure out a way to find balance in my clientele but to also help those who may not be familiar with the ends and outs of hiring a professional and why having a decent budget is important to the type of service that they have access to. It took me until the fall of 2023 to know exactly how I was going to do just that.

With the idea in hand, I got to work writing down episode topics and I even scripted the 1st 6 episodes, and I was bursting at the seams with excitement, ready to do this thing that I felt so strongly and passionately about. But something within me found every excuse under the sun to not sit down and get the recordings done. And with every solution to the issues my mind would raise, it would then come up with another excuse to not get started. Man, I was worried about my hair, my clothes, my accent, making sure the set up was perfect and the lighting was perfect, just all kinds of stuff that didn’t mean squat at the end of the day. My husband kept asking me, “when I was going to get started?” And it wasn’t until I became aware that I was making all these excuses that I questioned why I was doing it in the first place.

It all boiled down to fear.

This was new territory. Who am I to give advice to people about hiring a graphic designer or illustrator? But then I reminded myself, “lady, you’re the person who really wants to see people succeed and is tired of taking clients who don’t really value your experience and expertise.” Period. I was afraid of being judged and being seen. I was downright scared. And the way the universe tends to work, around the time that I was coming out of this self imposed funk, I was seeing videos and all kinds of content nudging me to get the thing done. I remember seeing a video with singer Tank who was talking about working with a producer and Tank was wanting to make this song or video or whatever it was, absolutely perfect and somebody told him, “man you’re looking at it like an artist, just do it. It’s people out here far less qualified, far less talented doing it and making it work, just do the things you need to do and don’t worry about it.” Ok, universe, I hear ya. I was definitely overthinking the situation and in doing so, creating a false reality based in fear and I hadn’t even recorded the first video yet.

If you find yourself afraid to move forward or uncomfortable to do something new, do it uncomfortable. Do it because you can’t win it if you ain’t in it.

So what did I do? When I had finally came to the realization that I’m creating this suffering, I went into my laundry room, found myself a shirt and a head wrap. I made sure to plug in the battery to my camera and made sure my mics were charged and I committed to finally recording my first video, but not that night yall…levels…..there are levels lol. But the very next night when my house was quiet and still, I put on my sri yantra t-shirt, wrapped my head up and sat down and got it done. It took me a couple of tries to feel confident and the fear didn’t immediately subside but I did it scared. Hell, I did it BECAUSE I was afraid. I did it to get past that urge to make another excuse to remain in my contentment and non-expansive situation. It was through that discomfort that expansion lie.

If you find yourself afraid to move forward or uncomfortable to do something new, do it uncomfortable. Do it because you can’t win it if you ain’t in it. The way we’ve been wired, we tend to focus on the worst possible outcome, well, rather than ask what’s the worst that can happen, change the question to, what’s the best thing that can come of this? And how likely is that to happen if I don’t do anything? I’ll answer that, it won’t. But if you want something different, you’re going to have to do something different. When it’s all said and done, the only person or influence stopping you from getting from where you are to where you want to be, is you. There’s nothing else and there’s no one else. Make a decision and stand in that decision. Do it scared, do it nervous, do it unsure of yourself or the outcome but do it anyway.

From My Neighbor Totoro

I saw a post of a comic recently where there was an artist who expressed being scared to post her art online and I’ve had conversations with people who have felt that way, hell I’ve felt that way. But you have to do it anyway. There is freedom on the other side of fear. I was watching My Neighbor Totoro not long ago for the hundredth time, and something about it this time, clicked for me. At the beginning of the film, the family (a dad and his two daughters) move into this old home that the Dad jokes about being possibly haunted. The girls, scared of the possibility went into each room hollering. They pulled themselves up and confronted each room scared as all get out. Afraid they may have been, they confronted their fears with yells and laughter even. I say all of that to say you gotta pull yourself up and confront your own fears. Don’t let your life be dictated by a possibility of something not working out. It hasn’t even happened yet and things are just as likely to improve your current situation as they are to go the other way.

Fear based procrastination can be the most crippling type of procrastination but if you’re aware that you’re putting off this task because there’s some part of you who’s afraid to move forward, use that fear as a vehicle to get it done anyway. Use it to say, ok, I’m scared, that must be a sign to stand on business as the kids say. Use that fear as a motivation to get the job done. I remember hearing Illustrator Kaz Windness say something to the effect that if you don’t get your ideas out then inspiration stops tapping you on the shoulder and someone else will do it. So why not let it be you.