The Everything Else podcast season 3 is here and now featuring on the blog! A podcast dedicated to exploring the world of the so called soft skills.
People often talk about soft skills as the skills of the future, but … what are soft skills anyway? It’s everything that’s not really technical, (like the hard skills) and you don’t really learn about it at school. It’s the way you communicate, your work Ethic, your time management, creativity, leadership skills, flexibility, motivation, thinking disposition, the way you learn… The list is endless, hence the name.
The one about Procrastination
If you’re struggling to get some tasks done, or even begin them, if you have some things on an eternal checklist that you never get to, and the guilt and anxiety start to pile up… tune in to this brand new Episode, where Vera and Mer unpack the truth about #procrastination.
Trust us, this is not something you want to procrastinate!
Mer: Hello hello!
Vera:Soooooooo… we are back!
Mer:Yesssss and it feels so good, for new listeners I’m Mercedes.
Vera: I’m vera.
Mer: And this is Episode 1 of our third season.
Mer: Fuck yeah! third season, I missed you and our recording studio/closet, and you guys on the other side, or the thought of you guys being there. You’ll be happy to know that we’ve changed the format a bit, episodes are going to be shorter- so we can work on our summarizing skills.
Vera: And, in addition to our monthly episodes, we’re going to be releasing weekly 5-minute episodes discussing topics related to skills and culture and also as a new challenge to work on our summarizing skills
Mer: Yeah, random stuff we want to talk about and discuss, and little seeds we want to plant in people’s brains to keep the conversation going. . Alright, announcements aside. let’s get this shit started
Vera: It has been a while, hasn’t it?
Mer: More than I would have liked
Vera: Mmm…because we’ve been meaning to record this for a while now.. yet somehow that never seemed to happen..
Mer: Yeah, we had work and stuff, and vacations, and uhKids and you had that thing, and my dog ate my homework.
Vera: Wait.. don’t say we were procrastinating.
Mer: Caught red-handed
Vera: Procrastinating, putting it off, postponing it. Finding other, more important and urgent stuff to do… so yeah, procrastinating.
Mer:That’s why we thought it would be a good idea to nip this thing in the butt, and make this episode about this: in-your-face procrastination.
Vera: Exactly, because this podcast is our therapy right, who are we kidding.
So.. procrastination. where to start….?
Mer: Just jump into it, don’t procrastinate anymore
Vera: What is it? Well.. many people think of procrastination as a thing of lazy people, or even about poor time management.
Mer: Or living life at the limit, cramming work before deadlines… and on the surface that’s what people talk about when they’re talking about procrastination.
Vera: So.. if you are looking for better time management, you can go to our very first episode. But that is not what we are going to talk about today, is it?
Vera: What are we going to talk about then? Is there something more to procrastination than meets the eye? A lot more.
Mer: When we talk about procrastination you know what we’re talking about, right? we have all procrastinated before- Joseph Ferrari professor at Chicago university has researched procrastination — and he backs this up — we all procrastinate at some point in our lives… BUT 20% of people are chronic procrastinators.
Vera: This number is from 2010 and I think it’s safe to say that it’s increasing. Chronic procrastinators then, they do it consistently and in ways that negatively affect their daily lives, we’ll be talking about both types of procrastination today…
Mer: Something that comes up a lot when we’re talking about procrastination is the concept of yourself as your present self and your future self.
Vera: That’s a great place to start, let’s normalize once and for all that we all have a Present self and a future self.. and many times as we postpone things thinking… I don’t want this right now, fuck this, let future Vera deal with this and not me.
Vera: This conception of yourself as these two beings to understand this acting against your own self-interest, which sounds a little antagonistic or unnatural but it’s a common coping mechanism.
Mer: And these two parts of me have gained many names: Margaret Atwood spoke about this as my want self and should self, Tim Urban calls it the instant gratification monkey and rational decision maker, my should self he says: we should really sit down and make that call, and the monkey’s like nooooo, lets’ find some comfort food and watch funny reels on Instagram.
Vera: Ok, so some people think it’s a question of meeting deadlines, on the surface it is — we’ll talk about this later. But…
Mer: Yup.. you all know that but by now…it’s her invitation to the consulting room.
Vera: You got me there.. have a seat on my divan … Procrastination is an avoidance strategy. It is a symptom that can show up in various mental health issues like ADHD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders… and as a symptom.. we can either tackle it and silence it right away… or listen to it, and what it has to say and what it brings with it.
And this is very important for profound change, because when you hear what the symptom brings in… you can move on to question the motives behind this strategy and then, this understanding will give us tools to stop it as it happens.. even when it feels a bit forced.
Mer: Right, so today we’re going to talk about procrastination not from a time management or productivity perspective, because in essence, procrastination is an emotional management issue.
Vera: More like Emotional regulation.
Mer: What’s the difference?
Vera: Well… I honestly don’t like talking about emotions as something to be managed… there the focus is on control, conducting efficiently.. all emotions are part of what we feel… you will experience them but you can regulate how you go about them and deal with them in more healthy or unhealthy way.
So going back to where the real issue lies — Procrastination is not about productivity. IT is moved by emotions and it protects our emotions.
Mer: Procrastination is the urgency of managing (or avoiding) the immediate moods — the feelings I have around a task: this is what makes it sound like a good idea to alphabetize my spice rack or find out what is the Guinness book of records for the longest hair is, instead of actually getting to the task, I’m avoiding the feelings I have associated with the task — now.. here’s where it gets interesting when we look at the actual emotions I’m trying to avoid. There are some obvious ones: like boredom, and frustration right, I don’t want to do it because it’s boring, it’s a little difficult.
Vera: And when we scratch the surface a bit we start finding the big ones.. anxiety, fear of failure, self-doubt, the foundations of our self worth, And that takes us to self-worth theory.
Mer: Self-worth theory. All yours.
Vera: Doing research for this episode, we ran into this idea that put into words many of the ideas we were circling. Self-worth theory, put together by Covington & Beery in the 70s. basically assumes that the highest human priority is the search for self-acceptance and that self-acceptance is often found in achievement.
Mer: Self-acceptance. There it is again: The endless loop of love
Vera: It is a loop… yeah.. love brings more love, and lack of love brings,well.. other things. So.. this loop means how early experiences of being loved are the basis to learning to love yourself.. and how loving yourself is key to loving others and accepting love from others…
Mer: We always end up here don’t we? no matter what soft skill we talk about, we walk around in circles, and in the end, the bottom line is that behind all our human actions: we just want to be loved, by our mums.
Vera: Very freudian of you Mer. So.. how the hell is this connected to procrastination? Because behind procrastination often lies this false assumption.. as if it were an algorithm… PAW
Mer: In this assumption, my performance is equal to my ability (so whatever I do, or produce — my presentation, e-mail, or project, it will show my ability — and my ability is what equates my self-worth, so if my project sucks, then I have no ability and if I have no ability then I am worth nothing. It seems simplistic.
Vera: But what this looks like varies from person to person, right?. Different social contexts can celebrate different things.. the things celebrated for each family for instance can be different — making money, being an academic, being famous, being good at sports, looking good.
Mer: Sure! each family gives its own connotation to this.. and though many times we tackle things from a professional point of view.. let’s face it, when it comes to self-worth.. family and early experiences are relevant.. because this feeling of self-worth is something that starts building up for you at a very young age, that is why you might want to change this as adults, but it’s not as easy as you’d imagine…
Vera: And early experiences of success matter a lot.. and also expectations from others do too. Having people believing in you, in your potential.. is so important.. but it can also put on lots of weight.. like.. having this idea that I am good at this, counterintuitively puts extra pressure that you should always be good at it, not to lose that place in.
Mer: Like the role you’ve earned.. that fictitious character you’re playing in this movie we call life.
Vera: Exactly it is that… it’s the role we think we have… So that is what is at stake!
Mer: And when we understand what is at stake, my own perception of myself as good, worthy, a success… then procrastination seems like an act of self-preservation.
Vera: A defense mechanism .. and in a healthy dose, We can question how much that would be… but let’s say it … when it’s not extreme… it actually works because you protect yourself against failure, against breaking your notion of self-worth, you protect yourself from questioning your self worth.
Mer: It works until reality kicks in and you have a deadline.. so why do deadlines, when we have them — work — because when the deadline approaches, my possibilities of failure become higher if I don’t hand in my project, so… I get to work. Now, what happens when I don’t have a deadline (like in my personal life, or in starting a project on my own) or when the fear of failure is so big that I miss the deadline.
Vera: Well… there is always that moment, where you either go ahead or get stuck. Where you need to stop the rumination, get that idea out of your head. It’s a moment where you go from avoidance to approach motivation.
Mer: Meaning the reasons why you really want to do this.
Vera: And if you can’t get over it, and it becomes a bit too much, procrastination can really get to mess up your life. In an unhealthy dose, it looks more like an act of self-sabotage, and that is when you need to reach out for help. Because it can be a vicious circle, and can impact a lot of your life and your mental health.
Mer: And it’s a vicious cycle because procrastination brings about more procrastination. Momentary relief is what makes the cycle so vicious, I feel better when I open the fridge and eat that limp leftover carrot. But…the feelings you were trying to avoid will always be there when you get back except now with some extra spices, like self-blame, guilt, shame; what could go wrong right?.
Vera: So… in a concrete example, let’s say we were procrastinating our episode, looking for more and more ideas, to make the best episode ever, but then one day we had to put an end to that, and say… Ok, maybe it’s not the best, but even if it’s not we have a bigger better offer… which is doing it so we can have a third season and connect with our lovely audience.
Mer: Now you… listening on the other side. You know what you’re procrastinating on, you know that thing that has been lurking for days, weeks in your mind — what is it? try to visualize it in the next few minutes. Whatever the task at hand is, There are two forces at work — and they are… desire for success and fear of failure, they are countervailing forces and procrastination wins when the fear of failure is higher than the desire to succeed, so…
Vera: Listen up, everybody! Here is the AHA moment -at least it was for us. If I reduce my fear of failure I can succeed, To do this… I have to move from avoidance motivations to approach motivations. I need to be in contact with the reasons behind.. connect to my real motives to move me.. something that matters more, than just avoiding failure.. something that makes me move past this search for avoidance.
Mer: This is what some researchers call the BBO, you mentioned it earlier — We have to give ourselves the bigger, better offer, something to spark my motivation, something that is better than dwelling in the fear. why am I doing this (project, e-mail, task, )… Why is this important for me — this increases the motivation), and it reduces the stakes AND EXPECTATIONS of my task, (if it’s not the best e-mail anyone has ever written, it’s also going to be fine), and when that happens, I can start acting.
Vera: Because there is a point where procrastination becomes an inevitable part of life… especially when we think about the search for perfection our world proposes.. all these unattainable expectations, predispose us to depressive thinking and anxiety.
And when we are there, we get stuck in a loop. Many times at work this is the logic. I get a goal. I think it needs to be perfect. I set unreal standards… I doubt myself and start talking aggressively to myself… I fear I might not get it right, I start procrastinating to unconsciously protect my self-worth..yet I know I might get worse results if I don’t do it, I get anxious, I start attacking myself for not having done it earlier…
Mer: I Like that you mentioned work because I’d like to add a comment — some of us don’t procrastinate at work, but we procrastinate in our personal lives — the gym, that diet, paying bills, going to the doctor, having that tough conversation with your spouse, getting another job, changing careers: it’s all procrastination at work, that at some point we have to address.
Vera: So, here it is.. our gift to you… some tips for hacking this. This is a tip to deal with procrastination in a healthier way. Not to solve it.. but to reframe it.
Vera: 1. Don’t focus on the volume of output or even the status the output gives you, reduce the stakes and expectations…
Mer: This means don’t focus on how much or how good it is, focus on the value of it, what it means for you, and what it will give you. Reduce the stakes — your performance is not your ability, you can write a crappy song one day and still be a good songwriter, and if you do, you are still worthy because this idea that your performance equals your worth needs to be dismantled.
Vera: 2. One of the main underlying feelings in people who procrastinate is guilt, and Guilt brings Shaaaaaaaaaaaaame. Shame disconnects us, brings us lots of misery basically.
So, compassion would be like procrastination’s kryptonite because compassion is empathy in action. So, talking about compassion, and self-compassion it is time we accept that everyone procrastinates but not everybody is a procrastinator.
Mer: A 2010 study by dr Sirois found that forgiveness for procrastinating (self-compassion) helped to lower procrastination in the following event, you move past your past behaviors instead of being caught up in a circle of guilt and shame. Give yourself a break. say to yourself KINDLY oh, look at me.. procrastinating again, haha, I must be feeling anxious.
Vera: 3. Don’t focus on the end product if it is overwhelming. break it into manageable steps, a clear to-do list.
Mer: And focus on the next immediate action. Ask yourself. what would I do if I were to do it (I’d open my laptop, and open my e-mail browser, I’d press start e e-mail, I’d write “Hello”…) visualization leads to action.
Vera: 4. Place obstacles for yourself, little traps for the instant gratification monkey in you… use technology to block your apps, set focus time aside, set yourself a deadline, find an accountability buddy, don’t buy unhealthy food if that’s your procrastination strategy.
Mer: And that’s it. oh man, It feels so great to have finally done this. I’m going to add a 5th one. Visualize yourself having completed your task, that thing that has been lurking on your mind.. visualize how light and accomplished and relieved you feel, and then — get to it
Vera: Thank you for joining us today, we’ll be back in short soundbites in a week, have a great week, and don’t forget to focus on The Everything Else.
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