(or, Procrastination and How to Overcome It)
Deciding on the topic for this month's blog post took nearly the entire month
I have a loose-leaf notebook brimming with blog post ideas. However, every month, I struggle to decide on a topic to write about. It's been a few years since I last looked at the mind maps of topic ideas in the notebook. One of the mind maps is packed with "creative" prompts, while the other contains potential coaching-related subjects to write about. Above, you can see a portion of the creative mind map, and below, the coaching-related one.
I also have a list of segues to link the creative prompts to the coaching topics.
For example, One creative prompt I have (but you can't see it because I didn't include that part of the mind map) is called "Mom as a Hairdresser" and tied to the subject of "designing your future," which falls under the general category of "Transitions." In this case, I thought about a segue that would compare my mother's frequent change of hair color while she was in "beauty school" to an individual who changed their career goals frequently. This would add some fun to the post while, at the same time, drawing the reader in and then providing some helpful tips for getting the reader's career planning going in the right direction. MY GOAL was to develop at least one possible segue between every creative prompt and every potential blog post topic. Thus far, I have made a TOTAL of three segues, none of which has become a post.
So, what's wrong with me? What keeps me from publishing great blog posts that my readers eagerly await each month?
Is it fear that if I publish a post, it won't be "good enough?" Is it a lack of time? Lack of creativity? Lack of desire? Do I believe I "should" do it but secretly despise the process?
The truth is, it really doesn't matter what the proximal cause of my not writing a post is. What matters is that I have allowed one or more of my axiological (value-based) thinking biases to interfere with me creating the most value for us all. Of course, that suggests that I feel that this blog provides value for more than just me.
Does it provide value for you? Is it worth the time you spend reading it? I suspect that your answer may be: "It depends," based on the topic I have chosen or your particular mood on the day you encounter it, or, well, anything else. And that's OK.
It's even OK if you say "NO. There is no value to me of reading this post."
But then, I must ask you,
"What WOULD be of most value?"
What would make you sign up to receive this and future posts in your inbox (for those of you who aren't currently signed up)?
What do you need or want to know about yourself, your career, your personal relationships, your habits, your foibles, and how to address them?
What can I do for you?
What do you need right now?
What might you need in the future?
To try to provide some value to you in this post, let me get back to the topic at hand.
It's really about procrastination.
I suspect you may have some items on your list that you procrastinate doing. Perhaps it would be helpful to you to know how I try to deal with my tendency toward procrastination, and what has worked for me.
If so, keep reading. If not, say goodbye here (but before you go, PLEASE leave me a comment on what would bring you more value).
I mentioned axiological thinking biases above, and how one or more of mine might lead to one or more "reasons" [actually excuses] for procrastination. Most of us know that there is something going on when we procrastinate, but we may think it's just a personality trait, and there is nothing we can do about it, right?
My tendency toward procrastination (and most likely yours, too) is linked to how I think. Especially to how my subconscious mind impacts the thoughts that occur, which lead to emotions, which lead to behaviors, which lead to outcomes (or, in this case, lack of an outcome). So, if the outcome I am interested in is writing and publishing a monthly blog post, I can analyze the processes that lead to that outcome in reverse, and see where my roadblocks occurred. Armed with that knowledge, I can decide to think differently to get a different behavior to achieve the outcome that I want.
Gee, Alice. That sounds complicated. Give me an example.
OK, here we go...
What you see here is a microcosm (a bit more than 11%) of the summary page from my full Axiogenics VQ assessment report. The entire report contains 36 different items that tell me, for each of the items, whether my lens for that perspective is clear (anything that has a green oval in the center, labeled 100%) or clouded (the oval is not in the center, is not green, and the percent rating is not 100). The clear, green, centered ones are my ASSETS (here you see ONE ASSET), and the others are my BIASES (here you see THREE BIASES). The colors of the non-centered ovals, along with their numbers, and how far away they are from the center, help me to see how unbalanced that perspective is and can give me a hint as to how bothersome it might be in my day-to-day life. However, the impact of any of my biases on my daily life depends a lot upon the context, because some are "triggered" more by certain situations.
So, let's look at these Biases and see if they provide any clues to my tendency toward procrastination, and how the Asset shown here or another one of my assets might help me overcome it.
Look at the first bias above: "Seeking Fulfillment"
The oval is to the left, it's red, at 59%, and the bar is heavily clouded. Because the arrow points to the left, it means I placed the item related to this outcome as undervalued, relative to the scale's standard placement of this item. When I read the description of this perspective, I discover that while there may be "upsides," such as being dependable, dedicated, dogged, and responsible, the "downsides" can be that I feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and over-obligated. Yup, that is often how I feel when I contemplate sitting down to create content.
Do you see? Do you agree?
Now look at the next bias: "Living Purposefully"
In this case, the arrow goes toward the right, the oval is light green, and the number is 91%. This suggests that I overvalue the item that is related to this outcome. At 91%, it would seem as if that shouldn't be such a big deal (since it's close to 100%), but, remember, I told you it all depends upon the context. Over-valuing this perspective suggests that I can't imagine not living in alignment with my purpose. Most of the time, that is a great thing. It gives me the motivation to do what I love: coaching. The "upsides" of this Bias for me include being committed, reliable, responsible, and focused. However, the "downsides" include being uninspired, frustrated, stuck, and unmotivated. Hmmm...that seems pretty accurate when I am struggling to get a new post written.
What about the 3rd bias: Being at Peace?
This may be "the mother of all biases," in my opinion (not necessarily the opinion of the creators of Axiogenics or the VQ profile). I see this perspective as over-valued in the majority of my clients, and it often seems to be a major player. Its "upsides" include being passionate, focused, optimistic, and goal-oriented. But the "downsides" include being perfectionistic, overly demanding, unrealistic, and several more.
So, what happens when I look at these three Biases together?
When I start to contemplate the next blog post, I usually first have trouble deciding on a topic. My subconscious mind tells me that no one will like whatever topic I choose, and I often hear my subconscious mind telling me that I just don't have the time to do all the work of making it perfect. So, I feel frustrated, stuck and then become unmotivated. My tendency toward perfectionism is telling me that what I write needs to be perfect--perfectly aligned with what my readers want to know, written in a witty and interesting fashion, and written quickly, because I don't have time to spend all month working on it, etc. So, overvaluing Being at Peace makes me want everything to be perfect, undervaluing Living Purposefully causes me to feel stuck and frustrated when I realize it will never be perfect, and undervaluing Seeking Fulfillment contributes to the feelings of frustration and overwhelm as I tackle the post despite realizing that I cannot do a perfect job.
There may be other Biases that are contributing to my procrastination. But I think you get the picture of what is going on in my subconscious. The stories that my brain then tells me are that I am not good enough, my efforts will not result in a perfect outcome, and so I get frustrated and have a tendency to drag the process out.
The real question becomes
OK, so what can I do about it?
This is where my ASSETS come in
But before I use my Asset, I have to tell my brain that I don't have to behave in the way that has become a habit.
Yes, I have a CHOICE
This is when I ask myself what is known as The Central Question:
What choice can I make and action can I take in this moment, to create the greatest net value?
By doing this, I open up access to my pre-frontal lobes (the part of the brain that does the highest level of thinking and decision-making), tell myself that I do not have to allow my brain to take me away from what I really want to do, and instead, use my clearest ways of thinking to solve my problem (in this case, writing a blog post).
Then, I find one of my Assets, each of which has questions associated with it that help me to get centered in the clearest ways of thinking associated with these assets. Over the years that I have been using Axiogenics in my practice, I have come to rely upon two of my Assets the most (neither of which is shown here).
The qualities that accompany "Dealing with Uncertainty" as an Asset include such attributes as being discerning, curious, adaptable, and confident (there are many more). Wow, confidence, when applied appropriately, could significantly help me to overcome the "writer's block" showing up whenever I think about the next blog post. If I ask myself the three questions associated with this Asset, my brain is able to reset itself, my unnecessary fear dissipates, and I start to write.
Wow, that sounds miraculous
And, it IS miraculous. Over time, and with intentional practice, we can move consistently from what we call our "B-game" (bias driven) to more consistently play our "A-game" (Asset driven).
So, you may ask, why don't I ALWAYS play my "A-game?" Because I am human, and sometimes my subconscious, which has been in control for the majority of my nearly seven decades of life, entices me to fall back into habits of thought that once were useful, but no longer serve me.
I hope I haven't bored you with this personal depiction of how I use Axiogenics in my everyday life, and I hope that this discussion has helped you to see how it helps me, and how it could possibly help you as you find things in your life that could be better, thinking patterns that could be changed, if only you had access to your best ways of thinking.
Thanks for reading. I value your time and am honored you chose to spend the last few minutes reading this post. I hope it provided value for you. If so, I would appreciate it if you would share it with someone who might also find it of value.
To add more value to your life, ask yourself this question every day: What choice can I make and action can I take in this moment to create the greatest net value? Then take the free VQ (value quotient) assessment to start your journey with Axiogenics, and learn how to consistently play your "A" game.