Shawna just couldn’t get going on her to-do list. She had financial goals and she had an idea of what she should be doing, but she couldn’t stop procrastinating.
Whenever she thought of the work she needed to do, she’d shut down or find a reason why it wasn’t the right time.
Shawna knew that to get out of the rut she was in, she had to do things differently. She knew that. Still, she did nothing.
Procrastination is one of the biggest killers of goal achievement. I’ve seen this repeatedly in my clients – e.g. “I don’t feel like doing Module 2 of the Master Your Money Mindset course right now. It asks me to look at my past – that’s not going to be easy. I don’t want to do that.”
I get it. I’ve found myself procrastinating on countless occasions, too.
I can’t tell you how many losing stocks and funds I invested in years ago before finally forcing myself to do the research needed to understand the system as well as the investment industry. I had avoided it for years out of fear and embarrassment, even though it was costing me a ton of money to remain ignorant.
GAH! It makes me shake my head just thinking about it.
Addressing the Procrastination Beast
Today, I’m going to tackle the beast head-on by sharing the story of how one of my private coaching clients, Shawna (not her real name; story shared with permission; I’ve changed some details to preserve anonymity) finally moved past debilitating procrastination. My hope is that you will glean some strategies to help you move past procrastination to do what’s necessary to achieve your goals.
Shawna and I have just wrapped up a year-long, 1-on-1 coaching engagement in which we connected by phone every month. Before our calls, she sent me a summary of where she was at and I would send her a series of questions. During our calls, we tackled her biggest pain points, created strategies to help her move forward, and put together a to-do list for the coming month.
Here’s how Shawna described her state of mind at the beginning of our engagement:
When we started working together, I was discouraged, overwhelmed, anxious, and ready to give up. As much as I wanted to work on my finances, I did not know how to go about it. All I saw were tasks accumulating month after month and nothing was getting done. I had been living with my parents since a natural disaster hit and made my house uninhabitable. I had a bunch of debt that was bringing me down and I was still depressed from the breakdown of my marriage.
She looked and sounded defeated.
We got to work. During our first two months of work, we started tackling two of her bigger financial issues – her dependence on her parents and her debt.
Here’s what’s interesting about what happened next. Shawna agreed that the steps we outlined together were good ones. They felt right to her. She knew they would make a difference.
Did she dive in with gusto?
The mindset’s the thing
A pattern quickly emerged: Shawna did the minimum amount of work around a specific task and she’d usually wait until a few days before our next call to get started. In other words, she procrastinated until the deadline, then got only a fraction of the work done.
There were always good excuses involving stress at home, issues with the kids, work demands, and so on.
The bottom line, though, is that she was resisting doing the work.
After a couple of months, I pointed out the pattern. She was dealing with a hefty dose of resistance. We needed a new approach.
Identify the blocks
I started to focus on her mindset. Where was the procrastination coming from?
We drilled down into several layers of “why”: Why are you resisting doing the task? What emotions come up for you when you think about tackling the item on your to-do list? What’s behind your beliefs? Where do they come from?
And that’s where we uncovered a gold mine:
- Resentment that her family members treated her like a young child, despite the fact that she is a mature adult.
- A traumatic event in early childhood that left her feeling stupid, incapable.
- Fear of no longer depending on her family for financial support. She desires full independence, but it’s scary.
- Frustration about being viewed as being financially incapable.
- Worry about losing flexibility if she moved to a different, better-paying job.
- Unwillingness to do tasks that are boring (i.e. manage her finances on a monthly basis). She’s afraid they’ll take a lot of time.
- Feeling unworthy of greater abundance.
- The big picture overwhelms her.
With so many emotional barriers in place, Shawna would be hard-pressed to make progress on any financial goals. Without doing the work on her mindset, no strategy or plan would have made a significant difference in her world.
Challenge your beliefs
Once we had a list of the emotional underpinnings of her blocks, and an understanding of where they came from, we got to work addressing every one of them.
We challenged them directly. For example, I asked Shawna, “Is it true that you’re incapable of learning and achieving important goals? Let’s take a look at your history.” She has a professional degree. Universities don’t give those away for free. Anyone who has her degree had to demonstrate a high level of competence.
We came up with many more examples that demonstrated she is a capable, smart woman. The feeling she has is the result of someone else’s behavior. She had a choice: Either accept the belief as your own or release it and frame new scripts around your capabilities. Shawna wrote out new, positive declarations reinforcing the fact that she is a smart, strong, capable woman and she chooses to release the limiting beliefs from her past.
We did this for every one of the blocks outlined above. In the process, Shawna found her voice. She began advocating for herself and expressing her desires to those closest to her, including her ex-husband. Whenever she felt the negativity from the past bubble up, I had her challenge those beliefs and intentionally repeat her positive scripts to herself.
She started to believe that more, and better, was possible for her.
Identify what you want and choose to have in your life
Sometimes, the hardest thing is to figure out what you want in life. Without this guiding information, you’re walking blindly. You need an idea of where you’re headed and what matters to you to move past procrastination.
One of the fastest ways to uncover this is by creating two columns: What I Don’t Want | What I Want and Choose.
If you’re like the women I work with, you won’t have any difficulty identifying what you don’t want in your life. Here’s a bit of what Shawna identified:
Don’t Want: Be without a cellphone; feel isolated; let fear stop me from making decisions and moving forward with my life; limit myself in activities I want to do because of money.
Do Want & Choose: Reliable phone with a package that costs less than $X/month, tax included; feel connected; make decisions in the face of fear; not have fear stop me – ever; enough money to freely choose the activities I want to engage in.
Once you’ve identified what you want, you can create goals around those items and break down the steps needed to achieve them into small, bite-sized chunks.
Baby steps are essential
Along with her mindset work, we began to identify small steps that Shawna could take to get her life and her finances back on track.
She began to look for a new place for herself and her children.
I gave her tasks that helped to grow her confidence, such as negotiating a cell phone package within her budget (done!) and following up on an unresolved issue with the government in which she was denied benefits (resolved; benefits reinstated).
We created a high level financial plan for her – what to do, in what order.
Shawna started to rack up small wins (outstanding irritants addressed); then big wins (found a terrific apartment for an affordable price).
The key was to continue the mindset reinforcement while tackling small steps.
As the wins accumulate, your confidence grows. That’s when magic happens.
Get an accountability partner
At one point, I asked Shawna to work with an accountability partner. I had someone in mind and I felt the two women would be a great fit.
I did this because I know what it’s like to feel alone in your challenges; as though you’re the only one dealing with a particular issue. It can be demoralizing to face your challenges alone. One of the most powerful things we can do as women is to ask for help and connect with a community of support.
I also know that it’s much easier to accomplish goals when you have built-in accountability and a sounding board.
Within one month of beginning to work with her accountability partner, Shawna sent me the following message:
Asking for help reminds us that we are not alone in our dilemmas and it mirrors solutions and tools that we may have forgotten. Speaking of mirrors, it is the biggest beneficial effect of having an accountability partner. I am so happy you insisted on this and made it part of the homework. Had I known I would move forward like this with an accountability partner, I would have found one a long time ago! Again, it’s sharing with like-minded women who abide by the principles and values you teach in the Women’s Money Group: a space without shame, blame, or judgment.
I actually look forward to doing the work so I can tell her!! We also air out our difficulties with one another and it is always easy to see the solution to a problem that isn’t yours! Thanks again, Doris.”
Want super-charged results? Find a like-minded accountability partner who wants to make similar progress. Then watch how quickly you move forward!
At the end of our engagement, I asked Shawna to send me a summary of where she’s at financially and emotionally after nearly one year of working together on her challenges. Here’s what she wrote:
In our time together, I paid off all my debt, I signed my lease for a new home with my children, I increased my income, I am working with an accountability partner, I got a cellphone plan, I wrote two job selection exams that I am still waiting to hear from, I now have a receipt basket where I keep ALL of my receipts, and I have ten times the amount of money in my bank account than I did when we first started.
I am still tackling my procrastination pattern every day. The difference is that I want to be consistent as I see the benefits of dealing with things straight on.
The second biggest hurdle I faced is my fear and anxiety around investments. I still don’t understand investing, but I remember journalling back in the fall and having panic attacks just at the thought of consulting my statements. Now, that desperate and anxious emotion tied to investments is gone. That is the first step.
The third obstacle I overcame was taking action. Today, my favorite day of the week is Fridays because I always start off with a conversation with my accountability partner and after that I am pumped! I get so much done on that one day it practically makes up for the whole week. You and I also had our coaching sessions once a month, so it was a very productive day.
I was also pleasantly surprised that managing my money in the way you suggested is not as painful as I thought it would be. There is one day of pain for 29 or 30 days of freedom. This is amazing!
I actually don’t recognize myself! I feel much more confident in general. A few months ago, you tackled side hustles in a Women’s Money Group workshop, and unlike in the past with the income exercise, I would feel anxious for any amount above $70,000. The last time we did that exercise, I felt I was deserving and worthy of $100,000. This is also the confidence that allowed me to ask my ex-husband to pay up regarding child support – I was successful.
One underlying change in all of this is that I am able to let go of my scarcity mentality. I trust I will make a better income with my side hustle; I trust I will have a job where my skills and knowledge are rightfully valued, and I no longer get that queasy feeling in my stomach when I desire to spend on myself. YEAH! I feel as though I am always repeating myself, but thank you again.”
- Shine a light on the areas where you’re procrastinating and ask yourself why you’re avoiding those tasks. Find the emotions behind the avoidance. These emotions need to be addressed.
- Challenge your limiting beliefs. Most of them are inherited from your past. It’s time to release them and create new, supportive scripts that serve you well.
- Join forces with an accountability partner. This will significantly speed up your rate of progress.
- Accept that you will always be tempted to procrastinate. Successful people haven’t found a magic solution to eliminate resistance; they understand that it’s part of being human and they do the work anyway.
- Get clear on what you want to accomplish.
- Break down the task into small steps.
- Confidence comes from doing, not from listening or reading. Get a series of small, action-related wins under your belt to build momentum.
Want or need help? Reach out via email. I have one private coaching spot available (I only have space to work with three private coaching clients per year). Email me if you’d like to explore this as an option for you.
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