Last week I had a full body check up on my moles. I think this must be in my personal Guiness Book of World Records for “Longest period of procrastination”.

About five years ago my colleague was diagnosed with skin cancer. At that time I said,

“I should get that checked out.”

My colleague told me about the specialist he went. I did a bit of research but you needed a referral from a clinic to get an appointment. I didn’t have a dermatologist…And so, I let it go and life, work, and kids took over for a while.
Every so often I would notice that my moles were changing, especially after the birth of my son three years ago.
I should get checked out.
But nothing happened…
Fast forward to this summer.
A fair skinned friend recommended a clinic she had heard of. But there were some bad reviews about the doc so I let it slide.

I should get checked out.

Fear drives procrastination

The biggest driver of procrastination is fear. Fear takes many forms: fear of failure, fear of lack of perfection, fear of the unknown, fear of challenge.

In my case, my worst case scenario was that I had skin cancer and that I would die, leaving my young children without a mother. When you verbalise your fear that you can begin to decide how realistic it is. All too often our fear nags at us, hiding in the shadows. Well, friends, it is time to bring that fear kicking and screaming into the cold light of day! Fear tends to whither under scrutiny. Its power over us begins to falter.

During a Lean In Circle this month, a member mentioned that one of her accountability actions was to take better care of herself. She would schedule a mammogram and a mole scan.

I should get checked out.

I heard the familiar refrain. I got her referral but this time something was different. I actually made the call.

So what changed?

It just seemed easy to do. The weight of the fear was less than how difficult the task appeared and how scary my worst case scenario was.

I checked the site and made the call straight away.
I didn’t have to ask permission or help from anyone to make the appointment now I run my own business.
I’m competitive! I wanted to be able to say I had done it too (if she can do it so can I!)
I wanted to be free of the burden of the unknown more than I wanted to continue to shield myself from the results.

I got checked out and…

I feel a huge sense of release and relief. I can focus on the necessary action of a simple operation in the winter. I’ve changed my mindset about now annual checks can become a calendar item, a habit rather than a fear.

Next time you find yourself procrastinating, ask yourself these questions:

Coaching questions for procrastination

  • What am I procrastinating over?
  • Why am I procrastinating?
  • What am I afraid of?
  • Why is that fear there?
  • How likely is it that my worst case scenario will come true?
  • What is the best case scenario if my fear is false?

Would love to hear your stories of how you changed your mindset and overcame procrastination.
Write the comments below now – not tomorrow ;-)!

2 thoughts on “Procrastination 

  1. Thanks Jen, you always seem to know when I need a kick in the pants. Or conversely (or maybe perversely), to know when I need to be thrown out of the nest on several issues.

    I too have had a number of medical issues that dragged on for a year. But by March this year — certainly May — I had my National Health Care card, which is what I needed to get to the docs and see what was up. Still, I waited. Waited so long as a matter of fact, my heart literally had to skip a beat or two for me to sit up and say, “Ok! I’ll go today!”

    And yet . . . There was the new insurance issues that I didn’t know — where could I go to research that so I’d look knowledgeable at the hospital? And what hospital should I choose — what could I do to insure that I was picking the best one? My Japanese is terrible, shouldn’t I at least try to learn some medical terms before I tried to talk with a doctor? How would the procedures differ from the ones I had in the US, and is the difference significant? Does distance to the hospital matter? On and on it went until my heart skipped another beat, and I was out of options.

    What I learned is that answering all my questions didn’t’ matter, mainly because the answers only begged more questions which prolonged the decision. Finding the answers and doing the research was the way I was avoiding the obvious — I needed another heart operation — and I really didn’t need a doctor to confirm what I already knew. Yes, the docs did the tests to confirm my suspicions and so they could schedule surgery, but this was my 2nd heart attack, and I know my symptoms intimately. And still, I didn’t act on it.

    So I took the advice of a friend on which hospital to go to, based on the ability of the staff to speak English more than anything else. It didn’t matter that it was on the opposite side of Tokyo. My English-speaking cardiologists were wonderful in stepping me through the process even when it meant spending more of their very precious time with me explaining things in their second language. This was a second operation for me, so in that sense, I was better prepared, but it wasn’t until I was admitted to the hospital that I understood that I had ignored my own experiences with this operation and procedures. Was the procedure different? Not in it’s basic form, although the equipment was different, and the medications are different.

    Now that the operation is over, another set of challenges looms. But somehow, this time I don’t want to disappoint the doctors and nurses who worked so hard to make my hospital stay as pleasant as possible. And, we did have some fun with language.

    So I set a time limit on researching cardiologist closer to home. I would spend no more than two 2-hour online research sessions (I have to see the doc monthly for the next year), and guess what? There’s an English speaking cardiologist within biking distance of my apartment. And I found him in less than 30 minutes. He’s recommended an ob/gyn who also has enough English to get me through those processes with minimal fuss.

    And now, I have to wonder why I risked my life, quite literally, in the name of finding the absolute perfect solution.

    As for your questions:
    What am I procrastinating over?
    Practically everything, but I’m learning that if I schedule time for the things I want to do, I’ll generally do them.

    Why am I procrastinating?
    I think I believe I work better under pressure. But I know from experience that that isn’t true. So I’m using Mary Engelbreit’s painting called “Snap Out Of It” — — to help me push through the times when I think I’m not good enough, I have something else to do, I’ll never be able to understand it etc. etc. Also, if I have a lot of time to do something, and I still don’t do it well, then what was the point? So I tend to let thing pile up until the pressure is on.

    What am I afraid of?
    I think I’m afraid that my work will be seen as lackluster or “normal”. When what I see for myself in my mind’s eye is spectacular.

    Why is that fear there?
    Beats me. I have to think about that one.

    How likely is it that my worst case scenario will come true?
    Very unlikely. My worst case is that the work is a disaster and no one wants it. And that’s simply not the case, ever.

    What is the best case scenario if my fear is false?
    That my work is better than acceptable. And gee, someone thinks enough of it to pay me for it.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story.
      It’s a very honest and moving account.

      I really admire how you have found some renewed focus. Not wanting to let down others can be a valuable motivator for some issues.
      I love that you set the time limit on your research. This is a genius plan for avoiding analysis paralysis that strikes many procrastinators.

      “And that’s simply not the case, ever.”
      Brilliant insight! So often the worst case scenario never happens!

Leave a Reply to jennifershinkaiCancel reply