How to Avoid Procrastinating When You Feel Overwhelmed

This is a guest post by Lucille Zimmerman. She is a licensed professional counselor and an affiliate faculty professor at Colorado Christian University. She is also the author of the soon-to-be-released book, Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. You can read her blog and follow her on Twitter.

On my morning jogs, I’ve been listening to Michael Hyatt’s new book Platform (unabridged audio edition). In spite of being a tremendous resource, I find myself getting overwhelmed, sometimes even irritated.

Portrait of an Overwhelmed Little Boy - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Imgorthand, Image #16583987

The problem with Michael’s book is that it contains too much information. For instance, the book doesn’t just teach the benefits of Twitter, it tells you how to set up an account, and even what size your personal photograph should be.When describing the video he uses on his speaker page, Mike shares information about the camera, lighting, and microphone. Even though I’ve been building a platform for seven years, I’m overwhelmed.

A few of the book reviews I’ve read had the same complaint: “All of us can’t be Michael Hyatt.” While Michael was running Thomas Nelson some of us were raising kids, going to school, and managing a household. Because Michael excels at platform building, it would be easy to throw his book against the wall and think, “I can’t do it the way he does, so forget it all!”

Feelings of overwhelm, perfectionism, lack of management and organizational skills can cause us to lose motivation and lead to procrastination. Procrastination is a phenomenon in which a person neglects to attend to a necessary responsibility, such as a task or decision, in a timely fashion, often despite their good intentions or inevitable negative and unpleasant.

Simply put, we avoid what’s good for us.

As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I know that “stinkin thinking” causes many of our limitations. We have unrealistic views about self, others, and the world. Perhaps you’ve felt similar feelings of being overwhelmed while building a platform. Here are some tips we can all use in order to avoid procrastination, so make progress toward building our platforms:

  1. Break assignments down. Rather than reworking my entire speaker page, I grabbed the link to a YouTube video of me speaking and inserted it into my webpage. That one small task made me feel better about an overwhelming project.
  2. Change your self-talk. First of all, saying you must do such-and-such makes you feel coerced and pressured. Instead, tell yourself you “get to” or you “want to.”

    Eradicate the word “should” from your vocabulary. All it does is elicit feelings of failure. “I should work on SEO. I should get better software. I should change my comment system to Disqus. I should … I should … I should.”

    Just for fun, when I got home from my jog, I entered my website into HubSpot’s Marketing Grader and was pleasantly surprised by my site’s score. I did that because I wanted to, not because I felt I should.

  3. Give up perfection. One of the strongest links to procrastination is perfectionism. I know people who have talked about making a website for years. Meanwhile time goes by and their platform stalls.
  4. Stop comparing. I’m not Michael Hyatt. I have had an entirely different set of life experiences, skills, and strengths. For instance, he is happiest when he is building and leading, but I’m happiest when I’m connecting with people. I was changing diapers when he was studying business.
  5. Buddy up. My friend Lori called to ask me how I make my YouTube videos. In the past I’ve simply used my iPhone, but since we both wanted to learn to tape interviews on Skype, we set a date to work on it together. Just knowing I’m getting together with a friend turns a task into a treat.
  6. Reward yourself. Psychologists know that reward is a much stronger motivator than punishment. I implement rewards liberally. Sometimes just knowing I’m going to make a cup of coffee spurs me on. When you accomplish a bigger goal, give yourself a nicer reward.

A while back, I noticed that CopyBlogger had a really helpful infographic for breaking out of a creative rut. Many of these same ideas can be used for procrastination.

Question: Has procrastination ever kept you from moving forward? What helped you overcome the problem? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Stacy Voss

    Lucille, such a great post! I never used to procrastinate if I felt overwhelmed, but now it happens all too often (in fact, Platform still sits on my nightstand, mostly read, because I felt overwhelmed). I love the advice you give–it’s relevant and practical. Thanks!!
    ~Stacy Voss

  • Rebecca

    Well the reason why I was asking you did you remember my case because, I have already seen results. He called me on Jan 4th to wish me a happy birthday, and I called him on the 6th to wish him a happy birthday. We had a nice long conversation, and I expressed to him how he made me feel. He apologized over and over. Then after that conversation I didn’t hear from him until around the 8th of Feb. I started calling my phone, and I kept missing his calls because my phone was on silent. Well that third day of him not getting a response from me, he sent me a heartfelt email apologizing again, and saying how much he missed me and wanted to hold me in his arms. At the end of the email he stated that he loved me, in which he has never said those words to me. I still love him also, but its hard now to be with him because I will be moving 5 states away and I don’t want to start something back up with him, knowing we can’t be together. So I just want to thank you High – Dr madurai of maduraitemple@yahoo.com

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  • http://www.yourvibration.com/2862/magical-cure-procrastination/ Sophie Benshitta Maven

    My experience has been that all these “strategies” are one-off, and each time you have to do it again, and again, and again, instead of zapping the root of procrastination, whatever it may be. I have created an energy audio recording, and in the testimonials I have received, the most frequent result people produced is starting to do the things they had been putting off, i.e. procrastinating with.