BD6: Procrastination

Welcome to Breakdown 6. Today we tackle the old, old, wooden ship of procrastination.

BD is where I teach a coach's secret secret sauce: how to dissect a person's problem so you can give them the solution. Think of it a little bit like making an ice cream cake - I don't just show you the final cake but the recipe and mechanism that got me there. If you can learn this skill then you can start coaching yourself through your challenges and put me firmly out of business.

If you'd like to have a problem of yours BD'd please feel free to just hit reply and let me know (I've currently got 2 in the chamber so send one across if you have one.)

It's always a delight to do one of these and help one of you.

BD posts can get quite (very) long. Let's do this.

Estimated full reading time: 14 minutes.

Estimated reading time of solution: 8 minutes.


Another thing you could help with would be advice on how to be more productive. My problem is that I could work all the time because there is so much to do. So much that even if I manage to accomplish something it feels like it's just a drop in the ocean. It makes me feel guilty to spend time on anything else but work. And when I think about it, I realize I will never be done with work because there will always be more. What makes it worst is that I am not 100% sure I will have a great outcome from my work. I am starting something new - own business in web development. Not only I never had own business before but also I am quite new to web development.


Let's work through this one step at a time.

Remember that how a person describes their problem gives us a huge insight into why this problem is happening. The language we use reveals how our view of the world is constructed by our subconscious. Our words are like little lines of code that bubble up from our programming and help us figure out what's going on internally that we need to address.

What jumps out to me is three main points:

'Even if I manage to accomplish something.' This definitely isn't the most empowering way to talk about your probability of achieving something. Ask yourself, if BD6 felt completely confident in themselves and their ability to achieve, do you think this is how they would speak? It wasn't 'when I achieve' or even 'if I achieve' but 'even if I achieve.' The disempowering then language continues - they didn't talk about when they achieve their goal, or when they get their next deal - it was just 'something.'

So what's creating this disempowering language? It must be BD6's mindsets (think of mindsets as programs on the computer that is your brain) about their work and themselves.The first mindset to understand is that they do not find any consistent joy in their work.

Joy, love and motivation all live in the same house and that sentence above does not sound like the sentence of someone who is pumped to go to work every day. This alone is enough to work below your capacity.

The second mindset is that BD6 is almost certainly too critical of themselves. I can guarantee that there is something they have achieved whilst working towards this and they are probably missing all the awesome things they are doing by comparing themselves to where they 'should be' and then making themselves feel like shit that they are not already there.

We know this not only because a lot of the people in the world have a mindset similar to this but it's confirmed for us with the discussion of guilt later in the paragraph. We need to make sure that we cover this base when we are giving out our advice.

'I am not 100% sure I will have a great outcome... I am starting something new that I have never done before.'

It's always going to be hard to motivate yourself to do the work to achieve anything if you're not sure it's probable that you can do it. This sounds so ridiculously simple but people constantly underestimate how much our brain craves certainty and the fact that it will move away from things that erode our sense of it.

Our brain likes things to be certain because it will minimise the risk of wasted energy or effort. Fighting against that urge takes rock solid mindsets. It's running uphill against millions of years of evolution. Certainly doable, but speaking from experience it's definitely not easy. If you're not sure you can even achieve something you're going to be demotivated and forcing it the entire time. That's not a great place to achieve anything.

The most disempowering part of this all is that BD6 doesn't think they can achieve this because they doubt themselves, feel like they're not good enough or think that they're not suited for this work. It's one type of disempowering mindset because you think it's just unlikely... it's a whole other ball game to think that it's unlikely because you're not good enough. BD6 probably feels some combination of the three mindsets above and we must make sure we touch on this. This is definitely not the only area of BD6's life that this touches.

'There is so much to do... it feels like a drop in the ocean...I will never be done with work.'

So, the picture we painted above is already pretty disempowering, yet it's this last mindset that really starts to create the bad times. That huge weight that sits on BD6's shoulders and stops them from doing the work they need comes from this little bastard. BD6 feels like they have this huge mass of work to do, that no matter what they do they can never really 'finish' it, that there is more that they could possibly do and it barely feels like there is any point because it's all just 'a drop in the ocean.'

Now - that isn't the happiest picture in a normal person's life... but combine that with a belief that 'I can't achieve anything anyway because I'm not good enough/I doubt myself' - and we see why BD6 is procrastinating so much. They have created a mental model of 'work' which is an infinite merry-go-round of opportunities for BD6 to feel like a failure, to reject themselves and to feel hopeless. It's just one sickening line of disempowering outcomes that'll make BD6 feel like shit. That's why there is no work work work.

It's worth taking a few seconds to really understand how these three mindsets combine to make BD6 feel they way that they do.

These three mindsets mean BD6 sits down to do work and their subconscious brain looks at the probable outcome (feeling like a failure, not doing good work, don't think I can succeed anyway and there being way too much to do, plus it's MY FAULT if it doesn't work) - thinks 'fuck that in the face' - and proceeds to do everything in its power to avoid that incoming wave of negative feelings.

Your subconscious is always moving you away from its understanding of pain and towards its understanding of pleasure. And that's exactly what is happening here.

This then leads BD6 to not doing as much work as they need to, which they then beat themselves up and make themselves feel guilty about, so they then sit down and try harder the next time and the same result happens and they start the guilt all over again, but now it's slightly stronger. This is what is technically known as a 'bad-times-feedback-loop.'

It's really critical to understand how these feedback loops work because they are so common. All mindsets create some form of a feedback loop to make you either feel more and more amazing or feel trapped and stuck because of one of these feedback loops is keeping you there no matter what you feel like you do.

This is no fucking way for a human being to live and we have to ensure that in our solution BD6 can really see that they need to address this head on as it's sucking the joy from their life. Whatever it is is never worth it if it's stealing your joy. End of discussion.

If you notice my language getting intense during me writing the solution, it's for this reason. I'm ensuring that BD6 will address the real root of all of this and go and live the life they that deserve, not doing what most people do which is just rationalise, act like it could be worse and then not doing anything and miss out on the life of their dreams. If you ever see a coach being overly aggressive or mean this is usually why they are doing it.

This BD is a perfect example of why I so rarely discuss tactics with someone. BD6 could go and read all the greatest productivity books (Getting Things Done and Deep Work are about all you need) in the world, take some time management courses and even get a friend to keep them accountable but it wouldn't work, they have too much pain associated with doing what needs to be done. Addressing a bunch of tactics are not going to fix that.

In fact, equipping BD6 with more tactics will probably just lead them to beat themselves up more, because know they know HOW to do it but it's STILL not working.

Our solution needs to focus on not only what's really going on here but making sure that BD6 is able to see that this isn't a tactical answer. A lot of people I've worked with have resisted looking at the deeper reasons that they aren't getting what they want. It's easy to just blame a lack of information or tactics, it's much harder to recognise that you're sabotaging yourself, that this runs deep and that it's gonna take work to move past this.

Remember one of the golden rules of life according to MJ: We are always, always, responsible for the emotions and reality we are living in. It doesn't mean it's our fault, but it's our responsibility.

And without further ado:

Hello Hello Hello!

Welcome BD6.

Firstly, thank you for emailing me. I'm always touched when someone connects with my stuff enough to trust me to help them become more of what they want to be. I love/get off to doing this shit and I'm deeply grateful for you giving me this opportunity.

I want to make this as simple as possible for you so in a nutshell, your challenges that are coming from productivity are not because you don't know the right tactics or because you haven't got the latest app. They will not help you and probably just make you procrastinate more.

The reason that you're not doing what you want to be doing every day is because you don't want to be doing it. Logically you might want it badly, but unfortunately logic doesn't run our life. Emotion does. And emotionally work for you feels like death.

You have a number of mindsets that are causing you to feel the way you are. This means that there is nothing wrong with you at all! It's just that over time you've picked up some mindsets about yourself and your work that are not empowering you. You didn't sit down and decide to have these mindsets, so beating yourself up about them is a waste a time because you're not to blame. Instead, let's just focus on a solution.

A mindset is a law our brain has about how it thinks the world or ourselves functions. It's a story that we have told ourselves so many times and with so much emotional intensity that our brain has automated that story for us and it just happens without us realising. It's just like how when you first learned to drive it was 100 skills you had to do at once, now it's been automated so it's just 'drive the car.' Your stories have been automated in the same way.

Now, these stories go around our brain filtering information, deciding how we should feel and guiding our life whether we like it too or not. You don't have to ask your brain to do this, it's always and will always be deciding what the world means and how you should live in it.

Our mindsets also have a built in piece of programming called confirmation bias.

Whatever mindset you decide to have, your brain will make you feel like it's true. That's a very, very, critical point to understand. You don't have these mindsets because they are true you have them because you only see things that make the feel true. Your brain is filtering out one side of the argument on your behalf so of course, you've come to these conclusions.

Your mindsets have attached pain to you doing this form of work which is why you never get enough done. You think that you're not good enough or not talented enough to do it, you're not sure if it's going to work, you're extremely critical of yourself and there is just too much to do. Your mind looks at the world with this lens, and so when it looks at your work it just sees a wonderful system for you to feel like a failure and feel like shit.

You know what's a shitload easier than dealing with that for 12 hours a day? Watching Netflix, listening to podcasts, doing anything else. You procrastinate either because you're exhausted or because you don't want to do something (which means that you've attached more pain than pleasure to that task.) You're procrastinating because emotionally work=pain for you so your brain is trying to avoid it. Sometimes you even manage to do work but it's painful as hell which just confirms that you should avoid it in the first place!!!

So, if you want to turn this around and become a productivity machine, you need to make a commitment to healing these mindsets no matter the cost. I can't overemphasise how damaging this collection of mindsets will be to your future joy levels if you don't commit to changing them. They will cut you off from the people around you, make you feel like you've been punched in the gut because you're carrying so guilty and you may even fuck up any future children you have and make them feel this way as well.

If you want to avoid that, you need to commit to yourself that no matter the fucking're going to figure this out or die trying. Without that level of commitment, this won't work. Changing these will mean taking a leap of faith in yourself, trusting yourself that even though you're not entirely sure that it's going to work you do it anyway because you believe in yourself. It'll feel strange and new but you have to do it anyway and you need the faith that comes from putting it all on the line.

So how do you change a mindset?

There are a few key principles to changing a mindset. The first to is to realise that these mindsets you have are random. They are not 'part of your personality' you haven't 'always been like that' and you're not 'stuck in this place.' You just have some old programming to uninstall. These mindsets came from your environment growing up, they happened without you consciously deciding them and so we can treat them as arbitrary relics of another time.

This is key to understanding how to change because you will feel like some of these new mindsets are bullshit and you're deluding yourself into believing them. That's because of confirmation bias and the fact your brain is filtering out the other half of the argument. These mindsets have you currently have are fooling you into procrastinating, and the real you feel that are true is NOT because you have created them or seen the truth, but because your mind has made them true like it does with ANY mindset.

There is nothing special about these mindsets and we must treat them as such. I spoke earlier about a leap of faith and this is what I mean: you'll feel that these new mindsets might be just making things up. That's because all mindsets are made up, we are just deciding to choose yours rather than have them chosen for you. Big difference.... Like the difference between joy and pain or resilience and victim or success and failure.

Our mind is going to make laws whether we like it or not, why not take control of that process and empower ourselves? Make sure you understand this before we progress.

So, mindsets work on evidence and repetition. If you say to yourself or other people 'god men are such assholes' enough times and see some evidence that confirms it your brain will very quickly start automatically confirming that sucker and you'll literally only see and remember examples of asshole men once it sees enough evidence. We need to move against this to change a mindset.

So if you want to get rid of a mindset, then you need to 1) Build a better mindset 2) Build an evidence bank for that mindset 3) Get rid of the old mindsets evidence bank 4) Repeat until successfully automating with you.

That's it.

There are 1000 ways to do this as not all evidence is equal, but I'll give you the most simple and straightforward way. (Just a side note: this is why visualisation works because when you visualise you're creating evidence for a new mindset over and over again.)

1) Write out your old story about this mindset:'my old story is I'm critical of myself because.....' and go into as much detail as possible. Keep writing until you feel it's all out. Then look at what you've written down and ask if there was a lawyer present who was addicted to the facts if they would really agree that's what happened. How many other ways could you look at this and if you were going to empower yourself what's just flat out incorrect? REMEMBER: You feel like it's true because of confirmation bias not because it's objective truth, so you get to decide what is true in your own mind.

(PS any of you reading this saying 'BUT I'M SPECIAL MINE REALLY IS TRUE MJ'.... yeahhhhhhhhh about that - that's what confirmation bias does to you and it's why I obsess over finding it in my life.)

2) Write out a new story that is empowering for you: 'my new story is that I feel confident in who I am, that I don't speak down to myself and love myself in all that I do.....' this is where we are building the new mindset. Really go into detail about how you're going to empowering yourself moving forward. This should be at least a paragraph long. Make sure that in both step 1 and 2 you actually write this out by hand and start with the words 'my old story is and my new story is' - this will teach your brain that you are reprogramming it.

3) Go out into the world and actively look for evidence that this new story is true and working. This is the step that people always forget. The put in a new story but then don't look for evidence that it's working. There is a period where you have two mindsets working against each other and because the older one has been around longer if you don't look for evidence for the new mindset the old one will steal your lunch with its confirmation bias. When you see even the SMALLEST SHRED of evidence for the new mindset, you need to focus on it so that your brain sees it. Celebrate the littlest wins and you'll build up momentum to get the biggest wins.

If you want to speed this step up - then ask a really powerful question like 'If I was loving myself even more in this moment: what would I do?' Asking a question like that is a way to create evidence that you love yourself/have a new mindset.

4) Repeat until you don't need to do it anymore. You just have to keep doing it and it will work! You don't do one set of bench press and then get ripped. You have to condition the new behaviours. The good news is that it's really this simple. I personally do these exercise maybe once a fortnight and because I believe in it so strongly now (confirmation bias FTW) I usually just have to write once, but there are PLENTY of times I've had to write it daily for a long time.

That's it. It is that simple. If you just do this enough times it will stick - as long as you keep looking for places where it's working.

Let me know how this helped BD6 and I look forward to seeing you soon,


Ps, how good is ice cream cake?

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