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Impostor Syndrome and Procrastination – Part 1

Jul 19, 2021 | Impostor Syndrome

Procrastination and Impostor Syndrome

During a Q&A session in my ‘Identify Your Impostor Type’ Workshop over a month ago, the question of how to deal with procrastination came up.  As I reflected further on the question later, I realised depending on our Impostor Type, we may procrastinate in different ways, which may require different approaches to resolving it. I’ll be speaking about how these different ways of procrastinating are embodied through 4 different Procrastinator Types.

Defining Procrastination

Although many of us are all too familiar with the topic of procrastination, this is the definition I’ll be working from for the rest of this post:

“Procrastination is the act of consistently and unnecessarily delaying or postponing what we believe we should be doing now”

This definition therefore excludes things we don’t deem as important enough to do any time soon, as well as the fact that emergency situations can necessarily interrupt our plans.
When I talk about procrastination, I mean that although we have identified things as important and there seems to be no logical explanation for why we are not doing them, we are still not doing them.

Type 1: The Hater

No matter who we are or what our Impostor Type is, we all come across the occasional task we absolutely hate or very much dislike doing.

If you are faced with such tasks all the time, you may want to spend time reflecting on your lifestyle. If your life consists of constant hard slug tasks, there may need to be a bigger matter to address and coaching, counselling or therapy could help with that.

If you however, you mostly love your life, the tasks that are your responsibility are mostly acceptable and there are only a few dislikes here and there, then the next four ideas are for you.

1. Delegate – If you can, see if you can delegate the task to someone else. Ideally someone who can complete it competently and doesn’t hate it as much as you. But bear in mind, unless you are hiring their services, to be fair, be willing to take on tasks from them that they may want to delegate from time to time too.

2. Sweeten the deal – find a way to combine what you have to do, but hate doing with something you love to do e.g. if you hate doing dishes, do it while you are catching up with a friend over the phone.
Or, complete that really boring admin task, while listening to music you enjoy that isn’t distracting.
Remember though that only certain tasks can truly be multitasked, so if your hated task isn’t one of them, this idea might not be for you.

3. Reward your effort – if it is a task that can’t be multitasked with another task, give yourself something to really look forward to after having completed your task instead.
That way there is a happy ending associated with completion of it, even if the rest of the process was not happy at all.

4. Just do it – in the words of Nike, sometimes, we just need to suck it up and get it done. The dread of doing the task often exaggerates how bad the task actually is. Remember, the sooner you start, the sooner you can finish.


Type 2: The Overwhelmed

This Procrastinator Type is strongly linked with the Superhero and the Soloist Impostor Types.
That’s because this type of procrastination has to do with having too much on your plate for one person, something the Superhero and Soloist know all too well.

This can keep you in a state of consistent low level anxiety which activates your flight or freeze responses.
So you may be procrastinating because everything is a little bit too much for you at the moment.
Here are some ideas that might help if you resonate:

1. Get grounded – if you are experiencing low level anxiety, it’s important to re-establish your sense of psychological safety.
This can happen through grounding activities that calm down your heightened nervous system, such as deep breaths, muscle relaxation, meditation and mindfulness.
Or, you may want to consider counselling or therapy.

2. Take a break – sometimes the best thing you can do to deal with overwhelm is to stop and take a break.
Have a nap, focus on self care, plan something fun for yourself.
It’s hard to problem solve when you feel frazzled, so try and take some time out if you are feeling worn out.
Your mental health deserves looking after.

3. Prioritize – one of the main reasons this type feels overwhelmed is because they don’t know where to start.
Everything seems urgent, and everything seems important.
But the first step to stop procrastinating is to figure out what the real priorities are and work through them, one at a time.
A prioritisation tool that can help, is the Eisenhower Matrix, also known as the Urgent/Important Grid.

4. Delegate – the Superhero and Soloist find it hard to ask for help as their sense of competence is tied to being capable based on their own merit. Yet, part of prioritising is also identifying what can be delegated to someone else.

Are there things overwhelming you that you can outsource to someone else?
If yes, see this act of delegation like a mental declutter/detox that will free up your capacity to act on the tasks you can’t or don’t want to delegate.

Any of these sounding familiar to you already?
There are two more types, I introduce here.

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