If you’re anything like me, your brain assumes the secret to productivity is in the “how-to” and the tactics.
It constantly seeks out the best strategies in hopes of keeping procrastination at bay and getting things done.
And while your brain is right on some level – the steps you take are certainly important when it comes to your productivity – they’re not the secret.
They’re not the thing that will get you moving forward on your goals.
So what is that thing?
What is the secret to taking action and checking things off your list?
That’s exactly what we’re talking about on episode 104 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast.
You can listen to the episode above, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:
Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.
In This Episode, You Will Discover…
- The impact of your emotions on your productivity levels
- The importance of processing emotion to move forward on your goals
- How to apply these concepts to your life so you can take action today
Links From The Podcast
- Sign up for your free consultation with me here
- Learn my top 6 strategies to boost your focus and concentration (free training)
- Get the top 10 tips to work with your ADHD brain (free ebook!)
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Episode #104: How to Solve for Procrastination & Boost Your Productivity Now (Transcript)
You’re listening to the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast with Paula Engebretson. Episode # 104. Hey, everybody! Welcome to episode 104 of the podcast. How’s it going today? What’s happening with you? Today I am really excited to talk with you about all things productivity and follow-through through a slightly different lens. And that is through the lens of our feelings.
More specifically, we’re going to talk about how our feelings have a surprisingly powerful influence on our productivity levels – on what we produce – as well as what we focus on and whether or not we complete the projects or reach the goals that we’ve set for ourselves. In fact, it’s our feelings that are responsible for pretty much every action we take. Full stop. So when we’re busy being awesome, you better believe that we need to take stock of the emotions fueling those awesome actions each day.
Why are feelings important?
Now here’s the deal. The role of our emotions on our productivity levels is so often overlooked. As I mentioned last week, most of us just want the action steps. Most of us believe that as long as we understand the steps. As long as we get the “how-to,” then we can stick to our plans and reach our goals. But the reality is that we often do know the steps. We know the plan. And yet we’re still not doing the thing.
So last week we talked about the role of our thoughts and this mind-blowing idea that they are optional. We don’t have to think them if they’re not serving us. We don’t have to believe the thought “I don’t want to do this” if it’s not creating the result we want in our lives.
And today we’re taking a deep dive into our feelings. We’re talking about the importance of gaining clarity on your feelings. And how opening up to experiencing a wide range of emotions is truly the secret to the universe. That is the secret to getting things done. Regardless of the systems you have in place, the tactics you use, or your favorite productivity apps, when you’re willing to feel any emotion, that is the true secret to not only staying productive but also creating space for downtime and rest. When you gain the skills to process and allow different feelings – whether they feel good or bad in your body – this is everything.
Negative Emotions Aren’t A Problem
Now as we dig into this topic, I first want to address something that – essentially – most people have never been taught before. And that lesson is that emotions — especially what we might label as negative emotions – sadness, anger, boredom, nervousness — Negative emotions are not a problem to be solved. Instead, they’re is an experience to be had. And I’m going to say that again because it’s so important. When you feel a negative emotion, you don’t need to solve for it. What needs to happen is you feel it and experience it and process it. Because when you do that, then you can release it and move forward.
Now let’s be honest, that is not our usual MO, right? How often is it that we feel anxious or we feel sad or we feel angry, we pause and go “Oh, I notice this vibration in my body that feels tight in my chest and it’s moving fast and it’s quite heavy.” If you’re anything like me before I found coaching and thought work, the answer is a big fat never. I never stopped to think about my feelings or how they actually felt in my body.
Instead, I tried to solve for the feeling by getting away from it as fast as possible. If I was sad, I tried to fix it so I would feel happy right away. If I was angry, I would stuff it down and tell myself that it was fine, that I was fine, and that I should just let it go. So then I was piling shame on top of anger and stuffing everything down. Always a good mix…
If I was feeling bored or restless and I was dreading work or something, I would immediately try to solve for that supposed “problem” by entertaining myself. I’d create a buffer as we talked about last week in between myself and that boredom or that restlessness. I’d scroll on social media or hop on Amazon and buy something I don’t need. Or I’d procrasti-work and do busy work rather than focus on the thing that I thought was boring and allow myself to sit with that boredom.
If you can relate to any of this, please know that you are in good company. So many of us have been taught that emotions are a problem to be solved. Now, it might show up differently depending on the society in which you were raised, and the gender roles you were taught.
For example, if you identify as a female and have been raised within stereotyped feminine gender roles, you probably received messaging and socialization to “smile and be happy.” Don’t show that you’re upset. Don’t be too intense. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t be too emotional. Just be happy. And if you are a male or raised within traditional male gender norms, you might have been taught that it’s not okay to show any kind of vulnerability, whether that’s sadness, insecurity, or fear. All of that is projected as a sign of weakness in the stereotyped masculine roles. So we have a lot of socialization around emotions being a problem.
And then on top of all of that, a lot of the emotions feel terrible! Feeling our feelings – especially the negative ones – feels terrible. So not only have many of us been taught to avoid these emotions, but our brain naturally wants to avoid these negative emotions, too. Because it’s wired to keep us safe, so it thinks it’s doing its job. Thanks, brain.
But here’s the deal. Most of the time when our brain thinks it needs to protect us from experiencing a negative emotion, this is not necessarily the case. Most of the time, we’re not actually in danger. Sure, if there is a fire in your house and you need to get out, you probably want your brain to kick into high gear so you feel the fear and the adrenaline and you get out.
But when you are dreading sending that email asking for time off. Or when you are nervous about sending the new proposal out for feedback from your team. When you are worried about making an offer in your business and facing rejection. These are situations where your brain does not need to kick into high gear and protect you. Instead, these are experiences and emotions to process. We don’t need to run away from the circumstance. We are not actually in physical danger when we send an email asking for vacation time.
So in these situations, rather than running away from the circumstance and putting up a buffer by distracting ourselves. Rather than trying to make ourselves feel better in that exact moment, the secret is being willing to feel and process whatever emotion is coming up for you.
Now, I want to make an important note here, which is if you are working through depression or clinical anxiety. Or if you’ve experienced trauma and need to process and work through these emotions and experiences, this is something that you will want to do with a licensed therapist or a counselor or psychologist. Someone who can be with you and work with you directly. Mental health is so very important, and the more support you can have on your team the better. So if you are experiencing these intense emotions, please make sure you are taking care of yourself. I don’t want you to use this episode against yourself by thinking that you should be able to just process it and experience it on your own. That is not the case. And there are incredible resources and help out there for you.
So with that said, it is very common for us as humans to experience negative emotions. Despite all of the quotes on Pinterest, I don’t think we’re meant to just be happy all of the time. If we were, I don’t think our body would be able to experience all these other emotions. Plus, if you only felt happy all the time, you wouldn’t have the contrast to even know any better. You have to have the negative to recognize and appreciate the positive.
If you have heard my episode on the 50/50 experience, you know that it doesn’t mean anything’s gone wrong when you feel negative emotion. And if you haven’t listened to it, do check it out – it’s episode 77 and I’ll link to it in the show notes. But again, feeling negative emotion is a typical human experience. We feel frustrated. Or we feel annoyed. We feel dread. Or we feel apathy. Maybe we feel some form of fear because we think we’ll get judged or rejected. Maybe we fear the possibility of failure or disappointment. These emotions are pretty common – especially when we are stepping out of our comfort zone and playing a bigger game.
So rather than thinking we need to run from and fix these emotions, we instead need to experience them. Now here’s the deal. This does not feel good. Feeling and processing and experiencing these negative emotions is not a walk in the park. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. But that’s okay. When we allow ourselves to experience these emotions, this is how we expand and grow. Brooke Castillo has a quote, which is discomfort is the currency for your dreams. And I think she’s spot on. We don’t need to run from the discomfort. We need to open up to it, welcome it in, and experience it. So let’s talk about some examples. What do I actually mean by this?
Boredom, Indifference, Apathy
Let’s start with the more subtle emotions, which I think we often end up overlooking. You see, because these subtler emotions don’t draw a lot of attention, they occasionally slip under the radar without us noticing. And suddenly we find ourselves not doing the thing we want to do because we were feeling a little discomfort and our brain subtly convinced us that we better shift gears and do something that feels more enjoyable. So let me give you an example.
Let’s say you are doing some data entry. You need to enter a bunch of numbers from and a handful of different documents into one spreadsheet. If you’re anything like me, this sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry. In fact, it might be less exciting. And to all of my data and number people, you can use your own example of something that equates to this level of excitement.
Let’s say you’ve been working on it for a while, and your mind starts to wander. You’re feeling a restlessness in your body. It feels kind of unsettled in your chest. You notice yourself squirming around in your chair and you feel that urge to click to a different Tab or hop on social media or do virtually anything else to provide a bit of excitement and distraction for your brain.
Now, the emotion I just explained is how I experience boredom. My whole body feels restless. I can feel an unsettled tension in my chest. I have a hard time sitting still, and I keep fidgeting with everything. And even though it’s a subtle emotion. It’s not something intense like fear or grief or rage. My brain doesn’t like it. It’s uncomfortable. It starts thinking there is a problem here. Danger. Clearly, we need to solve for this discomfort.
Now of course, objectively, we know nothing has gone wrong. Nothing needs to be solved. There isn’t actually a problem. I’m just a little bit uncomfortable because I’m thinking something like, “this is so tedious. This is taking too long. I’d rather be doing something else.” Or any other handful of thoughts the create this feeling of boredom in my body.
But when we are not aware of what’s going on. When we don’t recognize that our brain is trying to protect us from something that’s not actually a problem. That’s when we find ourselves getting distracted. That’s when we find ourselves trying to solve for boredom. So rather than doing the task that we’ve scheduled and checking it off the list, we distract ourselves with Instagram.
So what do we do? Well, what I want to offer you today is rather than resisting and avoiding that boredom, that you allow it. What I suggest is that rather than doing something more exciting that scratches the itch of boredom, instead, you simply notice that boredom in your body. You allow it to be there without making it a problem. You breathe through it, and you move forward anyway.
Again, this won’t feel good. But this is the secret. The secret to following through and doing the thing even when you don’t want to is feeling that negative emotion, allowing it to be there, and doing the task anyway. I’m telling you, when you can learn how to do this, you will be amazed at your increase in productivity. Because you won’t allow those feelings of discomfort – whether it’s boredom, apathy, indifference, etcetera – to keep you from doing the things that your executive brain – your prefrontal cortex – decided to do ahead of time.
Dread, Uncertainty, Nervousness
Now, what about slightly more intense emotions? What about feelings like dread or uncertainty or nervousness? What about frustration? Oftentimes the stronger the emotion, the easier it is to recognize. It probably doesn’t slide under the radar quite as easily. But at the same time, I’ve also found the stronger the emotional discomfort, the easier it is to convince ourselves that we should avoid it. The toddler part of our brain has an easier time throwing a tantrum and getting its way.
So this might look like not making a phone call to someone because you think it’s going to be a difficult conversation. So that thought, “this will be a difficult conversation” generates all of this dread in your body ahead of time. And when your body feels dread, your brain wants to avoid whatever it thinks is the cause. So in this situation, it is going to put off picking up the phone and making the call. And since avoiding only prolongs the inevitable … you’re really just prolonging the dread and feeling uncomfortable for a longer amount of time.
Or maybe you set a goal for yourself to get a promotion in your current company by the end of the year. And you want to set up a meeting with your boss to talk with them about this possibility, but you’re feeling super uncertain or anxious about how they will respond. You notice the tightness in your chest. You noticed the sinking feeling down to your stomach. Your brain starts offering all of the different reasons why you should wait to talk with them. In fact, it might even start questioning your decision with different imposter thoughts like “who do you think you are? Why do you think you deserve this promotion?”
If you decide to listen to those thoughts. If you resist feeling the tightness in your chest and the sinking in your stomach. And if you instead decide to push away those feelings and go back to what feels safe, you will probably feel better in the moment. By not setting up the meeting and not asking for the promotion, your brain will chill out because it’s sticking with what is familiar.
However, at the same time, you’re not stepping into the growth you desire. You’re not working toward that goal you set for yourself. So rather than opening up and feeling willing to experience the dread and the potential discomfort of having this conversation with your boss, you’re staying stuck. And while that feels safe in the moment, you’ll likely feel some form of frustration or disappointment in the long run.
So the real question is this – are you willing to feel the dread? Are you willing to feel uncertain or nervous in the moment? Are you willing to feel the tightness in your chest or the sinking sensation or the butterflies in your stomach? Is it worth it for you to feel that emotion NOW so you can move forward toward the goal? Is it worth it to you? You get to decide.
Because that’s the barrier. It’s not that you can’t do it. It’s not that you’re not good enough. The real barrier is that you’re not willing to feel the uncomfortable emotion in your body. Allow it to be there. Breathe into it. And move forward anyway.
Fear, Rejection, Embarrassment
All right. So we talked about the sneaky emotions that often keep us in inaction like boredom, apathy, and indifference. We’ve talked about slightly stronger emotions that hold us back like dread, uncertainty, nervousness, and doubt. But what about the really strong emotions? What about the emotions that we have no problem noticing? We are quite aware of them. In fact, they are often so noticeable that they seem almost paralyzing. These might be feelings of fear, rejection, feeling judged, shame, vulnerability, or embarrassment. You know these feelings too, right?
Well perhaps not surprisingly, if our brain wants to resist feeling an emotion like boredom because it’s too uncomfortable, you better believe it’s going to run away kicking and screaming when the possibility of fear, rejection, shame, or embarrassment or vulnerability comes up. Your toddler brain starts throwing a fit. It’s thinking, “I’m going to take a hard pass on this one. I did NOT sign up for fear or rejection today. NO THANK YOU… I thought I might stick my head out of the cave and see what’s going on. Clearly, this was a mistake. I see lots of scary things out there in the world. I better head back into the cave. It’s best to stick with what’s familiar, and not take any action.”
And for the record, this is usually the conversation that happens in my brain anytime I think about doing some sort of live training or webinar. My brain offers all the thoughts like, “who do you even think you are, Paula Engebretson? Nobody’s going to like this. No one will find it helpful. They’re going to reject everything you say. In fact, I bet nobody will come anyway. Don’t risk rejection. Don’t risk this vulnerability. In fact, here’s the new plan: don’t even put the offer out there in the first place.”
Can you relate to this whatsoever? Am I alone here?
And here’s the deal, just like the other examples we’ve explored, your brain is going to get really sneaky in situations like this. But rather than trying to distract you from boredom by convincing you that you should quickly check Instagram, it’s going to find all the reasons why doing “the thing” is a really bad idea. Your brain is so genuinely uncomfortable with the possibility of stepping outside of your comfort zone, that it’s going to find all the reasons why you should absolutely avoid this option. It will tell you: “there’s not enough time, I don’t know where to start, there’s too much to do, I’m confused, I’m overwhelmed, I need to do all this other stuff first.”
But when you slow down and you start finding solutions to all of those objections. When you realize that you could make the time. When you decide on a place to start. And when you create more clarity and reduce the confusion, you’ll probably find that underneath all of the overwhelm is some flavor of fear. Fear of rejection, embarrassment, shame, judgment, disappointment. Because your brain is so afraid of experiencing that emotion, it’s going to run away.
It is absolutely going to stay safe every single time — unless you have this on your radar. Unless you are aware of it happening and you are willing to open up to the possibility of experiencing that emotion.
Here is an uncomfortable truth. Are you ready for it? Lean in. The secret to growth. The secret to getting things done and making things happen is opening up to these negative emotions. It’s showing your brain that when you’re willing to feel the feelings, it brings you one step closer to living a life that’s in alignment with who you truly are. I’m telling you, once you are willing to do that, nothing can hold you back.
And what’s more, when you open up to the discomfort of growth, and you’re willing to face fear, or rejection, or shame, or whatever your worst-case scenario is, you also open yourself up to feeling even more positive emotion on the other side. You’re expanding your emotional vocabulary. It’s like a pendulum swinging back and forth. The further it reaches on the negative side – the more willing you are to feel uncomfortable – you’ll find it reaches equally as far on the positive. So when you open up to feeling dread or uncertainty or fear from doing something unfamiliar, you also open up to the feelings of accomplishment, confidence, and assurance on the other side. And that’s amazing.
So if you’re feeling uncomfortable this week, and you notice yourself trying to avoid the negative emotions by either distracting yourself with something easy or staying with what’s safe and familiar, I encourage you to pause and take note. What is the thing you’re avoiding right now? What is it that you don’t want to do, and why don’t you want to do it? And how do you think you will feel if you did? What is that negative emotion you don’t want to feel?
Then, I encourage you to be still, drop down into your body, and actually feel that emotion. (Remember, an emotion is a vibration in your body. Your brain offers a thought, which triggers a physical reaction – a vibration in your body. And depending on how it feels, we label it as either a positive or negative emotion.) I encourage you to intentionally drop down into your body, take some slow, deep breaths, and notice how that emotion feels. Maybe you notice it in your chest. Or you notice it in your stomach. Maybe it feels really hot or maybe it feels chilly. Maybe it moves and it expands outward into your arms and legs. Or maybe notice it tight up in your shoulders or your neck or your throat.
Get curious about how that emotion feels. Describe it. Get to know it. Show your brain that you’re willing to experience it. And then take that next step forward and do the thing. When you can learn how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, you will be unstoppable.
All right my friends. That’s going to do it for us this week. And if you know someone who’s ready to increase their productivity and go after their big goals but their feelings might be keeping them stuck, would you be a rockstar and share this episode with them?
Also, if you are a fellow ADHDer or you find yourself struggling with focus and follow-through and you want to learn how to process your emotions, intentionally manage your time, and follow through on your projects and goals, let’s talk. Head to imbusybeingawesome.com/coaching Sign up for a free 45 min consultation with me. We’ll explore where you’re at now, the changes you want to make in your life, and we’ll make a plan to get you taking action. Then we’ll decide whether my 1:1 coaching program is a great fit to help you turn your big goals into reality