The two biggest things I hear from women when I ask about their biggest creative challenges are procrastination and overwhelm. (And most also realize that the two contribute to each other!)
You procrastinate because you’re overwhelmed which leads to even less time to do all the things you need to get done which leads to more overwhelm until you’re so buried that you have no idea how or where to start and the hamster wheel keeps on spinning.
Toss into the mix the burden of paying very close attention to what so many other people are doing, all the different options available for you to act on, and the imposter complex and, all of a sudden, you’re face down on the sofa wondering why you ever even started this endeavor in the first place.
Which puts us right back into the overwhelm -> procrastination -> overwhelm cycle.
I know, I know! I get it. I do this too, buuuuuut I’ve figured out a few ways not to let it keep me down. And I promise you it’s possible to find your way to focus — otherwise, every library and gallery in the world would be empty.
Let’s start by talking about what’s really going on here.
You have a big dream for your life. There’s something you want to do, to say, to create for the world. You have a crystal clear vision of what it could look like in your head. You see yourself on stage, changing lives, at your gallery show, signing your books at Barnes & Noble. Yeeeeeeeees. Hello, excitement.
Oh, but then you open your eyes, and you’re back to real life — the laundry, the emails, the dishes. The obligations that don’t involve your super luxurious life of being a creative entrepreneur. (Except that creative entrepreneurs have to do laundry too, it’s just that no one is talking about that on Instagram!)
…enter the overwhelm…
But wait! There is a better way!
Here are three things I want you to pay attention to:
1. You’re trying to have it all figured out RIGHT NOW.
I get it. You’re a planner, a coffee drinker, an avid achiever. You could totally win The Amazing Race. You are so good at getting things done. So good, in fact, that you pride yourself on knowing how to handle any situation — which causes you to completely freeze when you aren’t quite sure how to proceed.
Because, in school, we’re taught that knowing the exact right answer as quickly as possible is the way to win at life. So we train ourselves to do so. But that’s not how creativity works. There’s no way to know what’s coming around every single corner. I don’t even know what I’ll be working on at the end of next week!
What I want you to work on instead is cultivating trust that you’ll figure things out as you go. What’s less intimidating: knowing exactly how to climb a mountain or taking the very first step? Right. First step wins every time. This isn’t about making a massive plan that you stick to no matter what (see #3 below about exhaustion!). It’s about trust and faith and trust and faith and trust and faith. Rinse and repeat.
2. You’re trying to convince yourself to do the wrong work.
Here’s what happens all the time: someone comes to me because they want help growing the business they’ve created to look like the business the internet has told them they should have. They’re completely overwhelmed trying to figure out how to get a newsletter off the ground, set up a routine posting schedule on Instagram, and create an audience big enough to sell thousands of spots in all of the not-yet-created passive income classes they need to build.
And they need help with their procrastination because they completely blame themselves and their lack of motivation for why they haven’t yet moved this forward.
Then I start asking questions:
Do you want to have a content-based marketing system?
Do you want to spend years building your audience to sustain a class-based business model?
Does the idea of creating and following an editorial calendar feel like freedom to you?
(Their answers are usually no, no, and no. Hence why they haven’t gotten started.)
So theeeeeen we can start digging into what they really want, how they can build a business around what they really love to do, and what kind of revenue model might be authentic to them. Hello, enthusiasm. Hello, freedom. Hello, needle being pushed forward. It’s like magic.
What I want you to do with this is to get quiet for a minute. Look at the work you’ve been pushing yourself so hard to do and get honest. Is it what you really want? Does it light you up to spend your time doing this? Does this work feel like freedom? If not, give yourself permission to set that aside (you can always come back to it!) and start exploring what else is out there.
3. You’re exhausted from 1 + 2.
As someone who used to roll her eyes so hard whenever anyone mentioned self-care, I know how hard it is to prioritize our bodies over our ambition. I used to pride myself on my ability to operate right at the brink of burnout, but then I had kids and started thinking about the future of my work and realized that I couldn’t keep going this way.
You can’t wring water from a dried up sponge. An empty well won’t sustain anyone. And those bold, inspired ideas that are going to propel you into bold, inspired action that is going to create momentum in your bold, inspired business aren’t going to happen if you don’t have enough energy to brush your teeth before bed.
You have to step off the hamster wheel if you don’t want to be on the hamster wheel. Even if it feels scary. Even if being able to keep up with the hamster wheel has helped you feel worthy in your life. Because you know that hamster wheel isn’t actually taking you anywhere. And it especially isn’t taking you anywhere you want to go.
There is a whole life waiting for you off the wheel, Sweets. It’s time to try a different way.
So here’s my challenge for this third part: shake up your routines. Figure out if you’re getting enough sleep and then commit to getting more. Try not watching tv for a month and see what happens. Buy an actual alarm clock so you can leave your phone in another room overnight. Ask for more help. Let people help. Say thank you and then revel in how good it feels to be rested. (Oh, and full permission to start here if 1 + 2 seem challenging right now.)
Here’s my thesis: procrastination happens, yes. And I don’t think it’s possible for it to go away completely. Buuuuut I do know that if you’re doing work that is resonant and authentic, if you’re doing it your way, and if you have energy with which to do it, things will flow. They’ll become so much easier than you realize.
Are you willing to believe there’s a better way?
PS. If this resonates, learn my secrets to tapping into the flow, taking creative work to the next level, and diving deeper into your intuition with my free quickstart guide, Tap that Flow. Let’s go yo!