Coffee Talk with Vanessa Michelle | Discipline is the remedy for procrastination and guilt

by Vanessa Michelle

Over the past two months, discipline has been an ongoing theme for me — mostly due to the fact that my task list has been getting longer. The more I have to do, the more I tend to procrastinate. Don’t judge me! (Ha!) This is a serious issue. And I decided two months ago to face this issue head on. 

As an entrepreneur, I have to be extra sensitive about how I delegate my time and prioritize my tasks. Do you experience something similar? Does procrastination show up for you too? Then I bet the need for discipline is real for you too. I was experiencing it on such a high level that I finally had to do something about it.

At the start of my two-month journey, I noticed my resistance toward discipline. Some if it was cause by an overload of duties in one day. Anytime I have too much to do, I get anxious and that makes me stagnate. Sometimes I simply just wanted to go outside and hangout instead of working. I knew that I needed to schedule more time to just do what I wanted. Because resisting my work is never good. I remember journaling these feelings, I was puzzled: Why would I resist something that is so beneficial? Do you ever find yourself resisting? Why, oh why, do we do this?! I should embrace discipline and turn away from procrastination, right? Then again, I guess if I had a list of all the shoulds in my life, I would feel even more guilt (Ha!). So I’m just going to avoid that. 

When I’m not disciplined, I feel guilty for neglecting my responsibilities. I feel like an imposter, because I preach hard work and hustle. So when I’m not working hard and hustling on my work days, I feel like a fake. 

I wanted to get to a point where guilt wasn’t even a factor. If I wanted to be more disciplined, my mind and feelings were going to have to process procrastination differently.

I have an amazing best friend, Avery and he always has certain principles he lives by. One of the principles is “mind shifting.” I quickly realized that if I didn’t shift my mindset and effort my workflow would be compromised. The journey to discipline began. 

In order to start my journey with confidence, I made a ‘discipline habit tracker.’ Whenever I was choosing to be lazy or to procrastinate, I journaled my feelings and other observations. I did this for two months. It gave me an opportunity to slow down, learn, and analyze me, which I had never done before. 

My habit tracker revealed to me the mind shift I needed to make. I realized that, in the same way that we can make ourselves happy by being around family or going for coffee, we can also create sadness. 

Seriously, I mean that. Think about that for a second: We can create happiness and sadness.  I recall one day specifically, in August, when I was journaling during the time that I was choosing to procrastinate. I felt this heavy weight of sadness because I recognized that I was choosing to be lazy — which meant that I wasn’t using the time to contribute to my goals. If you know me, you know how much my goals mean to me, and to think that I was the person stalling my progress was tough. 

But I’m happy that this observation came out of my reflection. I was able to share with a few friends about this interesting duality, and it was really healing for us: Within the same body, I can be and create happiness and sadness. My mindset now? Do the work. You’ll be happy and relaxed afterwards and trust yourself more.

Sometimes situations trigger these emotions, which I totally understand. To combat that, I’m trying to create more situations that trigger happiness. I’ve been deliberate about ‘doing,’ because that’s essentially the remedy to my guilt. 

When you ‘do’ something, how do you feel? I know that ‘doing’ nothing creates a lot of odd energies, especially if ‘nothing’ wasn’t scheduled. I’m the type of person to intentionally schedule nothing. There is a lot of internal affirmation in ‘doing’ good things like reading, seeing friends, or in my case, sticking to my work day as planned — and that gives me the freedom to ‘do’ ‘nothing’ and still feel productive. Feel free to define the ‘good’ for you. 

Being disciplined in ‘doing’ what I love has been the cure to my procrastination and guilt. Even when I don’t ‘feel’ like ‘doing.’ The key is not leaning on feelings alone. When I lean on discipline more than I lean on feelings, I end up doing the things I need to do. The result is satisfying. 

That brings me to an interesting intersection: Discipline has a unique parallel. In one way, it is challenging to practice and implement. Yet discipline never disappoints. It always produces a good result. I always win when I’m disciplined. Yet I resist it. So how did I get better after my observations? I had to get a better understanding of discipline and how I wanted it to influence my life.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “discipline” in a few ways that I picked apart:

Discipline is a trained code of behavior or a way to train oneself to do something in a controlled way, to the point of it being habitual; an activity or experience that provides mental or physical training. 

There’s a lot to consider here, but I summarized the definition as:

 “a trained code of behavior that creates habitual habits after continued effort.”

After realizing that, for me, discipline is action, my next step was implementing a routine of training to adopt a new code of behavior. Every day I trained myself to be more disciplined in my work. At the same time, I even become more discipline in how I was eating. 

This process may seem intense, but all I did was just ‘do.’ That was my only expectation. I added a sweet playlist to my Spotify account that helped me focus. After a few weeks, I started caring less about instant gratification and more about making long-term choices that were beneficial. For example, when I wanted to reschedule my meeting because I was in front of my computer for five hours beforehand, I didn’t listen to that voice. Instead, I stayed disciplined, and it turns out that the meeting was great. The meeting put me one step closer to being a better web developer and my YouTube rebranding has started. 

Taking some out to understand discipline helped me in so many ways. It’s given me more meaning and encouragement. I feel like with understanding I’ve created more empathy and patience for myself. In a way, I’ve given myself permission to grow daily in discipline. 

Is there something you want to do better but don’t fully understand, like being organized or figuring out why you procrastinate more than you’d like? I want to encourage you to really understand why that thing challenges you and, most importantly, have more empathy as you train yourself to be the person you want to be. 

Recently, I had the honor of attending an event where my friend Lindsey Jo Scott spoke. She talked about the things that hold us back from progress. One of those things is making a decision. I realized in that moment that making a decision is the best thing we can do for ourselves. Making an imperfect decision is even better than making a perfect one. I say, give yourself permission to make more imperfect decisions. So often we end up not making a decision at all, and that stunts our growth. 

I want you to think about an idea you have been putting off. What if you went all in? What if you made a decision to execute instead of stalling? What if you executed, despite self-judgement or the unknown? I made a choice to be disciplined by understanding it better and figuring out ways to practice it daily. It can release you from guilt or stagnation and into a path of purpose and empowerment. Cheers!