The Set-Up Stall: Overcoming Procrastination

Posted on: Jun 25, 2020

So you have an idea, an inspiration and you are all fired up. Maybe you are going to start a project, take a course, or begin a new morning practice or workout. 

What do you do first? You create a list of what you need to do to get started and you begin the set-up.  

If you’re anything like me, the set-up takes your focus, as you’re researching the right “stuff” you need, the perfect space, the supplies, etc.  You feel productive, you seem busy, you are getting ready—but you are actually stalling. 

You are protecting yourself from jumping into the work. 

I call this the SETUP STALL:  Busying yourself to keep from getting starting, ruminating as resistance.  It could be perfectionism, and it could be fear. (Or both!) 

I am familiar with this setup stall, but I’ve found helpful ways to get out of it and into the creative work that feeds my soul. 

Recognize your tendencies.

 A trip a few years ago taught me the power of learning as I went. 

I was visiting my home-away-from-home, San Diego and I took my daughter with me.

As we were driving through the quiet city, we noticed a huge scripted ELLE sign on the side of a brick building.  It even looked like the font of my logo.  We circled around, drove by slowly and noticed that it was a bridal boutique- the elle boutique! (I totally love that.) But it is by appointment only and no one was there. 

So I googled, gave them a call and discovered that the boutique was closing the next week. 

My first thought was “What are the odds?” My second was,  “What are they going to need a huge elle sign for if they are closed?”  So I was on a mission to get my carved 4-foot name.   (All the while my daughter thought  I was crazy and would never get it.) But I reminded her “If you don’t ask, the answer is always NO.” 

After many calls with lots of detail, the business owner called me back and we negotiated the purchase of the outdoor sign and an indoor 2-foot sign.  $100 bucks! 

Now keep in mind, I was in San Diego and needed to board a plane and get this baby back to Ohio. ( I have another blog post detailing the journey home with the sign.)  I traveled with my daughter, and I will just say, she was toggling between totally impressed with my ingenuity and completely embarrassed walking next to me through the airport.  

I now have the smaller sign mounted on the wall in my office, but the big one laid in the corner in three pieces for years.

Then, COVID-19 and quarantine happened.  Lo and behold, I repaired it—only gluing my fingers together once and planned to put it on the wall in my home studio.  

In this scenario,  getting my studio “perfect” before starting painting was my setup stall.  I think it took me three weeks to get that sign up on the wall.  I am so happy it is up, but also regret all of the time I spent waiting for the sign to be up before I started painting and shooting videos. 

The time I wasted while trying to make my room perfect delayed a bigger, more important idea. 

 Are you stalling your starting? Are you waiting until things are perfect? 

Get started now, and figure out the rest as you go. 

William James the Father of Psychology said there are three rules to change your life:

1.Start Immediately

2.Do it Flamboyantly

3. No Exceptions

Basically, the best way to get ready is to get going.  You don’t have to feel ready to be ready. After all, excuses for waiting are motivated by fear.  It’s OK to feel fear just move anyway!

Don’t tell yourself you need more time to get organized or lay out a plan.  A lot of that work has already been done.  It is waiting in your subconscious mind so trust it and begin. 

You just have to have enough to get started and you will learn the rest as you go. 

Like the Elle sign, I just started moving, following my gut and taking the most obvious next step.  I didn’t have the perfect path of how I was going to get it home and especially how I was going to get it on my wall.  

I just walked forward. 

I want to follow my creative pursuits this way.  

We need to make good enough enough to begin and create. 

Focus on Starting, Not Accomplishing

I am going to share something that I am not really comfortable admitting…. As I am asking you to be kind with yourself, I am trying to be kind with myself. 

I attempted to do a video almost every single day for the last month and kept stopping myself .

You know why?  Well, first of all, the internet waves are flooded with content and (in particular video content) and if you think about it, everyone is at home, everyone has social media as a potential platform, so who can compete right now bestselling authors, TV Stars and Broadway performers?

I found myself stuck and paralyzed in comparison to others and not starting. 

Then it came to me:  This flooding of the internet cannot sustain itself, and maybe just maybe this is my time to start—and starting is all I need to do. 

I love the Bob Dylan quote: He not busy being born is busy dying! 

And what that means to me is that she who is not creating, growing, and expressing herself is busy dying. 

So how can I keep creating? And how can you? 

Set a Goal that Sounds Fun

So guess what I did,  I said YES and then began preparing again… AKA The Setup Stall. But this time, I was aware and able to limit my stall time. So before I began, as part of my abbreviated stall, I created a little game for myself to show up.  Something colorful and visual. 

My new 50 in 50.  

Some of you may recall my last 50-in- 50.  50 performances (speaking, singing, acting, facilitating) something onstage and in front of people within 50 weeks.  It was a  dabbling experiment to craft my message, take risks, and destabilize myself to grow in my speaking and performing.

My 50 in 50 gave me the clues to find out how good I am (or bad- hee hee). What is resonating and what is not?  It gave me a playground to breakthrough to the edge of my capabilities. It was so helpful to detach from the outcome and move forward with the intention of growing and experimenting. 

So my new 50 in 50 is 50 days of just showing up in my studio.  Painting with no purpose other than to create, to paint.  I spend at least 30 minutes and up to a couple of hours with no agenda other than creating. If I am really feeling risky, I will do a video.  

Keep an eye out for these….  I am releasing them in my Facebook group, Creative Uncovery and I’d love to have you join me there. You can share your feedback and comments, ask questions and join me in the conversation. 

To add joy to the process I have 50 ribbons that I am tying- one creating day at a time.  I have this metal grid that is being filled with colorful threads of progress.  This 50 in 50 is different from my first. 

Where the first 50 in 50 was purposely created to destabilize myself to grow so I could breakthrough to the edge of my capabilities, this one has three goals: show up, start and keep going. 

It’s all for the purpose of detaching from the outcome and just being in the process. 

So I ask you again. What are you starting?

There are two sides I keep hearing: one is saying “produce! this is the best time to be productive and finish projects or write a book!” The other says “We are experiencing a collective trauma and this is a traumatic time for everyone. there is no pressure to produce or create. Just let yourself grieve and rest if you need to.”

I encourage you to see a sort of middle ground—that there can be healing in creating, a healing in process and in showing up for yourself and that creating doesn’t mean overproducing and pushing. It doesn’t have to mean completion. 

It just means showing up. It just means starting.

Are you creating every day? 

What can be your next (even tiny) step?  

Catch yourself in the set-up stall and remember that there is magic in mistakes and you’ll never find out how good you are if you never start. 

P.S. As you may know, I’ve been a coach and confidant for many years, and while I certainly don’t have all the answers I have helped women in a lot of circumstances. I think it’s safe to say that we are all experiencing unique circumstances these days.

I am making myself available for 1:1 Zoom calls.

If you need a sounding board, if you need some encouragement, or if you just want to chat—please feel free to book an hour that works for you, and we’ll spend time together talking about or working through whatever you’d like to focus on.