How to Stop Procrastinating: Creativity, Trust, Timing, and Cycles

How to Stop Procrastinating: Creativity, Trust, Timing, and Cycles

If you want to know how to stop procrastinating, start by zooming out and having the courage to trust your creative cycles and timing.

There’s a BIG shift we’ve been working on in my company for over a year.

It’s quite possibly the biggest change we’ve made in the last 11.5 years since I launched katenorthrup.com.

We’ve been “meaning to” launch it for a while now. It’s been 95% complete for at least 6 months.

And yet, it has not yet been born.

(Though it will be on 8/11 so stay tuned!)

If I followed common business and personal growth mindset tropes, I’d have gone down a deep well of self-flagellation for being such a procrastinator.

But I know better.

I know that if I ask the question of how to stop procrastinating as it relates to this particular project, I’m asking the wrong question.

Sure, resistance can show up as procrastination. Sure, I have some trepidation about this shift.

But there’s a difference between procrastination and trusting the timing of creative cycles.

In our company we practice and teach something called the Upward Cycle of Success.

It has 4 phases that are informed by the 4 seasons, the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle, and the 4 phases of the lunar cycle.

It’s a way to categorize projects that helps you and your team to have abundant harvests without burning out in the process.

Just like in nature, our projects need all 4 seasons in order to grow, be plentiful, and sustainable.

Here are the phases of the Upward Cycle of Success:

Emergence: ideation, planning, getting things going

Visibility: launching, connecting, making visible moves

Culmination: details, analytics, tweaking, wrapping things up

Fertile Void*: research, reflection, coasting, pause

(*Shout-out to Fritz Perls who coined the term Fertile Void as part of the Gestalt psychology movement.)

The problem with the way we work in our culture is that we skip Culmination and the Fertile Void.

We’re trained to move right from planning and initiating to launching right back to planning and initiating and launching. Over and over and over again.

And we wonder why we’re so tired and burned out. We’ve skipped a full half of the seasons necessary for the growth and sustainability of anything in nature.

The planet would not work without autumn and winter and neither should we.

How to Stop Procrastinating: Creativity, Trust, Timing, and Cycles

Some projects take longer in certain phases or seasons than others.

The project we’ve been working on has needed longer Fertile Void and Emergence phases than we had expected.

Having written both of my books right at the end in the final 6-8 weeks before they were due, I happen to know that my creative process is one in which there’s a lot of percolation (Fertile Void and Emergence) and then a shorter Visibility phase where things become materially visible.

Having watched a time-lapse of a seed taking its sweet time rooting down before it sprouts up to be seen above the surface, I know I’m in good company.

If I got sucked into beating myself up for procrastinating, being in resistance or not being ready to launch when we originally planned, that would be A LOT of time and energy wasted that I could have been directing into rest and creativity.

Luckily, I did not get sucked into beating myself up.

I decided to trust the timing that this project had, even if it didn’t align with the timing I thought it would have.

I’ve learned from my friend Nisha Moodley that our businesses have souls of their own and, similar to how as parents we are responsible for supporting our children and keeping them safe but not in control of who they will become in the world, we are here to be in co-creation with our businesses.

This big thing we’ve been working on has taken as long as it has taken.

And I trust that, while I may not ever know all the details as to why, that it needed this timeline to become all of what it was meant to be.No matter what creative pursuit you’re working on, remember that creativity has cycles and seasons.

Our human timelines are just as flawed as we are.

When we do more allowing and less beating ourselves up for our supposed “procrastination” we become a lot more abundant with a lot less friction.

Now, I’d love to hear from you:

What are you working on right now that’s taken longer than you expected? What’s your relationship with procrastination? Was what I shared here today supportive of your ability to trust and let go? Leave a comment and let me know!

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19 comments

  • Hi Kate. Wow. I just posted this week on the Origin FB group.

    I have trade shows coming up… and with the re-emergence into the world I needed to have new jewelry designs ready for my stores to shop from.
    In my standard. process, I gather supplies and fester on them until it’s time to create. Last week, after a year and a half of waiting, I created 70 designs in 2 days. This is like writing a book in 2 days. These designs will be ordered for probably at minimum the next 3-5 years, if not longer. The designs came so fluidly and with minimal effort. I was in this deep creative zone of creation. Creation that I feel really good about too!

    I remember a post or blog you did about this “procrastination” thing a while back. I think you mentioned about the “creative crunch” and to avoid knocking yourself for it because we all work differently and there is no right or wrong way.

    So thank you for the reminder that everything happens on its own schedule and we can just let it be.

    I’m looking forward to the announcement on the 11th. Have a great day Kate!

    • Kate Northrup

      Wow – what a beautiful example of how this works. I love it. So well done and I know your designs will bless so many people’s lives!

  • Love this! Thanks so much. I’m a huge fan 💕

  • Jenni

    Thank you Kate just the affirmation I needed to hear. I’ve been working with my health, been in the Fertile Void for 4 years in many areas of my life because I avoided it for years. It’s taught me to balance my life, which is what I need to know to emerge into a new life as more ME!! Wohoo. It’s taken so long such deep healing of the nervous system…or as long as I’ve needed to learn full surrender, extreme Patience, how to trust the process and now to craft my medicine. So much of my human timeline is related to status quo – oh I’m 34 now and my whole 30s have been recovering I should be… fill in the gap. Who says? Lol. I could be a late bloomer. I think when we wait the foundations can be stronger. I think the Emergence phase will also need to be baby steps for me, titration, when I tried to rush it too early, I burnt out and set myself back. Here’s to nature’s pace!!! There’s no rush when it’s right.

  • Enrika

    Hi Kate, this resonated with me quite a lot as I launched my rebranded business over a year ago and things did not go boom quite as I expected. I had put a lot of thought into what it should look like and had committed to dedicating energy and time to my business and for it to take a sizeable part of my life – I was finishing having my kids and ready to make my business impactful and not just a hobby. So I thought it would be a steady speed onward and upwards. Instead growth has been occurring at glacial speed and in some ways I am still defining how I want my biz to have an impact. The kid/home-life juggle has been real and takes up the majority of my time and energy with a remainder left for my business. This has frustrated me no end as I have been in business 13 years now with different ventures. So I was feeling like a failure all last year and so very frustrated. Then slowly I have been coming to the realisation that it will take as long as it takes. Mine is a slow burn as I don’t want to burn out (again) and I realised I am in no way ready to sacrifice my own health & vitality for my business success. Plus I realised going slowly is allowing me to evolve my offerings and work out what I really want to do and who I really want to work with. I see that I am in a slow emergent process that is putting down all the root work for the tree to grow big and strong. After all it is not just a business I am creating, it is a way of life for me and my family. Then came peace (mostly!)

    • Kate Northrup

      Oh this is so beautiful. You said it all here. The root system is my favorite part. Slow and strong ;)

  • Emma

    Oh Kate!! Thank you for speaking to my soul. This exact issue has been up for me big time this week. Way back just over a decade ago, I went to school to become an acupuncturist. Annnnd in the process a lot of life happened. Like I met my husband, we got pregnant with our daughter “by accident” after 3 months of dating, I took a break from school to be all in with her, finished clinical phase and graduated when she was 2, still had 3 board exams to pass before licensure, was not prepared for them at school at all (long story), had to teach myself the angle of Chinese Med the boards test, took me 3 tries to pass the 1st exam and in that phase I had another baby 😳 Turns out being a homeschooling mom of 2 wicked free spirits, 1 of whom who is on the spectrum, and living in survival mode ain’t great for memorizing and passing tests… Anyway, I’ve passed 2 out of 3 so far and it’s taken me 8 years 🙄😅 Sat for the last 1 in October and failed by 3 points. That SUCKED. Haven’t quite been able to gear myself up for another push. Listening to my deep self, I realized I needed to back up, to revisit basics, to let the knowledge trickle in deeper and deeper without pressure. But it sure makes people question my ability to follow through or get anything done. My goal is to re-sit this month and PASS. And, plan B, should I not pass, to not let a study lull happen but to keep trickling it in over and over. Oh! That’s the other thing! When I zoom out and look at my whole life, I see that the time is now for this test so I can move into the new phase that is calling me, but also, that this weird lengthy timeline of mine is perfect. No way was I ready to step into myself as a practitioner 10 yrs ago, the way I can today. 32 and 42 have like crazy chasms of wisdom between them, not just years. And I know myself so much better. Soooo that’s my long journal entry to you 😄 Thank you for what you do and putting your heart and process out there over and over again.

    Love Emma

    • Kate Northrup

      You are living one beautiful life, Emma. I’m so glad this resonated with you and hopefully gave you some space to appreciate your own timeline and the divinity in all of it, which, based on your response, it seems it did ;)

  • I’ve been meaning to launch a new program since more than a year ago. Right now, in may, I decided to get in guided, live, course that has helped me finally take action and it has been great in terms of getting me going, and I now find myself in the midst of a Visibility phase- my first one as an entrepreneur! I’m proud of my courage, decision and action, but I’ve wondered – did I really choose the best timing? Was I, or this project, really ready? I’ve found myself being extremely busy in a time that was supposed to be of rest and play for me and my family, and the results that I’ve been having so far haven’t been “positive”, in terms of expected sales… And now reading your article, I wonder: was I still supposed to be a little longer in an Emergence phase? All of last year has been about this, and I just thought: enough! but maybe, it wasn’t quite enough… how to know?

    • Kate Northrup

      Karol – I don’t really believe there’s ever a “right” time. I believe there’s just the time we do things and the most important thing is not what happens, it’s how we feel and what we make things mean (or decide not to make them mean.) I also love that my friend Eliza Reynolds says to “let the first time be the first time” because we can have some ridiculous expectations around needing to hit things out of the park our first time up at bat. So, let the first time be the first time and let the fruits of your labor be the lessons you integrate, not the results themselves.

  • Stephanie Noland

    Such a great reminder to trust and let go. In my caring role I have timelines that would suit other aspects of my life, but if I consider being in partnership with the role, I see there are nuances at play. There is growth we cannot see, acceptance that needs to happen, frustration that must be felt before the next phase can flow. You extend the invitation to pause and hold space, and model it beautifully, thank you Kate.

    • Kate Northrup

      I’m so glad you liked this Stephanie. Yes to the pause and also all the nuances. I love the way you reflected on that piece.

  • Since I’ve had my 1st born, everything takes more time to be done.
    In my business, things take a very long time to reach my goals, we’re talking years. But I do sincerely believe it is the way it has to be. The hardest is just not knowing the outcome. Whether good or bad, or if it will eventually happen one day.
    So into my eyes, procrastination is just a way to free a little bit of our daily mental charge in order to breathe a little bit and see what’s going to happen when we let thing naturally happen.
    Thanks Kate for all the wonderful stories and knowledge you share every week.
    Xoxo

    • Kate Northrup

      Yes to things just taking as long as they take. I’m so with you there. I love your perspective on perspective freeing you up to breathe a little every day. Beautiful!

  • Lill

    Thank you Kate for reminding us that procrastination has its place and is serving us in some form. Looking forward to your August launch:). Warm regards, Lill

  • […] Another is something really exciting we’re working on behind the scenes here in our business ecosystem that will be fully revealed August 11th. (If you’ve been around for a while it was supposed to be at the end of March, but things take as long as they take.) […]

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