Throw Me a Rope – I’m Scaling a Procrastination Mountain Here

I’m currently experiencing the worst bout of procrastination of my entire life.

It’s excruciating, it’s embarrassing, and I think it has the potential to sabotage the most significant goal of my professional career.

Let me explain: I’m travelling to New York at the end of May to undertake research for the book I’m writing. In order for this trip to be a success, I need to reach out to some people who work in the space I’m researching – to see if they’re willing to be interviewed by yours truly.

I’ve drafted the email to those people.

I have a pretty little Excel spreadsheet skilfully prepared by my researcher with all the names of those potential experts.

It’s all ready to go.

I’ve had it ready to go for six weeks.

I have sent one email.

As one wise person said to me today, “Suzi, you don’t have trouble with productivity, so what’s really going on here?”

Today’s post is very difficult for me to publish. I’m aware of my predilection for portraying myself as a ‘man-has-she-got her-shit-together-and-is-going-places’ type of gal. But I know that unless I get to the bottom of my procrastination quick smart, I might just end up punching myself in the face (metaphorically speaking of course).

Seriously, I don’t think I can work this out on my own. And I know I’m usually the one offering up leadership tidbits. But today I’m turning the tables. I need your help – and I think you, dear Leader’s Digest reader, can give it to me. God knows I need it.

So please put your best advice-giving or coaching hat on, and comment below. Feel free to let rip and run amok with your suggestions. But before you do, here’s what I know so far about my pesky procrastination problem:

  1. It probably has something to do with fear. After all, doesn’t it usually? I think it’s something to do with what I’m afraid might happen when I write those emails and they land in those inboxes and are read by Those People. This little ditty also keeps circling in my head, so that might be a clue:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

I’ve always quite liked this quote. Until now. Right now, I hate it.

  1. I’m intrigued about what I’ve got to GAIN by this current self-sabotaging behaviour. I think there’s something to explore in that. I think the things I neglect and avoid are my teachers.
  1. And I’m curious about these questions:
  • Why do we set ourselves important goals and then promptly start to get in our own way?
  • Why do we let ourselves dream for a moment of a beautiful possibility and then in the very next moment put up barrier after barrier and come out with excuse after excuse, all of which prevents us from stepping towards that beautiful possibility?
  • Why do we let the dross and fluff of what’s directly in our path trip us up and stop us getting the real work done, work that we know, deep down, epitomises our deepest desire?

This ain’t just a “phone a friend” situation people.

This is a “I need The Oracle and Tony Robbins and freakin’ Tim Ferriss all in my living room and in my corner” state of affairs. And I need them all pronto.

 So what’s your advice on how I can get unstuck? 

(And please, be kind. I’m beating myself up about this enough as it is)


  1. Emma Dean on March 29, 2017 at 6:00 am

    Omg! You have just also described me! Im so sorry that I haven’t read a lot of your posts lately and I feel bad for that as you have always totally resonated with me in every way!! The reason I haven’t really read them is also because of a procrastination issue that I also have … to better myself!! Wtf! Why is this? I dont understand it either. However I think you have hit the nail on the head with the fear thing.. and i do think it is fear of how powerful you actually are!! I’m reading the book feel tge fear and do it anyway..I’m just 2 chapters in… not rushing it ?.. my advice… have a power hour and blitz those emails! Switch off everything and just get them sent.. you got this!! And come back and tell us that you have done it xxx

  2. Brooke on March 25, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Listen to the podcast “the 5 second rule” by Mel Robbins, on lewis howes podcast. Highly recommend!!!

  3. Lisa Whittle on March 25, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Wow, such a positive and rich dialogue from your post. Well done! Loving Tony’s three easy steps above…
    I wonder is it procrastination sitting on the surface, that is masking another underlying fear, and could that be self-sabotage, simply because it’s your big career goal?

    When I have an important email to send to a group seeking their commitment to my project, I delay and delay. I know the pressure is building to get this one out of my draft box; I’m constantly creating drafts in my head, but have not yet seized the moment at the keyboard. The old self-sabotage fear bubbles up, my friend from early years.

    Delivery time is when I least expect it, often first thing in the morning. I had one of those moments last week, when I had another BIG commitment on that day, like a workshop to deliver. I went into the zone totally focused, composed, tweaked and hit send, voila! my message was out there. I’ve heard back from most people who are keen to be involved. I ask myself, what was that all about?

    You’ve totally got this Suzi!

  4. Penny on March 25, 2017 at 7:19 am

    I was thinking about “those people” opening your email requests for an interview. Thinking how I often fear “those people” will be annoyed- bothered by my request. I sometimes try to imagine my own response to the request to get over the hesitation.
    But maybe “those people” are a new tribe for you?
    Maybe “those people” are different from you. Really different.

    So maybe you shouldn’t send your usual email request.

    Maybe the delay is good. It’s letting you know that it’s time to shift.

    A new approach from a different place for a new encounter.
    What’s a two way exchange you open up maybe?
    I reckon there’s always a grinding halt and boggy patch before you create something new.

  5. Susa Guhl on March 25, 2017 at 6:41 am

    As always , love your honesty . I get you girl, I have these feelings frequently but as you know ” feel the fear and do it anyway”. Send the emails , all of them , done and over with. Some yes and some no and some no andwers. What else can happen? And you can get on with the next step.

  6. Treena on March 24, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    Love this blog and as a serial procrastinator, I am feeling your pain. Rather than trying to advise you on how to “fix” your procrastination, I’ll just let you know how I’m trying to get over mine.

    When I reflect on why I procrastinate, I think most of the time it’s because I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and my perfectionism prevents me from taking action. I can sit on things for far too long, analyse them to death and agonise over making the “right” decisions. Someone gave me 3 little words that are helping me get over my tendency to procrastinate and they are “Massive Imperfect Action”. These 3 little words are making a big difference for me to deal with my tendency to procrastinate. If I let go of the need for something to be “perfect” it’s far easier to just do something which is better than nothing.

    Letting go of the fear I might fail, or that someone might think less of me and worrying less about these things is quite liberating. I still have to work on it, but I know I’ve started on that road.

    I’m sure you will also know all about Imposter Syndrome and this is something else that has also been brought to my attention recently. As someone aptly said in another comment, are you afraid of being “found out”? I’m sure you will work through this, but perhaps also ask yourself “What if?” You know that if you do nothing, you’re guaranteed to fail. But if you take that massive imperfect action, what if you succeed?

    I hope this helps in some small way, and I believe in you! You have everything you need to make it happen, trust yourself, back yourself and let go!

  7. Andrea McDonald on March 24, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    You can move through this Suzi, I am not the only one who believes that, be kind and tap into something which gives you courage and self belief.
    I agree with the comment on indicating a phone call, make the email an intro something you can refer to when you call the person or their EA for the real close on the meeting. Also follow up one week prior to going to touch base.
    Lastly get a envelope out and do that exercise, we can compare notes next catch up!

  8. Yann on March 24, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    I’ve recently listened to this podcast that explains why/how our brain focuses on obstacles ahead. The short of it, is that we wouldn’t survive if we weren’t anticipating risks. The flip side is we naturally forget to look behind; bring back the context in our personnal story. Your current goal is based on your huge talent, and past achievements. I love your work, I heard about you via the web, your book will benefit and help many more like me who haven’t yet had a chance to meet you. The full podcast has fascinating insights, potentially answering 2,3 unlocking 1 .”Why Is My Life So Hard?. ” Sent from Podcast Republic.
    Hope this helps move the dial ever slightly.

  9. Yann on March 24, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    I’ve recently listened to this podcast that explains why/who our brain focuses on obstacles ahead. The short of it, is that we wouldn’t survive if we weren’t anticipating risks. The flip side is we naturally forget to look behind; bring back the context in our personnal story. Your current goal is based on your huge talent, and past achievements. I love your work, I heard about you via the web, your book will benefit and help many more like me who haven’t yet had a chance to meet you. The full podcast has fascinating insights, potentially answering 2,3 [email protected] unlocking 1 .”Why Is My Life So Hard?. ” Sent from Podcast Republic.
    Hope this helps move the dial ever slightly.

  10. Tony on March 24, 2017 at 3:54 pm


    Fear, maybe, or maybe not, what is your body, mind, heart, gut telling you, where do you need to listen?

    or is it that they may all say “YES” and then ….

    As for the email, just get somebody else to send them on your behalf what happens after that happens.

    Enjoy New York.

  11. Leigh Kennedy on March 24, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Suzi, love your honesty. Have definitely been there many many times… A question.

    Does this big scary step forward really align with your big picture dream / goal and values? Or was it someone else’s picture of what you should / could do?
    If it does align – suck it up and get on with it!!. Lol. You know what to do. You’ve worked super hard to get where you are and this is just the next step in your journey.
    There’s fabulous practical advice above said way better than I can!!
    If not, realign your plan accordingly to get yourself back on your true path. Again, you know what to do. You’ve done it before.

    Sheryl Sandberg says it wonderfully with “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
    So get your natural endorphins rolling with some exercise, put a smile on your dial and…

    Go get ’em tiger! The world needs you!
    I look forward to reading your next post announcing you’re back on fire!!

  12. Debbie Cooper on March 24, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Feeling the same way myself Suzi, probably for very similar reasons, and your quote about fear of our light is probably one of the truest statements I have read….
    It is easy to say that we should simply take a leap of faith, but sometimes we are better inch our way forward and focus on minimum targets rather than get suck on not quite reaching a lofty goal.
    One email a day for the next week. Once you get past the first hurdle, reset the minimum target to do just a wee bit more. Improvement in 10% increments is better than no improvement at all!

  13. Scott Duncan on March 24, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Hey Suzi, have you thought about picking up the phone instead of emailing? You love talking to people! Think of the benefits – you’ll probably have more meaningful connections, start building that rapport immediately, differentiate yourself from all the other email senders etc. They’ll love that you made the effort, and your accent will immediately catch them off guard. Plus, how good will you feel after each chat? Or maybe you just need to punch yourself in the face (metaphorically speaking)….

  14. Sarah Brown on March 24, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Dear Suzi,

    I agree with you and the comments above that often procrastination can be about fear ie, of exposure leading to humiliation and shame etc.
    There also could be, as you allude to, an internal conflict arising between risk and protection. In pushing yourself outside the domain/group where you have ‘a sense of place’ and an established identity,you are leaving yourself open to such fundamental and often unconscious needs and fears to do with belonging and finding/entitlement to a sense of place amongst ‘others’.
    Another way of looking at your stuckness or procrastination could be to ask, not only what do you fear, but what are you so skillfully protecting?
    In a way they are linked, although one more physiological and the other more behavioural.
    Good luck with the working through.

  15. Bobbi on March 24, 2017 at 11:47 am

    To my talented, beautiful and incredibly authentic friend – YOU GOT THIS ! Prioritise the list from scariest to least scariest person you need to speak with in New York – then start making contact with the least scary person first. Once you get some wins under your belt with the less scary – you will be away laughing. Love you. 🙂

  16. Tony Marks on March 24, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Love the honesty . We have ALL been there . It’s fear of rejection, of humiliation, of others confirming we are not anywhere near as good as we think we are . Know what most CEO’s are afraid of – and I know it personally – being ” found out ” , being seen to be substantially less capable than the people who report to you .

    My suggestions to you

    Firstly , take pride in your willingness to admit fear

    Secondly , just send the e mails BUT say you will ring them . Americans do telephoning like no one else in the world. Use the email to establish a connection but then phone .

    Thirdly , publish who you want to talk to ..I have friends in the USA who may know some of these people. Google Sarah Robb O’Hagan , personal friend , and you’ll see what I mean

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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