A Simple Guide to Overcoming Project Resistance

Do you ever notice how you are just resistant to some projects? You may have a 10 day deadline and you don’t start on it until day 5.

You think this will allow you to do some other stuff you’ve wanted to work on. The problem is you end up trolling the internet or doing stuff that doesn’t matter that much.

You’ve convinced yourself of the advantages of procrastinating and it backfires again and again. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a little procrastination, but when your procrastination starts stressing you out then you have a problem.

My deadline

Last month I was on a deadline to interview 5 people by the end of the month. It was still early in the month so I wasn’t in a rush. Of course I kept putting it off. I finally started feeling stressed out, so I took action.

Stress always convinces me to take action. This deadline was no different. I set the deadline for the last possible moment. I should have set the deadline for a week earlier than I actually needed it. I know this is a bad habit, but for some reason I do it again and again.

Now that the interviews are done I laugh at my procrastination. Why did I put off the work? The interviews were fun and I learned a ton of new concepts from interviewing interesting artists.

I learned a few lessons I want to share with you.

Underlying Issues

Maybe you don’t want to do this thing. Yes, it’s that simple. I’ve had at least 5 friends tell me that they want to write a book and yet they have never done it. They like the idea of being an author, but in reality they just like the idea and not the work.

Acknowledge this resistance and stop wanting something that sounds good, but doesn’t light your internal fire. Why waste your time on this project when you could be using your superpowers to “wow” people with work that you care about? To help separate my emotions from this resistance I like to externalize this feeling by calling it my arch nemesis.

There are times when we can’t turn down a project. Maybe your boss wants you to do something that you hate or maybe you own your own business and you need to work on something that doesn’t excite you. So if you can’t say no, you must figure out a way to get the project done.


I’m afraid of rejection. It actually pains me to admit that. I want to believe that what other people think doesn’t matter, but it does. I wanted to interview intelligent people, and I wanted them to think that I was smart, funny, and interesting. So instead of just asking for the interviews, I was tempted to avoid the possible pain that might occur from someone saying no to my request.

You often hold back from starting that thing that you would love to do because you are afraid of what other people might think. You are a social creature and you want to be liked. Social rejection actually hurts, so even the possibility of social rejection makes us shy away from carrying out the action. It feels easier just to avoid the work.

Rejection 2

Yes, it also sucks to work your butt off on a project only to have other people fail to reflect your enthusiasm. This type of rejection can hold you back from wanting to work your butt off the next time because you are afraid you may not live up to other people’s expectations.

I’ve written plenty of amazing stuff that other people didn’t like. Well, at least I thought it was good before I gave it to them. When I took another look I usually realized that I could have researched more information or improved a section to make the idea more clear. Whatever the problem with my writing was, the rejection of my idea helped spur me to improve.

The reality is that we need to practice feeling uncomfortable more often in order to do amazing work. I’m talking about the type of work that pushes us outside our comfort zone. The more we can pursue our passions and create uncomfortable feelings as a result, the more likely we are to create something that can make a difference in someone’s life. The only way to do that is to gently lean into the fear of rejection. Try breaking the action into small chunks (we’ll talk about this more later) so the action seems possible and even enjoyable.

Stop lying

You have to stop lying to yourself. You have to do this project and you can either hate the whole process or find emotional connections that allow you to sink your heart into the work.

So now you’ve accepted your fate and you can dig in, right? Nope, the resistance encourages you to keep putting it off.

You have to set a reasonable time frame in which to get your project done. If you know you can get a project done in 3 days and you have 7 days to do the project, then why wait until day 4 to get started? You have to remember all those times that you waited and stress came down on you like a hippopotamus.

If you need a little fun before you start the project, then start on day 2 and expect to finish on day 6. This honesty will reduce your stress and increase your happiness.

Develop a catch system

If you notice yourself procrastinating, what do you do to transition back into productive work? You must be more aware of catching yourself slacking off. If you allow yourself to procrastinate too much, you’ll never meet your deadline.

When I take a break on a big project day, I set a timer for each chunk of task that I need to complete. I refuse to let myself indulge in procrastination for too long if I have important work to do.

You must have a method to keep yourself on track. This takes self-discipline, but it’s worth the effort if you can significantly reduce your stress.

Motivate through small chunks

Too often I catch myself looking at a project as if it’s this giant mountain that I can’t overcome. When this happens I step back, take a short walk and think about the most important chunk of the project that I can do.

I only allow myself to focus on this one task. I put my huge list aside and ignore it for the rest of the day. I know it’s only going to make me feel weak. When I’m done with that task I go for a short walk and think about my next task.

I do this again and again and again, until my confidence comes back.

Release the bear hug

When you are procrastinating you are letting your fear bear hug your motivation. To deal with your project resistance, you must not be afraid of the consequences. If you are too afraid of what negative things will happen instead of the positive results of taking action today, then you’ll never get your work done.

What helps you overcome project resistance?

* Need help leveraging your superpowers in your business/career? Then check out my Superpower Coaching to see how I can help you.

* Tess over at The Bold Life has a great quote from Joseph Cambell. We have to stop waiting and starting enjoying what we have.

If you enjoyed this post then you will probably like this one too:

> How to Discover Your Superpowers

> The Ultimate Guide to Releasing Your Career Frustrations

11 thoughts on “A Simple Guide to Overcoming Project Resistance”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention A Simple Guide to Overcoming Project Resistance | Work Happy Now! -- Topsy.com

  2. I really like the way your broke down all the angst I feel in relation to completing certain projects. Often these subtle roadblocks pop-up with out my being fully conscious of them. I hope that now that this post has made me more aware, I’ll be less tangled up in them.

  3. Success really is a numbers game and it’s about getting up to bat more often.

    When there’s a project I’m resisting, I ask whether it fits in with my mission and strategy. Finding that connection helps me focus and prioritize. If it doesn’t fit in, at least then I know why.

  4. Karl: What a great post and an issue I think we all have faced at one point or another. I really do think it is important that we have an approach for how we are going to manage through those times when we know we have something we need to take care of, but just aren’t feeling passionate about getting it done right away. I think we have to always find a way to enjoy what we need to do and often times that begins with getting ourselves to the right perspective. I think it is easy to fall into the trap of making a mountain out of a mole hill and before we know it, we have made something so much bigger in our minds than it actually is. I really liked what you said about breaking things down to chunks. I have noticed that once I get the momentum going, things begin to flow and sometimes just taking that first step (or chunk) really helps. Great post and great recommendations.

  5. Hi DC Jobs, Processing through our angst is never easy. It’s takes a lot of self knowledge. The more that we open our awareness to these emotions the easier it is to process and get back to doing great work. Good luck and let me know how these ideas help you.

  6. Hi Sibyl, It’s all about forward momentum. Once we can get moving it makes the impossible seem possible. We just need to remember our fear is there for a reason. We need to use it as a emotional guide to help make smart decisions.

  7. Hi Karl — thanks for this — it’s true what you say about rejection, I think — it’s just a natural human tendency not to want it, although what it means does often differ from person to person.

    Yesterday, I got an e-mail from someone saying “I DID NOT subscribe to your newsletter — now take me off your list.” I guess someone put their name on my list as a prank? But anyway, I definitely felt a chill down my spine, as if I was in danger for a moment. A second later, though, I reflected on how much easier it was to deal with feedback like that than it would be never to have started all my projects.

  8. Karl,
    How did you know this is what I needed today. I’ve been procrastinating on everything I promised last week. We went away for the weekend and are leaving for 9 days on Sat. I’m beginning to see what my patterns and priorities are. LOL

    Seriously I need to get to work and give myself a hug. FYI I fear rejection as well.

  9. Hi Karl

    Yup, I definitely know the feeling. This is why I really watch what I commit to these days. There were times when I took something on, and when it came to doing it, I resisted and pushed it back and back and back….

    I definitely know that says a lot of how aligned we were with a particular task in the first place. And I think things like that quickly show us, what we really want to do and not want to do… too bad too many people in their jobs still have to do it – no choices there.

    So how I overcome this today is again be very conscious of what I choose to take on – take it if I love it and if I don’t, I try not to take it. And if for whatever reason I am undecided and I take a project, if I come not to love it, I wait till the last minute – 🙂 LOL that always gets things done – but no stress… in the end, all is perfect and we just need that hug to remind us 🙂

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