Thoughts of a Persistent Procrastinator

I have felt a bit stuck lately, not just with regards to this blog but with the way I live my life.  I am a persistent procrastinator and I am guilty of this in many aspects of life. It was a prominent pattern when I was a student. Each night after a dissatisfactory day of avoiding work I would carve out a master plan for the next day to make up for the previous months of scatty, inconsistent studying. Inevitably, I ignored by alarm clock and distracted myself with a myriad of “urgent” tasks such as:

  • ordering face cream
  • salvaging wax from candles to make another smaller candle to avoid wastage (and to get a higher burn time for your money 😉)
  • Ordering more candles to create a “study ambience”
  • Researching all the best tools of productivity – bullet journals, the Pomodoro technique, time batching
  • Reading the list of people who died in 2018 on Wikipedia.
  • Watching “Study With Me” YouTube videos
  • Researching all the actors that were in the film I watched the night before
  • Reading all the How-To’s on how to be a Grade A student
  • Making a playlist of Study Music

And so the pattern repeated and I became more and more convinced that I was stupid and lazy and not cut out for university and any other self critical adjective you can come up with. 

Skip forward more than 2 years. I now work a full time job. I read a lot of Personal Development books and recently, as many people do at the start of a New Year, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how great my life would be if I could just cut out certain “bad” habits and incorporate healthy habits into my day-to-day lifestyle. I did the same in the middle of the summer 2020 and again in October, always coming up with the same 5-6 resolutions or “Healthy Habits”. Making plans and setting goals never fails to make me feel fulfilled and optimistic, for a short time anyway. In his book, Atomic Habits1, James Clear refers to this as being “in motion” i.e. in the planning stages. He posits that in forming good habits, however, this is not the same as taking action. 

As for putting plans into action? I struggle. A case in point is this blog. It’s entirely for my own enjoyment, to gain skills, get me out of my comfort zone and is most simply, a creative outlet. Every time I write I get such a buzz from churning out probably nonsensical ideas. Regardless of it’s quality or relevance it’s a mood booster for me, I can’t explain fully – it just feels good. But still I write infrequently and inconsistently, which doesn’t really make any sense. Mr Clear1 provides us with the idea that the planning stages give us an impression of safety and we may subconsciously avoid venturing out to the action stages where there is a risk we may fail. 

Fear of failing has definitely contributed to my procrastination in the past and I think there is still an element of this going on today. Therefore, to tackle this I have challenged myself to write anything and publish it, regardless of it’s quality or relevance. This haphazard blog post is the result of that experiment. If you have been patient enough to actually read this to the end, thank you very much! 

P.S. Of course, I procrastinated on all my New Year goals to read Atomic Habits but I have no regrets because it resonated with me and I was able to gain a little self understanding. See – procrastination can be good sometimes.

A (rough) bibliography 

  1. Clear J. Atomic Habits. Random House Business; 2018

⏳The Past

If I asked you, “where are you living?”, you may respond with an address, a city, a country or coordinates. You might tell me about your favourite spots nearby, the positives and negatives of living there, how bad the traffic is, or how green the parks are. But what if I asked you where your brain is living? By this I mean, are your thoughts residing in the past, the present or the future? A common message in mindfulness practice is to “be present” and to embrace how you feel right now, which is something that I have found difficult at times. In particular, in the search for my happiness I have spent a lot of time in the past and dreaming about my future. I would like to reflect on my adventures to these exciting and varied lands which might encourage you to think about where your brain has been residing and where you are now. 

The Past

During my first semester of university, I was not in the greatest of headspaces. I was struggling to settle into university. The previous year had been a bit of a slog; striving to get into university, going to interviews, taking a driving test, trying to get good enough grades and now I was where I had wanted to be. But still, it didn’t give me that gratification that I expected would come. I felt that I wasn’t making friends and internalised the idea that “I am awkward and socially inept and everything would be fine if I didn’t live at home”. I struggled with studying and told myself “I’m stupid and not good enough”. I felt alone and sluggish and told myself “this is just adulthood and I’m just an unhappy person”. I had a very fixed mindset1 and that was that. Adulthood was bad and anything that came before it was good. 

So, what was my grand solution to my sadness? It was to recreate my childhood and try to rehash all those cosy feelings, watch all the TV programmes and movies of my youth, read all the books I loved as a kid, look at piles of family photos and video footage. I had a lovely time. My mum probably did too. I’m sure she was very pleased that someone was finally taking the time to chronologically organise all of our family photographs into albums. I kept searching for more and more things that I had previously enjoyed. I looked on Google Maps at all the places I had been on holiday, planning to go back there one day. Nostalgia2 is a powerful thing and definitely brought about many positive emotions but I found that when I was seeking only memories and familiarity, it started to feel stale. It didn’t have the shine that I remembered. And now I believe that is precisely because I was not seeking any novelty, there were no surprises, I wasn’t growing as a person, or learning. I don’t deny the value in memories and nostalgia; our past experiences help to mould us into who we are in the present. However, I found that focusing too much on the past was not the solution to my sadness. From that experience I have learned to let my memories and my past experiences just be as they were, whether good, bad or neutral. In short, I can learn from my memories but I don’t need to dwell on them.

One of my favourite TV shows is Being Erica. It deals with the idea of living in the past beautifully. The show is centred around Erica’s therapy in which she gets to go back in time to fix regrets. In the final episode3 she meets her older brother who died at age 21. He had been living in a corridor with many doors (presumably since his death). Behind each door is a memory from his life which he can return to and relive. He explains that he has been doing this since he died. The only door he has not dared to open is the door to “the next life” or the future. That is exactly how I experienced living in the past – being stuck in a dark corridor of doors. Reliving happy memories is lovely but short lived. They can’t sustain my happiness. I need the present, the future and the past to live a balanced life. 

A (rough) bibliography 

  1. Carol Dweck’s work on Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
  2. An interesting interview on nostalgia – Speaking of Psychology: Does Nostalgia Have a Psychological Purpose? 
  3. Being Erica – Season 4 Episode 11: “Dr Erica”

The Things I Don’t See When I’m Anxious: Random Acts of Kindness

For many people around the world, day-to-day lives have been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Countless families have had to face illness and grief. The fear surrounding the virus has been palpable in our communities and especially for people who have underlying conditions and close family members who are at risk. Financial hardship has affected many individuals and industries. Lack of social interaction and shielding has highlighted to many the negative effects of lonliness which is a reality outwith this very strange situation we are in, particularly in the elderly. Surveys have shown that 6-13% of older people feel lonely some or all of the time 1. I dread to think what the levels are at the moment in all populations and hope that going forward as a society we will take loneliness more seriously and consider the vulnerable people in our communities.

I would never wish to detract from the difficult experiences that have been faced during 2020 so far, but I think there is a lot of learning and reflecting that can be done and also some positives that have emerged. To name a few, the healing effect of reduced transport on emissions levels has allowed the world to breathe fresh air2. The slower pace of life has given many the time to reflect on what they really want from life. It has forced many of us to take time out of the rat race. We have been prevented from going on holidays and deprived of many other relative luxuries which we value for our happiness and well-being. Nevertheless we have survived. Some have even thrived. We have come to the realisation that we really don’t need as much as we think to be happy.

In my own community I have noticed the small things that people are doing in these strange times. Like many, I have been walking on nature paths a lot more during lockdown. I have noticed that people in general are more likely to smile whilst passing or exchange a small greeting. To some, this may seem insignificant but in a world where we know isolation is rife at the best of times a smile might mean the world to someone and may be the only interaction one may have within a day (or even a week). It all matters.

The idea of Random Acts of Kindness has been on my mind lately. I would like to share an experience that I had at a time when I was struggling to see positivity. I was working as a Junior Doctor in a hospital and it was probably only about 11am but already my nerves were jangling, my brain filled with mental lists of patients to see, worries about mistakes I might have made, anticipation of my pager vibrating on my chest signalling a potential emergency (on some occasions, it wasn’t vibrating, I was just having palpitations due to anxiety but interestingly enough, a phenomenon known as “phantom vibration syndrome” is highly reported in medical staff3). I remember feeling like my head was surrounded by a thick cloud, with lightning strikes of fear going off every few minutes and no sunlight penetrating through. When I am writing this I am very aware that my sentences are long and never ending and I imagine when you are reading this you might have actually sped up a little bit. I feel this is very illustrative of my thought patterns when I am anxious.

Anyway, the Random Act of Kindness happened when I went to the coffee shop for a relaxing cup of caffeine. I was standing in the queue when a woman approached me, smiling and wordlessly handed over a loyalty card with 6 stamps on it. I said thank you and she walked away. When my brain actually started to kick in I looked again to the woman and asked “Are you sure? That’s very kind”. She just smiled and nodded. At the time I was taken aback, it made me smile but I never gave it much thought. I got my coffee and headed off to deal with my list of tasks.

It wasn’t until a few months later when I had a particularly deep meditation that I realised the significance of this. The guided meditation prompted me to think of a random act of kindness and this came to mind. During this visualisation I felt more present in the coffee shop situation than I did when it happened in real life. I could recall the environment, the woman and this strong sense of gratitude I felt (albeit hidden underneath all the anxiety and foggy-headedness that I was experiencing on the day). During that meditation, powerful emotion flooded over me and I found myself in tears. By this point I had decided to pursue another career. I think my reaction was due partly to the relief that I did not have to go back to that situation but also my feelings of gratitude towards the woman who gave me the card. She will never know how much it meant to me and how much of a kindness it was. Maybe she felt I looked like I needed it, maybe she just randomly chose anyone in that queue but I think I will remember it for the rest of my life, it had such a profound effect on me. So to the stranger at the coffee shop, I can’t tell you how thankful I am.

This has felt somewhat self indulgent (I shouldn’t be surprised should I? I’m writing a blog?!) and may sound insignificant but Random Acts of Kindness have been proven to have many beneficial effects on the giver and the receiver4. They can be free, easy and quick to do and in this ever complicated world, that’s something to be valued.


  1. Campaign to End Loneliness, Safeguarding the Convoy. Campaign to End Lonliness, 2011.

    Available from: [Accessed 14th June 2020]
  2. Watts J. Clean air in Europe during lockdown ‘leads to 11,000 fewer deaths’. The Guardian. 2020 April 30; Environment.

    Available from: [Accessed 14th June 2020]
  3. Rothberg MB, Arora A, Hermann J, Kleppel R, St Marie P, Visintainer P. Phantom vibration syndrome among medical staff: a cross sectional survey. BMJ. 2010; 341: c6914.

    Available from:
  4. Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. The Science of Kindness

    Available from:

You can’t get rid of me.

A little more than a year ago, I started learning more about what it takes to become a counsellor and I am currently studying for a Certificate in Counselling Skills. I haven’t pinned myself to the idea of becoming a counsellor but I know that I am enjoying it and it is good for me, so I’m going with that for now!

Although we only meet for 3 hours per week, it is an intense process. Any education I have undertaken prior to this has consisted of mainly rote learning of facts, multiple choice questions in exams and writing essays. Counselling training is completely different. Reflection on our thoughts, experiences and actions holds precedence over studying the minutiae of psychology. We learn how to listen to others by getting to know ourselves and exploring our own values, reactions and judgements. 

Prior to being on this course, I regularly kept a journal, a brain dump of sorts, exploring my thoughts and what causes me to feel anxious, sad or happy. I used to bury my head in the sand and ignore uncomfortable thoughts without untangling them and they would just fester. I can’t recommend it… Self development through self exploration is not new to me, it benefits me greatly and I enjoy it. However sharing these thoughts out loud was new territory. I consider myself to be a very open person but revealing ourselves and being vulnerable forces us to analyse and judge ourselves in another way. I would ask myself questions like:

“Maybe I am just making a fuss over nothing?”

“Am I oversharing?”

“Are my thoughts even valid?”

The first time I shared something completely honest and vulnerable with the group of 12 other students I wanted to run a mile. I worried about it for days after, and wished I had stayed quiet. This was not due to the reactions of the others, who listened kindly with acceptance. My internal analysis of what I’d said was wholly self driven. From then on, each time I shared with the others I managed to say my piece and let it go much quicker and it became easier with time. My confidence has been building and I am finding it much more enjoyable and cathartic when I share now. 

Vulnerability is something that equally terrifies and fascinates me. For our first assignment we were asked to present our self exploration in a creative way. The following is what I presented to the group: 

The Characters

This is my Emotional Brain. They jump into action immediately by reacting, it’s neurotic, self critical and drives my fears and worries. 

On the other hand, my Rational Brain kicks in later or after I’ve had some time for reflection. They are calm, collected, and undoubtedly have a much more balanced view of the world. 

The Conversation


 This is too overwhelming, my head is swimming. I can barely string a sentence together in front of all these people.


That’s ok, it’s the first week of the course, it’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed.


Urgh, I’m literally the worst. I was so nervous that I started laughing during a listening session. That’s not very empathetic is it?


Making mistakes is what this is all about, right? And wow, this actually feels ok, I accept it was inappropriate but I just need to keep my composure in future and just chill out a bit. 


I’m just a one trick pony, all I can do is reflect back feelings, I need to learn more skills to build up my repertoire


Yes, of course you will learn more in time, but keeping things simple can be effective too! 


And why can’t I just sit normally when I’m listening to the client, I’m so rigid and nervous looking all the time. Nobody wants a counsellor who looks terrified!


Yep, Body language is important but just try to relax a bit more, breathe deeply a few times and relax the shoulders. There, that feels better, right?


All I can think about when I’m listening to the speaker  is how I relate to what they’re talking about and the fact that I’ve said nothing useful so far. I’m useless at this.


How about trying to think about presence, make it your one goal, to just be there for the listener, you don’t need to give much out, they are doing the work, you just need to be there to accept what they are saying. You don’t need to have all the answers to their problems. 


I suppose so… 


So how do you feel you have done, do you think you’ve passed?


 I’m pretty rubbish, I’m really not sure. 


 Well, I think you’ve done well, you’re becoming more and more relaxed during sessions, you’ve been able to reflect back  emotions fairly accurately, you know what you need to work on and you’ve been taking steps to improve. What’s more, you’ve been very self aware throughout and been really open to learning more about yourself, even the difficult parts. 


Yeah, I have been trying really hard, although I have so much to improve on….


Well it’s all a learning curve, now lets just relax a bit. 

Emotional Brain sits bolt upright with wide eyes.


 Relax?? What’s that? It sounds scary.


Shhhhh, quiet now.

Emotional Brain sits back quietly for a moment then springs back into action


You know you can’t get rid of me?


Yeah I do, and that’s fine.  You are an essential part of Claire, although, I can tell already that your voice is getting quieter. 

Emotional Brain scowls.


Yeah, we’ll see about that.

I am an imperfect human being… and that’s ok.

When I was a child, praise was the medal I was chasing. All I wanted was to gain acceptance and positive feedback from friends, family and teachers. To my mind, the best way to be as a young girl was to be a mixture of clever, cool and pretty – I perceived myself to be none of these things. Therefore, I felt I was an imperfect human being. 

When I was a teenager, maintaining good grades at school became my raison d’etre. Any time I slipped up was a fracture to my fragile sense of identity. All of my self worth came from attainment. Yes, there were things that gave me joy, such as playing guitar, but only when I felt proficient at it. Even my leisure activities were measured by an imaginary ruler that judged my performance. I could never reach the unattainable heights that I felt I should be reaching. Therefore, I was not good enough and I was an imperfect human being. 

When I was applying for Medicine at university in my final years of school, my sense of worth depended on gaining a place. But guess what? Even when I did, I put the success down to luck, a fluke and the fact that the admissions personnel must have been feeling sorry for me. I taught myself that I was undeserving of this and therefore, I was an imperfect human being. 

During medical school I compared myself to everyone. I never felt good enough and this impacted on my self esteem and confidence. It could be argued that medical school is subtly (maybe it’s not so subtle, I’m not the best judge) competitive. However, my brain clung onto this feeling that my self worth depended on where I ranked next to my fellow students. And you’ll never guess how this made me feel – like I was an imperfect human being. 

When I graduated, I felt this was wholly undeserved. It wasn’t a real graduation for me, compared with the graduates I stood next to in our photos. I could be physically standing beside them, getting the same letters on my degree certificate but I felt like I might as well be 2 centimetres tall in comparison, never reaching the heights that I perceived them to be at. You guessed it… imperfect human being. 

When I had an anxiety attack in the hospital whilst working as a junior doctor and ended up having time off work, I thought “this is just what I deserve, for something to put me in my proper place and remind me that I’m not good enough, because I’ve been an impostor this whole time.” My sense of identity as a doctor had been shattered. I had tried and failed and I was, ultimately, an imperfect human being. 

Around about this time in my life, when I had time to stop and focus less on striving, I realised that these ideas were not helping me to thrive. There was a toxic pattern that I had been following, throughout all of my life. 

I have summarised this rule into the following equation: 

Achievement of a goal = happiness 

However, in practice, whenever a small setback happened, it looked more like this:

99% of goal achieved + small setback = complete failure

Throughout almost all the phases of my life, I had rules for what “perfect” looked like. These rules were artificial and the power that they held in my brain clouded over the fact that my intuition was trying to tell me something. 

For example:

  • When I was a child, I wasn’t interested in being trendy but I loved arts and crafts, reading Harry Potter and playing with my friends. I followed what brought me joy.
  • When I was in school, I loved playing in a band and listening to music and shared these passions with friends. 
  • When I was applying for medical school I saw myself in a caring role and had a yearning to give comfort to people. 
  • When I was studying medicine, although studying was not easy for me, some of my happiest memories in that phase of life were when I was in my room alone, in flow for even just 30 minutes studying an interesting concept. At this time I realised that I identify strongly as an introvert and began to embrace it.
  • When I was working as a doctor, I had many positive experiences connecting with patients. In those moments I wasn’t really there as a doctor; I was merely a person, listening to their ideas and fears. In that moment, my grades meant nothing, my successes and failures didn’t exist and I was showing up as me.

In my happiest moments, I have not had an identity, I have solely been a human being seeking what gives me joy. Therefore, I would like to make a correction to my previous equation: 

Achievement of a goal happiness 

But who am I to dictate what happiness is? So maybe this is more accurate:

Achievement of a goal * happiness 

*Approximately but not actually equal to

This is still a questionable statement to me, however, I am sure of the following, although it’s not quite so neat and tidy: 

Doing what intuitively brings you joy regardless of how you measure up to others

= happiness

With this mindset I have infinite potential to learn and grow and this gives me a feeling of joy that I have never known before in my life. 

So if you suffer from “perfectionism” or “I’ll never be good enough-itis” or whatever you like to call it, you are not alone. High standards get people places, and they serve a purpose for sure, but there comes a point when their power can be a hindrance, not a help. Depending on how much weight they hold, they can drag us down. None of us have the answers or a simple fix, but I hope that by sharing my experiences and what I am still learning to ease the unhelpful voices in my head, it may help to create a more open dialogue about these uncomfortable thoughts.

I have been an imperfect human being all my life. I still am and I’ve embraced the idea that I will be imperfect until the day I die.