You know how sometimes when you give your computer gets stuck and you see that little spinny thing in the middle of your screen and everything is frozen in place?
That’s called buffering and computers aren't the only thing that suffer from it.
Goal-setters struggle with buffering too and it gets in the way of us making forward progress toward our goals.
What is Buffering?
Buffering is when we participate in certain activities or behaviors as a way of avoiding the discomfort of doing hard things in our goal work.
Let me give you an example.
Let’s say that you’ve decided to write a book. So you sit down at your computer to start writing. but the words won't come. You stare at the blank page. You look around the room, look up at the ceiling…no ideas.
So you get up and head to the kitchen. You think a snack might help, even though you aren’t hungry. You go into the pantry and pull out the box of chocolate chip cookies and you take out five cookies. You take them back to your computer and while you’re eating them, you’re thinking about how difficult it is to get started on your writing.
All of a sudden, you reach for a cookie to discover that they are all gone. You’ve eaten every one of them without even noticing what you just did. Now you’ve got two things that aren’t going your way – you’ve written zero words AND you’ve just consumed a meal’s worth of calories and blown your eating plan.
You are now too discouraged to work on your writing and you feel terrible about breaking your eating plan. To escape, you go lie down on the sofa and take a nap.
Do you see what just happened here?
You mindlessly chose to engage in other behaviors (snacking and napping) when the writing got hard.
But not just that.
The writing will still need to be done AND you’ll have to deal with the fallout of the extra cookie consumption. Plus, after your nap, you’ll have even less time to get things done.
So you took the original discomfort of not being able to write and have now expanded it way bigger than it would have been if you just pushed through the hard part of finding the words to put on the page so that you could get started on your book.
That, my friend, is buffering.
The Buffering Behaviors
What behaviors do you buffer with when you start to feel the discomfort of doing new or hard things?
Those behaviors are a distraction, for sure, but they are also robbing you of the opportunity to create the things and have the experiences you want in life.
Because the only way to get hard things done is to DO them, right? To push through the discomfort and the icky-ness and the words and ideas that won’t come. To face your fear and do it anyway.
In the work I do with goal-setters, a few buffering behaviors stand out. Do you see yourself in any of these?:
Procrastinating: Doing smaller, easier tasks to busy yourself so you can avoid tackling the harder tasks is buffering.
Over-Researching: Telling yourself that you need to keep researching your topic before you can take action. You'll often find yourself down the rabbit hole of the internet.
Never-Ending Revisions: Often tied to perfectionism, you keep editing and revising something before you share it or publish it -- which you rarely do because it isn't 'right' yet.
Excessive Commenting: Spending a good bulk of your time commenting on other people's thought leadership on Linkedin instead of creating your own.
Multi-Tasking: Switching from task to task without ever finishing anything.
Backward-Facing Work: Doing the work that feels busy, but doesn't move the needle. Activities like website revision, image creation in Canva, and funnel revision take your time but don't give results like getting on the phone with a potential client does.
Buffering is how we escape the discomfort of doing hard things. To stop it, you first need to raise your awareness of it.
When you feel the urge to get up from your desk instead of finishing a project, notice it.
When you've revised the same blog post five times and you are going for revision number 6, it's time to call it and press publish.
When you feel the urge to procrastinate, notice what you are trying to avoid and make yourself do it anyway. The discomfort of doing what you're avoiding usually goes away in about 90 seconds.
The journey to being a goal-getter is not an easy one, but engaging in buffering behaviors won't make it any easier. They steal your time, your energy, and your momentum.
Raise your awareness of when you are buffering and keep making progress toward your goals.
Stop buffering and become a goal-getter! Join us in The Goal Getters Club here.
More on the Topic of Buffering
Listen to The Big, Bad Buffering Behaviors That Are Keeping You Stuck from The Flight School Podcast here
Jen Laffin is an Accountability & Success Mentor for people who like to finish big goals, a master teacher, host of The Flight School Podcast, a possible thinker, and a recovering procrastinator. She helps goal-SETTERS become goal-GETTERS. To learn more, visit www.jenlaffin.com, or find Jen on Linkedin.