609 – The Myth of Productivity Under Pressure

Do you find yourself putting off uncomfortable tasks?

Maybe you tell yourself that you work better under pressure…but does the work you produce under stress turn out better, or is it just done?

In this episode, Kathi and her three-time co-author Cheri Gregory discuss the “pressure paradox.” Listen in as they rethink the myth of productivity under pressure, as well as discussing:

  • Is procrastination based in fear?
  • Priming your brain for your project
  • How to avoid living in a state of constant triage

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You Don’t Have to Try So Hard: Ditch Expectations and Live Your Own Best Life

With honesty and humor, Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory help you take a breather and find reassurance as you face the bullies of perfectionism, performancism, people-pleasing, and procrastination.

Self-assessments and personal stories guide you from panic to peace as you learn to:

  • Pick battles worthy of your time and energy
  • Embrace the freedom of a carefully considered “no”
  • Recognize your strengths and weaknesses in the quest for balance
  • Use authenticity as a weapon to battle bullies
  • Release yourself from the endless pressure of pleasing others

Ditch your feelings of inadequacy and finally came face-to-face with the bold, balanced woman God created you to be.

Order your copy here!

What’s your best tip for avoiding procrastination?

Share your answer in the comments.

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Meet Our Guest 


Cheri Gregory

Through Scripture and storytelling, Cheri Gregory delights in helping women draw closer to Jesus, the strength of every tender heart. She is the founder of the Sensitive and Strong Community Cafe: the place for the HSP Christian woman to find connection. With Kathi Lipp, she’s the co-author of You Don’t Have to Try So Hard, Overwhelmed, and An Abundant Place. Cheri speaks locally and internationally for women’s events and educational conferences.

You can connect with Cheri at CheriGregory.comSensitiveAndStrong.com, on Cheri’s Facebook Page, and on Instagram.


Kathi (00:01.306)

Well, hey friends, welcome to Clutter-Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life.


And if there is a correlation between any two habits, clutter and perhaps procrastination is one of them. Now, I grew up with a mom who told me all the time that she just worked better under pressure. And I took that on as my own mantra. And I have to say, that has not served me well. And I’m here to talk with a fellow procrastination

a consumer, no that’s not a good word, a fellow procrastination person. We’ll just call you a person that we have both figured out that procrastination has not served us well and we want to talk about, okay, how do we actually get out from the habit? You guys, it is my frequent co-author, one of my best buddies and fellow sufferer, it’s Cheri Gregory. Cheri, welcome back to the podcast.

Cheri Gregory (01:26.09)

Hey Kathi, thanks so much for having me.

Kathi (01:28.802)

I was recently telling somebody, you know, Tonya is my go-to when we want to talk about, okay, how do you declutter your kids’ tights? But when you want to figure out why you need to declutter your kids’ tights, I go to Cheri Gregory. So, because, yeah, because it’s deep work, right? These things that become memes or…

Cheri Gregory (01:42.655)

I love it. I will receive that fully.

Kathi (01:53.29)

topics of sitcoms when it comes to procrastination or clutter or perfectionism. There’s a lot underneath that. And they become these tropes because so many of us suffer with it. And it’s, it’s really interesting. When we were starting to write our book, You Don’t Have to Try So Hard. We were talking about different types of perfectionism and you really advocated for that procrastination needed to be one of the areas of perfectionism. Can you talk about that?

Cheri Gregory (02:30.502)

Yeah, it’s so funny because I know when I’ve spoken, I’ve literally heard women walking away going, I never thought of procrastination as a form of perfectionism. And really what procrastination ends up being for many of us is a avoidance of even getting started because

Kathi (02:41.252)


Kathi (02:51.098)


Cheri Gregory (02:52.134)

If we get started, then we’re committed and we’re all in. It’s that all or nothing thinking, whereas the perfectionist dives head into the all. The procrastinator is like, I’ll just go with nothing. I’ll do other stuff first. Of all of the forms of perfectionism, I think procrastination is the one that’s most socially acceptable. We can

Kathi (02:58.94)


Kathi (03:02.658)

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Cheri Gregory (03:14.73)

We can joke about it and people will tell stories at dinner parties about how they, you know, they put something off to the last minute and then they pulled it together magically and they got away with it. Like I was just, I was just remembering kind of fondly, um, years and years ago in college, I pulled off a book review of a book I didn’t even read and I got an A plus on it. Um, and I did it the day before, you know, like totally wrong lesson learned.

Kathi (03:18.062)


Kathi (03:38.602)

Oh my goodness.

Cheri Gregory (03:43.978)

And yeah, that’s a fun story. The stories I never tell are when I put things off and I died. I put things off and they were terrible. I put things off and let people down. Those aren’t funny. We don’t tell those stories at all.

Kathi (03:46.94)



Kathi (03:51.431)


Kathi (03:59.891)

Now, it’s so interesting that you were able to get away with that. And that can reinforce our procrastination cycle. Well, I got away with it before, so I must do better when I know everything’s up against me. Everyone is expecting me to fail, but I can show them. And so…

Cheri Gregory (04:08.011)


Kathi (04:26.638)

It’s almost, it’s so many weird things. It’s like a martyr complex. I’m already so busy. I can’t believe somebody asked me to do this. And instead of me saying no, I said yes, because well, they were in a tough place, but I was already in a tough place. Why did I think that would be okay? And it also kind of feeds into…

Cheri Gregory (04:31.069)



Cheri Gregory (04:41.378)


Kathi (04:52.742)

our superhero complex that like if I just try hard enough I can make things happen but I think the things that we forget about is what does that cost us what does it cost our jobs that we already have our relationships that we have all of that so let’s really define what per what procrastination is you is the word

Cheri Gregory (04:54.571)


Kathi (05:19.806)

perfectionism in that or is what how would you define it?

Cheri Gregory (05:25.246)

May I read from our book? You Don’t Have to Try So Hard.

Kathi (05:28.523)

I think so because I cannot remember what we wrote, but I’m sure it was brilliant.

Cheri Gregory (05:34.022)

What it says here is, procrastination is the practice of doing what is less urgent but more fun before doing what is more urgent but less fun. And so it’s putting off the thing that has discomfort associated with it as long as possible and doing the things that don’t feel quite as bad or scary.

Kathi (05:41.716)

Oh, okay. Yeah.

Kathi (05:56.098)

Yes, okay, because here’s what I will say. The only time my grout gets scrubbed is when I have a book deadline. And…

Cheri Gregory (06:01.838)


And I had to install grout because when we when I first started writing I lived in a house with no grout and so I couldn’t even do that so I had to install grout so I could then scrub it to avoid writing.

Kathi (06:09.874)

See, you couldn’t even.

Okay, now there is also a trope that is going around, and I think that this is really funny, of a woman, there’s a couple, and they’re getting ready to have a family birthday party or something like that. And so she’s running around, frosting the cupcakes, scrubbing the inside of the fridge, those kind of things. And today is the day he decides to blow all the leaves off the roof. And it’s…


Cheri Gregory (06:41.969)


Kathi (06:44.226)

It’s almost like I want credit for doing something, but I’m not going to do the thing that really needs to be done I i’m the queen. I am the queen of that. Okay, so So we tend to procrastinate because we don’t want the pain. I also think I tend to I can do painful things. I know I can But I tend to procrastinate because I don’t want to fail yet

Cheri Gregory (06:48.184)


Mm-hm, absolutely.

Kathi (07:13.01)

Does that make sense? Okay.

Cheri Gregory (07:14.262)

Oh, it makes total sense. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it’s an avoidance of risk and that this is where there can be strategic procrastination. You know, when I was teaching in teaching as an English teacher, I noticed a huge difference between my students who wouldn’t even pay attention to the assignment. Like they wouldn’t read the assignment. Usually was an essay. They wouldn’t look at the rubric for how to be graded. They wouldn’t do any of that until the night before.

Kathi (07:19.111)


Kathi (07:25.503)


Kathi (07:39.743)


Cheri Gregory (07:42.75)

Like that is the, you know, that’s classic procrastination. Then I would have students who, as soon as I assigned it, they would read it, they would look at it, they would open a Word document on their computer, they would read the rubric, they had done a few ideas, and then they would put it off until later. Can I tell you, there was a world of difference, a world of difference between the end result those two different groups of students produced.

Kathi (07:46.771)


Kathi (08:05.264)


Cheri Gregory (08:10.054)

even though it seems like nobody was really doing too much of anything, but the second group they at least engaged in and started their the wheels turning and started getting their mind working on it. And you know what it’s like, you know, as you’re living life, let’s say, you know, you have a devotional coming up for (in)courage, right? If you at least are like, I think I’m going to do it on this verse, or I want to start with this story.

Kathi (08:33.161)


Kathi (08:37.453)


Cheri Gregory (08:39.098)

and your deadline isn’t for a little while, like as you’re living life, oh, this comes up and oh, this song lyric and this conversation with a friend, I will not say it writes itself. I know better than to ever use that phrase, but things come together that give you some momentum, even if it feels like you might still be procrastinating, whereas if you had never even started it, if you didn’t have the slightest idea.

Kathi (08:47.401)


It does not. Right.

Kathi (09:03.066)


Cheri Gregory (09:08.286)

At that point, it’s, I’m not going to say it’s hopeless, but there’s just so much less to work with.

Kathi (09:15.242)

We’re gonna take a quick break and we’re gonna come back. And then I wanna talk about the pressure paradox. Like why do people believe they work better under pressure and how this is killing, especially our clutter free people. We’ll take a quick break and we’ll be right back. Okay, I am back with Cheri Gregory and we are talking about the myth of productivity under pressure.

And you made an interesting observation that the people who at least loosened the ketchup bottle, maybe the ketchup wasn’t coming out, but they at least got the lid. It is so true. If I spend 15 minutes understanding the project, it does two things for me. You’re right. It gets the back of my brain working on the problem. I don’t even…

Cheri Gregory (09:54.862)


Kathi (10:13.974)

have to be sitting down with pen and paper or looking at my computer screen. It’s just things start to pop up that are helping me. And the other thing it does, because I think procrastination is a lot about fear. What if I find out that I can’t do this? What if I find out that I don’t have everything I need? And if I can just spend a few minutes looking at, okay what’s going to be required?

Cheri Gregory (10:28.777)


Cheri Gregory (10:42.047)


Kathi (10:42.358)

Or if I can just spend a few minutes, like your example of writing a devotion, saying, okay, I need to have a verse, I need to have a story, I need to have a point, I need to have the semblance of an introduction. If I can, when I first get assigned that thing, if I can at least do a sentence on all four of those things, it has…

Cheri Gregory (11:08.991)


Kathi (11:10.894)

It has half written itself because my brain is able to work on it. And it gets me over the fear of it’s not going to be good enough. You know, I’ve written, I don’t know, 40 of those devotions for (in)courage. I’ve written a bunch of devotions for our book. But, you know, this will be the time that I can’t do it. This will be the time that I won’t have the story. This will be the time. And if I can just say, you know what?

Cheri Gregory (11:13.224)


Cheri Gregory (11:17.769)


Cheri Gregory (11:31.778)


Kathi (11:38.01)

I’m gonna trust myself that if I can get these four things, even if I start on it, because oftentimes, I’ll write down a story and a better story will happen or a better story will come to mind. And so it gets me over the fear.

Cheri Gregory (11:47.07)

Yes. Yep.

Kathi (12:14.062)

Okay, so Cheri, I wanna talk to you about the pressure paradox. And I wanna talk about the reasons why people think that they work better under pressure. So for me, it was a legacy from my mom. She’s still to this day, she will be 80 years old and she still believes that she works better under pressure. And I wonder where that comes from. I know for me,

Cheri Gregory (12:30.561)


Kathi (12:42.062)

I have learned that that’s not true. I get things done under pressure because I’m a people pleaser and I don’t want to disappoint people. But my work is not better, it’s just done. And I think there’s a big difference. Yeah, go ahead.

Cheri Gregory (12:47.171)


Cheri Gregory (12:58.346)

Yeah, well, and I used to, you know, I used to have students tell me that in class, they were like, I work better under pressure and I’d be and I’d count on like, no, you only work under pressure. That’s the only time you actually work is when you put yourself under the gun. And so often they hadn’t actually experimented with doing it any other way. You know, you were, you were talking earlier about, you know, at least getting going to finding find out what you didn’t have, you know, when I got in my office, a few months ago.

Kathi (13:07.814)


Kathi (13:16.417)


Cheri Gregory (13:26.066)

One of the things I needed to do was I had all these binders that have the place where you can put a spine insert and a cover into them. And I had over a third of my binders didn’t have that. So I needed to sit down, get on the computer, print them out, cut them, put them in. And I had blocked some time out to get it done. And then I thought, hang on a second, rather than sitting down and forcing myself to do it and possibly come up against, you know, abject failure.

Kathi (13:37.677)


Kathi (13:45.127)


Cheri Gregory (13:55.178)

Maybe I should spend that time just looking and seeing how many binders do I need to work with and do I have the materials I need. And it turns out I didn’t have a paper cutter. For some reason, I got rid of all my paper cutters and so I was like, oh, well, clearly I’m not going to use a scissors for this job. It turned out I had, well, I’m not going to tell you the number of binders I needed to do, but it was dozens of binders. I’m not going to sit and cut by hand.

Kathi (14:01.14)


Kathi (14:08.147)


Kathi (14:15.241)


Kathi (14:19.55)

Yeah, right.

Cheri Gregory (14:21.33)

And so, you know, what I was able to do that day is I was able to shift in what I actually put on my schedule. I shifted it from, you know, finished binders to figure out what I need to do in order to finish binders. So I could still feel successful, right? And so I think part of the issue is we look at a task and we’re only focused on the end result, right? And the pressure of producing that end result

Kathi (14:38.081)

Ooh, yeah.

Kathi (14:46.922)


Cheri Gregory (14:50.058)

And when we can backtrack and go, okay, what is this process going to look like? Like assessing whether I have the materials. And then it ended up taking me a lot longer than I wanted it to just because it did. And so, you know, I broke it down into, okay, part one, part two, part three, part four to allow myself to feel successful with it. And I think part of it, I think part of procrastination is a

Kathi (14:54.18)


Kathi (15:00.266)


Cheri Gregory (15:15.738)

either a desire for things not to actually be as hard as they are or take as long as they do or require as many steps as they do or just a really, and I’m going to use a hard word, an immature belief that I am the exception to the rule. Everybody else might need to, you know, go through this kind of a process. Like everybody else might need to declutter for 15 minutes at a time.

Kathi (15:24.296)


Kathi (15:30.521)


Kathi (15:36.726)


Cheri Gregory (15:46.17)

I alone am the kind of person who’s going to get it one and done, but just not today and probably not this week. And I know you have people talk to you and they’re like, yeah, I can’t do the 15 minutes. I’m too much of a perfectionist. It’s like, yeah, and you’re also a procrastinator, you know, or in the case of, you know, the writing we do. I mean, one of the things I told you that’s become so important for me, it’s actually been the thing that’s really broken my procrastination is realizing that I need to iterate.

Kathi (15:51.447)


Kathi (16:00.675)

Right. Yeah.

Cheri Gregory (16:13.03)

I need to keep circling back around, circling back around, circling back around. And the more often I can iterate, the more I can get started, get something down, hit a wall, walk away, leave it alone, not worry about it, not think about it, not stress over it because I’ve given myself enough time that I expect that this is going to be part of the process. And then, sure enough, in the shower, you know, right before I fall asleep, whatever it might be, conversation with you, whatever. Oh, another idea comes to me. And when I give myself enough time.

Kathi (16:28.756)


Kathi (16:34.151)


Kathi (16:37.723)


Cheri Gregory (16:42.77)

When I give myself time and I have the assumption that I am a human being like everybody else and things are going to take me longer than I think they’re going to take more steps than I wish, you know, that whole fear that this will be the one time that I can’t pull it off or that I ain’t got nothing, you know, like I do my best and nothing shows up. As long as I give myself time to go through a good process. And really, to me, that’s what has helped break the procrastination cycle for me

Kathi (16:48.112)


Kathi (16:58.724)

Yeah. Right.

Kathi (17:11.426)


Cheri Gregory (17:11.99)

Um is i don’t enjoy the pressure of procrastination nearly as much as I enjoy a good process like okay maybe it took me two weeks but wow i slept every night of those two weeks yeah okay i can’t brag that i pulled it off without any effort. But it is done it’s done well and often there’s some wonderful discoveries along the way that would never have happened if it was.

Kathi (17:16.092)


Kathi (17:25.256)


Kathi (17:32.102)


Cheri Gregory (17:40.202)

you know, the night before something was due. We don’t make good discoveries during that time.

Kathi (17:45.866)

We’re gonna talk about that in our next episode. We’re gonna talk about pressure versus pre-deciding. Because, yeah, there are two different things. But I’m gonna leave us with this thought today that came up while you were talking. Is that, you know, when we say we work better under pressure, what we’re saying is we are living in a constant state of triage.

Cheri Gregory (17:52.97)

Ooh, I love it.

Cheri Gregory (18:14.026)


Kathi (18:14.898)

we are triaging the situation. I have to clean before my in-laws come over. So am I making good decisions during that time if it’s the night before? No, I am triaging, so it looks good to them, but then I have to clean up from that mess. And I never, it’s the idea of triage versus working towards health.

You know, if I am getting stuff out of my house, you know, sometimes we have to triage things because emergencies do come up. But if we live in a constant state of emergency, we are never gonna get to the place we want. And I will in fact say, if we do something under pressure like that, we are making the situation worse. We’re not just making.

ourselves, our cortisone levels go crazy. We’re not just for me snapping at my husband or snapping at the chickens, I never snap it loose. But I’m snapping at somebody. We’re not just doing that. We’re actually making the kitchen that I just quote unquote organized worse because I can’t find the things I need. And we want to get past that. So in our next episode, I wanna talk about

strategies going from I work better under pressure to I work better when I pre-decide and what that looks like. Cheri, this is so good. Thank you so much for doing this. And we actually have a download that we’re going to offer to our friends who are part of our newsletter community. Cheri, can you explain what that is?

Cheri Gregory (20:03.05)

Sure, it’s called The Four P Bullies at a Glance and it goes along with the book, the first book we co-authored, You Don’t Have to Try So Hard. And it’s just, it’s a one sheet that goes through perfectionism, people pleasing, performanceism and procrastination and kind of helps you understand the difference between them and helps you identify which bully might be beating you up at any given time.

Kathi (20:22.342)

And you don’t have to have the book to understand this. This is a really wonderful, simple guide that we will share with you. Cheri, thanks for being here today. And yeah, next week we’re gonna talk about, it’s our favorite word, pre-deciding, and how this can actually help you to not live under pressure all the time. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you’ve always wanted to live.

Cheri Gregory (20:27.021)


Oh, thanks for having me. Can’t wait to come back next week.


Clutter Free Academy Team

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