610 – Why “I Work Better Under Pressure” Doesn’t Really Work

Have you ever said, “I work better under pressure.”

Is that true or is that procrastination as a trauma response?

In this continuation of last week’s episode, Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory dig into the process of procrastination and how it is hurting all of us. In addition to defining the procrastination responses of Freeze and Fawn, they discuss the difference between working under pressure and pre-deciding. Kathi and Cheri describe how they use the concept of pre-deciding to live a life that reflects their values instead of living a life of fear. That’s what they want for you too! Listen for the steps of pre-deciding as well as other ways to break the procrastination cycle, such as:

  • How to permit yourself to not finish a decluttering project
  • How to move the goalpost when it comes to decluttering
  • How to be a good steward of your most precious resource

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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.


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 you’re somebody who’s often said, I work better under pressure, my friend Cheri Gregory and I are here to blow up your world.

I’ve heard this a lot from people in clutter free. And here’s what I know, procrastination is hurting all of us and there are ways to deal with it. C

heri, welcome back to the program.

Cheri Gregory (01:01.482)
Hey Kathi thanks for having me back.

Kathi (01:03.646)
Okay, in between these recordings, you said, I could talk about frenzy as a trauma response. And I’m like, whoa, hold on. Wait, that’s a big statement. So do you consider procrastination a trauma response?

Cheri Gregory (01:15.351)

Cheri Gregory (01:25.202)
I think it often can be a trauma response because we’ve already been saying that it’s built on fear. Whether you want to call something a trauma response, a fear response, I mean, back in sixth grade we learned that fight and flight were the two major fear responses. So you can call it a trauma response, an anxiety response, whatever you stress response, whatever you want. But what’s interesting is in the last few years we’ve been hearing more about freeze and fawn.

Kathi (01:41.887)

Kathi (01:48.519)

Cheri Gregory (01:53.366)
freeze makes sense, you know, it’s just coming stock still. And then fawn, we recognize to be more the people pleasing response. And a lot of us women have been conditioned into that. But the two that are far less talked about are flock and frenzy. And I really identify with this whole idea of frenzy. Frenzy, as you can guess, it’s the kind of busy, go, go. And I, my natural personality loves being productive.

Kathi (02:20.982)
I know you love seeing yourself in videos.

Cheri Gregory (02:23.342)
and when I procrastinate and then suddenly have to do things under pressure, then I can end up getting that kind of, and you already said, let your cortisol levels go up, the adrenaline goes up, and for a short period of time that can actually feel kind of good. Now afterwards, we crash and we burn and it feels terrible.

Kathi (02:46.422)
Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Cheri Gregory (02:47.874)
But one of the things that actually God has been convicting me over the last couple of years is that one of the reasons I have been so rest resistant is because I am so accustomed to living in a frenzy state. And so rather than spacing things out, rather than having a schedule that I can actually handle.

I have a tendency to do that all or nothing where I crash and burn and I cancel everything and then of course I recover from whatever it was and I get bored and I start taking things on again, volunteering, accepting things with a short deadline and then I have to go and push myself again, busy, go, go. Whether or not those actions are in alignment with my values, whether or not those are, and I know we’re going to talk about pre-deciding.

Kathi (03:38.789)

Cheri Gregory (03:39.478)
I’ve been really working on catching myself because in our society, in our American society, productivity is like the gold standard. As long as you produced, you’re fine, right? And for those of us in the church, I mean, churches love a woman who will show up and get things done. Like they keep the church going. And so we’ve gotten a lot of kudos for being the kind of woman who can get things done under pressure.

Kathi (03:48.73)
Yeah. Right.

Cheri Gregory (04:09.234)
It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are living in alignment when our values, when we live that way. And then for me to realize, hang on a second, this is actually living in a constant fear response or trauma response. It doesn’t, it’s not good for me. The chemicals running through my body are hurting me. I don’t want to live this way anymore. So that’s, that’s where that comment came from.

Kathi (04:29.62)

Kathi (04:33.562)
So much came up with that. First of all, women in the church, we were appreciated without being acknowledged, and we were assumed that we would just do all the unpaid labor. And it’s not just in the church, it’s in any space where women’s labor can be taken advantage of. In the schools of, yes.

Cheri Gregory (04:41.384)

Cheri Gregory (04:47.178)
Mm-hmm. Yep.

Cheri Gregory (04:58.698)
Yeah. And we get called lifesavers. We get called lifesavers. Oh, you’re such a lifesaver and we’re killing ourselves.

Kathi (05:05.474)
Yes. And so we’re, we’re set, we’re setting ourselves on fire to keep other people warm. And, yeah, no more, no more. So it feels like freeze and frenzy are both procrastination responses. One is where I’m scrubbing the tile to not write the devotional. And the, and the other is I’m watching friends episodes to not write.

Cheri Gregory (05:11.656)


Kathi (05:34.686)
the not right the devotional. Why do you think that those two are? How do they demonstrate themselves in different ways? I’m just I’m thinking I’ve been known to do both. Is it a guilt response? Like at least I’m doing something. You can’t be mad at me because at least I’m scrubbing the tile. Or is are we justifying to ourselves? What do you think that is, Cheri?

Cheri Gregory (05:58.135)

Cheri Gregory (06:02.89)
That does make a lot of sense. I’m like we’re substituting one activity. So at least I’m doing something I’m not you know sitting around doing nothing I also think that at least in from the way I experience procrastination Is there’s a period of time where it’s kind of that freeze where I’m like zoned out I’m not producing anything of any value and then the panic kicks in and once the panic kicks in Then is when I’m going to turn I’m going to pivot

Kathi (06:05.354)

Kathi (06:09.114)

Cheri Gregory (06:28.778)
and dive into the actual thing and work on it like a maniac and either pull it off or crash and burn in the midst of trying.

Kathi (06:36.89)
Yeah, and I just want to reiterate to our listeners, you know, we’re saying this with a smile because we both recognize it in ourselves, but trauma response requires trauma. Something has happened that has, and you shouldn’t be like, okay, we’ll just push past that. We just want you to be able, the first part of recovering from trauma is recognizing what is going on. And so if,

Cheri Gregory (06:49.676)

Kathi (07:07.078)
If you know, I just read an article, Julia Louis Dreyfus, who was part of Seinfeld VP, said that she has been dealing with a trauma response for 40 years after her dad criticized her performance on Saturday Night Live. I mean, right? Right? And so some of these things are very, very deep. And maybe you’re not cleaning your room because it didn’t matter how hard you cleaned it.

Cheri Gregory (07:26.591)

Kathi (07:35.93)
when you were little, it was never good enough, or you cleaned your room and your sister was allowed to just come in and mess it up. I don’t know what the response is, but I mean, I don’t know what the reason is, but the response is real. So, yeah.

Cheri Gregory (07:46.35)
Hmm. Yeah. Well, and let’s go back. So now you’re giving me the answer to the scrubbing, the scrubbing. I know why we scrub. We scrub because it’s something we can control.

Kathi (07:55.154)

Kathi (07:59.167)
Uh, yeah. It’s so true, right?

Cheri Gregory (08:00.642)
Trauma responses are all about control. And so when we’re scrubbing the grout, we can whiten that grout, but we don’t know for sure if we can actually declutter our house. We don’t know if we sit down at a blank page, are the words gonna come, or will our brain have ceased functioning? But we can scrub that grout and we can feel like we at least, we could check that off our list.

Kathi (08:14.606)

Cheri Gregory (08:24.21)
And these kinds of responses, they feel very familiar because they’re things that we’ve been doing for a long time. And so when we start to disrupt, when we start to interrupt and try to do something different, it’s gonna feel unfamiliar. And that’s one of the other things that I’ve really been having to learn and sit with is as I have, just again, to use the example, let’s imagine somebody in Clutterfree Academy who’s like, no, I can’t do just 15 minutes. It doesn’t feel right. It makes me miserable.

Kathi (08:30.95)

Cheri Gregory (08:54.214)
No, Kathi, you don’t understand. I can’t stop after 15 minutes. I have to do everything or I can do only do nothing. Please know you have my sympathy. And also the fact that it’s uncomfortable may simply be that it’s unfamiliar and it could take some time to get used to until you have permission.

Kathi (08:54.335)

Kathi (09:03.983)

Cheri Gregory (09:16.878)
to only do 15 minutes rather than you get into that room and don’t come out until you’ve cleaned it completely, young lady, to my standards. So changing, yes, changing these habits takes some time. And the other thing for me is realizing that not having the crash and burn afterwards, like, oh.

Kathi (09:25.838)
Right. The punishing aspect.

Kathi (09:38.51)
Yes, it’s so true. It’s so true. You know, when you talk about, I can’t do 15 minutes because it doesn’t, it’s not gonna be everything. I think that’s when you have to move the goalpost from decluttering the kitchen to decluttering the junk drawer or the utensil drawer. Because yes, I also don’t wanna stop in the middle of something. But there also is some beauty in stopping in the middle because it gives you a depth.

Cheri Gregory (09:52.138)

Cheri Gregory (09:56.746)

Kathi (10:08.062)
define place to start next time. And that is a gift for me. Okay, we’re gonna take a quick break. We’re gonna come back and we’re gonna talk about working under pressure versus pre-deciding. And also discovering is Cheri, a big old hypocrite because she took on a very pressure-filled project this week, but I wanna talk about why you decided to do that and how you decided to do that. So we’re gonna take a quick break and come right back.

Cheri Gregory (10:10.306)
Very true.

Cheri Gregory (10:25.826)

Kathi (10:38.79)
Okay, we’re back with Cheri Gregory, and we are talking about why working better under pressure just doesn’t work. And, you know, for the people who feel familiar that like, I can’t do it unless I’m on a tight deadline, or I can’t do it unless the stakes are high, where would the, what is pre-deciding and how would that help in these circumstances?

Cheri Gregory (10:46.807)

Cheri Gregory (11:06.326)
You know, pre-deciding is the difference between living out of fear and living out of love. Because this was one of the core scriptures that we used in You Don’t Have to Try So Hard, is this whole idea that when we’re living out of fear, then we are going to, you know, I’ll speak for myself again, as I’ve been re-evaluating certain things in my life.

Kathi (11:13.197)
Ooh, okay.

Cheri Gregory (11:34.694)
when I’m living out of fear and I then look back, I’m like, oh, I violated half a dozen of my values during that time. And the thinking in my head is, well, but as long as, as long as, you know, as long as the house looks okay, it doesn’t matter that I snapped at my husband or I snapped at the chickens or whatever it is. But what if one of my core values is to treat people kindly, then I have violated a core value in service of a fear-based
temporary short-term goal that doesn’t actually have lasting value. Whereas, pre-deciding says, I’ve already made these decisions based around my values. I know who I am. I know what I stand for. I know what my values are. And so I am going to make decisions that reflect those values. And when I find myself out of alignment with my values, I’m going to pause and reevaluate.

and it is an entirely different way to live. It doesn’t have the same amount of adrenaline. And so if we have become adrenaline junkies and we’re used to only being motivated if we have those chemicals that indicate fear, that indicate that we’re going to be in huge trouble if we don’t get it done by a certain time. And again, it’s a matter then of kind of changing our habits so

Kathi (12:39.575)

Cheri Gregory (13:01.934)
quiet sense of satisfaction that you know you get to minute 16 of the decluttering and you’re like I’m going to stop now and I’m going to enjoy that quiet sense of satisfaction that I did what I said I was going to do. I said I was going to declutter for 15 minutes. I did what I said I’m going to do. I’m a person of integrity whether I did all or nothing is irrelevant whether my mother would approve my father. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even matter if Kathy Lipp would approve although Kathy Lipp would absolutely approve.

Kathi (13:09.503)
Doesn’t matter. Right. Absolutely.

Cheri Gregory (13:30.738)
if somebody stopped after 15 minutes, but it is slowly developing new habits that are not based on external standards but are based on the values that we know that God has placed within us because of how he created us and our personalities and gaining internal satisfaction because I said I was going to do this, I did it, and now I can stop. Now I can rest. Now I can.

continue to take other forms of good care of myself and stewarding my body, my home, whatever else.

Kathi (14:05.842)
You know, I talk about the four resources all the time, space, time, energy, and money. And what you’re talking about there is being a good steward of your most precious resource. Maybe it’s money. And you’re saying, you know, I need to declutter because I need to know what I have. And so I am going to declutter so I know what I have, so I’m not buying.

Cheri Gregory (14:20.748)

Kathi (14:32.574)
chicken when I already have chicken or something like that. But also, I’m not buying things under pressure all the time because just in case living. But maybe energy is your most precious resource. And you say, you know, I can’t afford to say I’m going to declutter my garage today because that’s just not what you’re able to do. Or maybe you’re working full time plus you’re caring for kids or parents.

Cheri Gregory (14:39.959)

Kathi (15:01.606)
And you’re like, time is my most precious resource. And the 15 minutes protects your most precious resources. And that’s what I wanna be able to do. Okay, now, Cheri, you confessed to me as we were coming on here that you’re under some pressure this week. So talk about what’s going on, how you made the decision. But when I was talking to you, I don’t even know what the decision was, but you seem…

Cheri Gregory (15:08.339)
I love that. So true.

Kathi (15:31.494)
like you’re good with this particular decision to put yourself under a little pressure. So let’s talk about that.

Cheri Gregory (15:37.918)
Yeah, I got an email this last weekend from my graduate program and it was an opportunity to write a book review that will be published in the Journal of Applied Christian Leadership and the deadline is Friday. And in order for me to complete my program, I have to have an article published in a peer review journal. And so I’ve been wondering how to get this done.

Kathi (15:50.29)
Oh wow. Okay.

Cheri Gregory (16:02.35)
And right now my research is moving forward. My other things are moving forward. But in the back of my mind, I’ve been like, dang it, I’m going to get to the end of this. And then a year or three are going to go by before I figure out how to get this article done. And so what dropped into my lap basically over the weekend was an opportunity to just get it done, to check it off my list. And so I did. I jumped at it and I was like, you know what? I looked at my calendar first and I was like, I can rearrange some things.

Cheri Gregory (16:31.55)
I can move some things that are optional. And here’s the thing, in the previous episode, I think I confessed to you that in college, I once wrote a book review over a book that I never even read and I got an A plus on it. Like, I’m not real proud of that. I don’t wanna repeat it. And here’s the thing, it’s a book I’ve already read that I’m reviewing. Like, so I’m not gonna try to pull that stunt again. I read it last year, listened to the audio book, I’ve done some teachings out of it. But I will say it’s a skillset I feel good about.

Kathi (16:50.582)
Oh nice. Right.

Kathi (17:01.272)

Cheri Gregory (17:01.51)
It is not something that’s going to kill me. In fact, if anything, four days, get it done, have it over with, not hanging over my head. It’s kind of exciting, but not in the frenzy sense. It’s like there’s this sense of anticipation. There’s a sense of, yeah, well, let’s bring it on. Bring it on. And go ahead.

Kathi (17:12.661)
Mm-hmm. Right. Mm-hmm.

Kathi (17:21.262)
Right. But let’s also talk about that you’ve set yourself up so you’re not living in that frenzy state all the time so that there was there was cushion to do this. That’s really exciting, Cheri.

Cheri Gregory (17:38.686)
Yeah, yeah, I literally just swap some things out on my calendar and so I had the time to do it and my evenings are still free and my you know, I’m not I’m not going to kill myself to do it. I’m absolutely not. So yes, I’m sort of a hypocrite, but not really.

Kathi (17:56.358)
No, you are, I declare you not a hypocrite because you have made good choices along the way. And here’s the thing, when we first start to live by pre-deciding, by saying, I’m not gonna take on things just because there’s an open spot on my calendar. I’m not going to wait and say, okay, for two days straight, I can do nothing but dot dot. What you’ve done is you said, I can say a good yes.

Cheri Gregory (18:20.145)

Kathi (18:25.914)
and turn down a bad yes, because there are lots of bad yeses out there. But you can give a good yes to something that not only serves somebody else, but also serves you. And it’s a win-win, right? You’re not resenting them from it. You’re not being angry that they asked at the last minute, this was an opportunity for you. So no hypocrisy whatsoever. It’s…

Cheri Gregory (18:37.87)
Mm-hmm. Yeah, absolutely.

Kathi (18:53.89)
And you know, I’m still building some of this into my life because It’s it’s a new habit for me And I say that because I’ve lived 56 years So I’ve only been practicing this maybe in any real way in the past 10 years So there’s a lot of ingrained in me that still wants to put things off and still wants to do but I

Cheri Gregory (19:05.976)

Kathi (19:19.226)
You know, this past encourage article was the first time I think I’ve ever turned it in a week in advance I’ve turned it in a day in advance Or a couple days in advance, but I just saw You know, there was going to be some things happening that week and I didn’t I wanted to be present for somebody I loved I didn’t want to have to be typing, you know and editing In the midst of all of that. So yay to us for making some good. Yeses happen by

Cheri Gregory (19:25.173)
I love it.
Kathi (19:47.422)
turning away some bad yeses that would have made somebody else comfortable for a minute but would have built resentment at least in me. I can resent people for things they didn’t force me to do. I can and friends this is why you know when we know that we’re going to be hosting people or things like that when you tell me that you’re starting to declutter a couple of

Cheri Gregory (19:49.48)

Cheri Gregory (20:01.927)

Kathi (20:16.342)
I’m like, that is somebody who is going to be present and available for their friends who are coming to visit. That it’s not going to be about impressing them, but the impression that they’re going to be left with is that I was cared for and loved. And that’s what I want for each of my clutter-free people. Cheri this was such a valuable little series, our micro series. Thank you so much for hanging out with me and all your wisdom and your hard work, one knowledge.

Cheri Gregory (20:44.906)
Well, thanks for having me, Kathy. It’s been fun.

Kathi (20:47.994)
And friends, we talked in the last episode about our download about the four bullies. If you’re part of our newsletter community, you’ll be able to receive that in our newsletter. We’re gonna make sure the download link is there for last week and this week. So you’re definitely going to wanna take advantage of that to really understand how you can start to be kinder and gentler to yourself. Friends, you’ve been listening to Clutterfree Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Go create the clutter-free life you were always designed to live.

Clutter Free Academy Team
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