A Coaching Case Study By Emilie Gagnon, Life Coach, FRANCE
How Do You Deal With Procrastination and Motivation in the Workplace?
Who Are the Main Players in This Case Study?
The client is a fellow student at ICA. We’ve been peer coaching for a few weeks. She’s currently working on her portfolio.
Describe the Issue or Challenge
She expresses a feeling of exhaustion when it comes to working on her ICA portfolio and as a result, she procrastinates around working on it. She would like to discuss what she needs so that she can find the courage to tackle her work when motivation is lacking.
This issue is important to her because procrastination leads her to work last minute, therefore, doing a lot within a small timeframe. This is tiring but also it deprives her of the possibility to take a step back and reflect on that work, therefore missing out on learning.
At the end of the session, she would like to have a phrase that she can say to herself when she procrastinates in order to remind herself why it’s important to do it… and so do it (we will refer to this as a mantra). She will know she has the right mantra because there will be easiness and lightness to it, and it will push her to action. She expects that this will help her stop all the mental chatter and nagging thoughts that keep her from doing the work. And moving her into action, she believes will remove the guilt she currently experiences as a result of her procrastination.
Understanding and Overcoming Procrastination and Motivation
How Did It Feel? What Values Were Involved?
Feelings Around the Issue
Exploring how she feels about her issue, the client mentions:
- Tiredness. It’s mental tiredness that manifests with a flood of thoughts (“what are you doing?”, “what’s next?”, “what are your goals?”, etc.). It reflects how she relates to her learning journey to become a coach. But it is also something that manifests in other contexts, revealing a pattern: she writes down her thoughts, drawing some actions but then as new questions come up, she’d go back to the drawing board therefore not giving a chance to her previous ideas to be tested. As a result, she’s got a lot of ideas but not many concrete actions. She recognizes it would be beneficial to try to stick to an idea and see where it leads her. The question then becomes: how do you stick to one direction? What’s needed to achieve that?
- Overwhelm. As her thoughts are flooding her brain, bringing a sense of tiredness, then she feels overwhelmed by the idea of working on her portfolio. It’s a never-ending feeling, circling the issue.
- Disappointment. As a result, she doesn’t take any action and for that reason, she feels disappointed with herself. More specifically, she feels disappointed because she feels she’s letting herself be overwhelmed. However, she now recognizes that it’s OK to feel overwhelmed: this learning journey means a lot of new skills to acquire and it would be “superhuman” not to feel overwhelmed. What is not OK is to be stuck in a negative place. Because of this current mindset, the overwhelm is associated with a negative value while she feels it should be positive as it is a natural consequence of the learning process.
- Uncertainty. The uncertainty comes from the fact she hasn’t built her own coaching practice and can’t test her assumptions. The uncertainty is the very reason she keeps questioning herself and iterating. It creates a mental chatter that overloads her brain.
So the uncertainty triggers a mental chatter that overloads her brain creating this sense of tiredness. It leads her to feel overwhelmed when trying to work on her portfolio which in return makes her feel disappointed with herself to be stuck in a negative place and not moving forward, feeding the internal chatter.
Feelings Around the Issue
When considering values at play in her current perspective:
- Learning: It is at the core of what motivates her: she truly wants to learn. However, she recognizes that she tends to engage in a relentless pursuit of learning – learning for the betterment of herself. As a result, she can struggle to pin down what learning she should take away, leaving her with a sense there’s more to explore. That’s when she iterates again and again. With this inability to sort out learnings, comes this flood of information that leaves her tired and in a negative space. She understands now that she needs to look at when she’s learned enough so that she can hold on to that one topic and work on it. When she keeps iterating she’s essentially not giving herself the space to work on that one learning she’s acquired.
- Responsibility. She’s made a commitment to herself that she will learn coaching with ICA, and she feels responsible for herself to keep that commitment. So when she sees she is stuck and hasn’t gone as far as she wanted, her sense of responsibility kicks in and contributes to leaving her in a negative space.
- Stability: She wishes to develop a sense of stability. It relates to how she’d like to feel from a more empowering perspective. What would become stable is her energy: instead of feeling tired because of overthinking, she’d have energy. She realizes that when she keeps questioning herself, trying new things, and feeling tired and overwhelmed, she’s in fact delaying action and as a result almost guaranteed to be in a negative space. But if she has energy, she can move to action and look for a positive space. That energy would therefore feed a positive perspective.
What Power Tool Best Represented the Disempowering Perspective, and Why?
The client identified doubt, and uncertainty but chose to explore delay. She realizes that every time she allows herself to feel tired, she’s delaying action: because she’s tired and feels overwhelmed, she decides she’ll do her work later and goes for a bit of rest – but not good rest because her mind is still working in the background with nagging thoughts. Delaying action only leaves space for mental chatter and negative feelings. This is a cycle that repeats itself and further compound her sense of tiredness.
How Did the Client Feel When They Considered Their Issue From the New Empowering Perspective?
She recognizes that by acting she will remove the feeling of overwhelm and disappointment. Acting means committing to something and sticking to it for some time. Paradoxically, acting leaves room for inaction: she will stop scratching her latest idea for another one and it will leave time for an idea to be given a try.
By not starting over all the time, she will no longer feel tired and overwhelmed. This stability brings energy she can invest in her learning.
She recognizes that without a timeframe, she can iterate forever. However, she committed to learning by the end of her ICA journey. Recognizing that allows her to meet the commitment she made to herself.
What Decisions Were Made, or Goals Set?
The client made the decision that she will from now on only work on one idea at a time and leave herself 1 month to test it out before considering trying out a new idea. She feels relieved about the idea of letting go of other thoughts and sitting in with one idea.
Exploring a Mantra
The request of the client at the beginning of the session was to come out with a mantra to ground herself into action. For that, the end goal of the client was explored and articulated as: “By the end of my ICA journey, I want to have a clear understanding of how I show up as a coach and what that means to me”. In the context of her work on the portfolio, she will reach her end goal by giving herself a chance to test coaching theories so she can identify if that’s the way she wants to show up as a coach. The final piece of the mantra is the timeframe as she now understands that good learning will only come for her with recognizing there’s an end to this learning journey.
All these pieces allowed her to articulate the following mantra: “I will allow myself to practice my coaching theory for the month of May and only change that theory in June if I disprove it”. The client was invited to state how it will feel moving to action with this new perspective: excitement/feeling of electricity in her body, happy anticipation, happiness, achievement, pride, fulfillment, attentiveness, and compassion. The client was then invited to repeat her mantra again to ground it in these positive feelings.
Next Steps / Moving Forward
The client decided to write her mantra on a post-it she will put on her computer as a constant reminder. Every time she’ll decide to work on her portfolio, she will look at it to remember this conversation and the new commitments she made to herself.
She will enlist her mother to help her stick to her new commitments. She will check in with her every week or two weeks and discuss where she stands. She’s confident her mother will be a good support to help her to stick to her new commitment and hold her accountable if she sees that my client is falling again into the pattern of starting over.
Coaching Procrastination and Motivation
The client recognizes through the coaching process that she was delaying action and this was taking considerable energy away from her at the expense of her own learning and achieving her goals. The coaching conversation allowed her to identify a more empowering perspective oriented towards action. This perspective leaves her, in her own words, with a sense of lightness and ease, and relief. Because she knows what she’s going to do for the coming month, she can let go of any more thoughts.
The client acquired through the session the confidence that she will no longer go in that negative space. Not only she will no longer reinvent the wheel, but also she realized that rather than scratching an idea from month to month, she can build on one another so that even though an experiment is not successful, it will add value to her goal and contribute to her learning.