A Coaching Power Tool Created by Daren Easton
(Career Coach, HONG KONG)
Procrastination is the act of avoiding urgent tasks despite negative consequences. When people procrastinate, they often delay priorities and instead focus on less important, more enjoyable, simpler tasks instead.
There are many different reasons for procrastination, some of the more common one’s areas lack understanding, perfectionism, inadequacy, and fear. Procrastination in the workplace can be one of the reasons why we stay too long in a job role or company that we know is not helping us reach our full potential.
There is further research that suggests procrastination can be confused with action. Actions such as planning or strategic thinking at an excessive level can provide the individual with the feeling that they are taking action without really moving the issue forwards. It is this type of procrastination that forms the subject matter of this paper and it seeks to provide a tool and understanding that can help individuals identify what could be preventing them from achieving their perceived lack of career growth and help them take action to overcome it.
The oxford dictionary definition of procrastination and action is as follows;
- “Procrastination” - the act of delaying something that you should do, usually because you do not want to do it
- “Action” - the process of doing something to make something happen or to deal with a situation
When people procrastinate, they know they should work on a certain task but actively choose to do something else. It is different from laziness, which suggests apathy, inactivity, and an unwillingness to act.
People can be convinced that through *thinking* and *planning* they are taking action but are not actually getting things done. In these instances, maybe they are not taking action at all, but really ‘just going through the motions.’
To understand better, we can look at the difference between ‘going through the motion’ and ‘taking action’.
Going through the Motion – planning, learning, strategizing and thinking.
Taking Action – doing something that will create results.
Both of these behaviors are important for creating intentional goals. However, the action is the driving force behind success and without action, nothing will ever really move towards completion and success. Planning, thinking, and strategizing are key at the front end of ideas but until we move into action, nothing will come of it.
Ideally, we want to start with motion and move into action, however, we can get stuck in the motion stage. The motion stage is the safe zone and when we are in motion, we don’t have to actually deliver the work. We are in a place where we can imagine and create our own reality on how we are going to achieve our goals, but we are not immediately faced with the reality of doing it.
The worst part about being in this place is that we convince ourselves into feeling accomplished and believing we are doing the work when maybe the reality is that we are procrastinating on the transition into the action stage.
Examples of what can happen in the motion stage are:
- Creating a business plan, but not starting the business
- Researching for an assignment, but not writing it.
- Studying to become a coach, and then never actually coaching clients.
- Putting together your ideal workout plan, but not going to the gym.
There is no doubt that strategic thinking and planning does help us to be intentional and understand the high-level direction in which we wish to move forwards, however, we need to remember that the majority of our time should be spent taking action because that’s what’s going to create the most impact in our lives.
Invariably, Clients want to work with Coaches to overcome their problems. The Coach’s ability to assist the Client to see their issue or problems from an alternative/reframing perspective can offer the Client a new approach to the problems previously faced.
Re-framing is not about changing the client’s mind. Instead, it is about creating a shift in consciousness to help them see things in a whole new way. This shift requires the Client to be open and willing to understand that there can be more than one way to look at a given situation.
Daniel brought a situation to our coaching session that was causing him some frustration. He explained that he had wanted to change jobs for some time but was finding it difficult to follow his plan and his timeframe was continually being pushed out.
During the exploration phase of the session, Daniel realized that he was spending so much time planning the steps that he needed to take, that he was spending more time thinking and no time doing. Thereby, he was not moving his situation forwards and felt paralyzed.
During the session, we looked at the steps that Daniel needed to take. He then created an action plan focused on achieving the first step only and allocated an achievable timeframe for this task.
Daniel requested that our sessions scheduled for the following weeks be used to hold him accountable in completing each step before developing the plan further.
This proved to be an ideal structure for Daniel to work with and over the course of the next 3 weeks, Daniel completed the steps needed in preparation for his new job applications.
The feeling of producing a thoughtful and detailed plan that points us in a direction to reach our goals is a natural first step in the planning process. However, if we continue to refine that plan by adding more details and/or steps and adjust the timescales, then we could be procrastinating and be stuck in the ‘going through the motion’ stage.
Whilst Daniel was explaining his situation, I asked what contribution was the plan providing to achieving his goal? This question started the re-framing process for Daniel. Suddenly, he could see that whilst he believed he was taking action by developing and re-developing his plan, he was not moving his situation forwards. We explored further and found that Daniel could see everything that he needed to complete in preparation for his job applications, but he was feeling overwhelmed by the workload and this had prevented him from taking even one step forward.
Developing an action plan focused on smaller one step at a time actions, allowed Daniel to move out of planning and strategic thinking and into ‘doing’. We broke the steps down into smaller, achievable chunks that Daniel was able to focus on. Daniel also realized that whilst small steps may appear to be slow, they do contribute to moving you closer towards your goal.
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