A Coaching Power Tool created by Tiffany Rose
(Career Coach, UNITED STATES)
How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’. Martin Luther, Scholar
As humans we are very good at ‘getting in our own way.’ When we have an important project to complete, we convince ourselves ‘now is not the right time’. And we instantly invent a handful of reasons why it’s not the right time. Or it could be a routine household chore such as cleaning, which very easily builds into a larger task in the near future. We often make excuses for not getting that work assignment in on time;
I wasn’t feeling particularly creative; or for not paying our bills on time; I’d rather be watching TV.
But all this self sabotage of putting obstacles in our path ultimately hurts our performance in the long run. No matter how many reasons we come up with for putting a project on hold, we are clearly avoiding a self sense of accomplishment in the big picture. This is procrastination at its best.
Procrastination is the gap between intention and action, and it is in this gap that the self operates. The undermining behaviour lies in not closing the gap. We make an intention to act, the time comes, but instead of acting we get lost in our own deliberation, making excuses to justify an unnecessary and potentially harmful delay. Who makes this decision? We do. Ironically the self, in fact, sabotages its own intention.
Although we may know intellectually what we ought to do right now, we don’t feel like doing it. So we focus on short-term mood repair: Feel good now, worry about that intention later. Short-term gain, long-term pain.
As many as twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators, so this is a common problem and has proven to be a deep embedded psychological one. For procrastinators – it becomes a lifestyle, albeit an unproductive one.
They miss opportunities for buying tickets to concerts. They don’t cash gift certificates or cheques. They file income tax returns late. They leave their Christmas shopping until the last minute on Christmas Eve. All this causes anxiety and stress, many missed opportunities and sleepless nights.
Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don’t take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking e-mails, surfing the net, calling friends is almost perfect for this purpose. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.
To clarify, procrastinators are not ‘lazy’ people. You may consider yourself a proactive person by nature, but nevertheless you can still procrastinate about your ‘proactive-ness’.
The opposite of procrastination would be doing things with alacrity, meaning doing them promptly and not psychologically ‘putting them off’. Feeling motivated on the other hand is empowerment. It’s taking control of your life. It’s having a desire to make things happen ‘now.’ And not paying attention to the mindless chitter chatter which fuels our insecurities.
It’s the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day. It’s the crucial element in setting and attaining goals, and research shows you can influence your own levels of motivation and self-control. So what mind frame suits you best? It’s never too late to overcome your procrastination tendencies by dissecting ‘why’ and to start taking control ‘now’.
Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger, more skilled and more self-confident and more successful. Mark Victor Hansen, Founder of Chicken Soup for the Soul
The first step is to determine whether you are a procrastinator. If any of the questions below ring a bell, then there are steps you can take in order to move you from procrastination mode and into a motivating one.
Signs that you’re a procrastinator:
- The same things show up week after week on your to-do list
- You put things off until the very last minute and meet deadlines by the skin of your teeth
- There are incomplete tasks and projects piling up around your home or office
- There are jobs you just can’t seem to get ahead on
- You feel flustered and often break into cold sweats, when you think about all the things you still haven’t done
- You find it hard to make decisions
- You miss out on opportunities because of your failure to act
- It effects your peace of mind and insomnia rears its ugly head
One of the simplest and most effective solutions is to ‘just get started’ anywhere on a task. The moment you think “I’ll feel more like doing this later” or “I work better under pressure,” recognise that you’re just about to procrastinate, and are giving in to feeling good ‘short term’.
Don’t think too far ahead or you’ll start to feel overwhelmed with the task in hand. Aim for a little progress. Research indicates that establishing a low threshold to task engagement fuels motivation and changes perception of the task. Once you actually start the task, you’ll feel ‘a task begun is a task half done’ mentality; and you’ll start feeling accomplished.
The solution to distraction lies in recognizing what is actually distracting us. There are two ways to handle this: eliminate the nuisance, or allocate a specific amount of time to indulge in this distraction. Research indicates a little strategic planning helps “pre-empt that which tempts!”
Bottom line is the sooner you begin the task, the sooner you eliminate the self-imposed diversions. Action is key here and timing is crucial.
What does a motivator look like?
Distinctive traits are evident in a person who chooses motivation over procrastination. Highly motivated people tend to set their goals high and are always aspiring to be better, ultimately aiming for the top. They are risk takers and possess the confidence to step outside of their comfort zone in order to try new strategies or ideas. Motivators are humble by nature and have an energetic quest for learning and a zest for life. One of the most important qualities to note, is that they are not quitters. They are persistent and remain open-minded with their options and are committed to succeeding.
- When was the last time you put an important project/task on hold?
- Write down five reasons why you kept delaying it?
- What did you do ‘instead’ of completing your project/task?
- How did you feel? Ie; Did you feel restless? Angry? Frustrated? Unfulfilled?
- How did you feel when you finally completed the project/task?
- Were there any consequences in delaying your project/task?
- What lessons have you learned?
Indeed, it is a relief to know that procrastinators can change their behaviour through coaching. There are many coaching situations in which this power tool can be applied. It can be used in business and corporate coaching as well as in life coaching.
As coaches we can help our clients with accountability. In each session we can address the issue of what is holding them back from completing their goal and we can offer not only emotional support but providing support in helping them achieving their tasks.
Procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just ‘cheer up’. It’s not that simple.
So we can suggest ways of taking baby steps to complete the ‘to do list’, so that they are not feeling overwhelmed. All this will help reframe their perspective.
However, please note: If procrastination is a result of a medical condition such as ADD or ADHD, then we would immediately need to refer them to a professional such as a therapist or a doctor who can help them with their condition.
- In what situations do you believe this tool would be the most powerful?
- In what ways can you help shift a client from ‘procrastination’ to ‘motivation’?
- How can you be accountable to your client?