Research Paper By Lydia Gayino
(Women Empowerment Coach & Leadership Coach, FRANCE)
You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today. ― Abraham Lincoln
What is procrastination?
Procrastination is “the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished by a certain deadline, or the intentional delay of starting or finishing a task despite knowing it might have negative consequences.” Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procrastination
At its core, procrastination occurs as a result of people’s inability to self-regulate their behaviour, which means that there is generally a gap between how they intend to act and how they act in reality.
People prioritize their feelings in the present and choose to do things that will help them feel better right now, even if it comes at the expense of feeling worse later.
We might feel better to know that most of us procrastinate, however, when it becomes a habit it paralyses us, makes us feel guilty, procrastination leads to less productivity, and causes us to miss out on achieving our goals and moving forward.
We have probably asked ourselves at some point “why do I procrastinate even though it is not supporting me?”
This is an important question since understanding why you procrastinate is crucial if you want to figure out how to stop doing it.
What are some of the reasons why people procrastinate?
Search for instant gratification
We seek to do first, the things which are the most satisfying at the moment to feel that gratification in the now. While the things which are not satisfying are being delayed.
The task we must do is too difficult, requires a lot of time, energy and concentration hence we keep on delaying it. We might start the action and notice that it requires more time than planned, we get stuck and feel overwhelmed and do not move forward.
You have a high standard and want your work to be perfect. You might avoid doing an action as you are afraid of failure if the work you submit is not perfect. Would the perfect standard you set for yourself ever be met?
You might keep on working on a task and avoid submitting the work which refrains you from progressing.
Lack of interest
Monotony and repetition; when we are bored about something, we might keep on delaying a task we have to do.
When people impose things on us, or we want to go against their request because we dislike or resent them, we will postpone the action which was requested by them.
The reasons why we are not able to take decisions are lack of confidence, having too much choice, or not enough, or the options are too like each other or the high risks that are linked to the decision.
People who cannot make decisions in a timely manner might end up not taking any action and keep on procrastinating.
The unconscious fears
Among the most common fears are fear of failure, fear of not being up to scratch, fear of others’ judgement, fear of change, and fear of success. They fulfil 2 functions: protect our self-esteem and keep us in our comfort zone. To stay in our comfort zone, we can avoid acting.
Being scared and anxious about acting because we fear the consequences. Although delaying will not get the consequences to happen or the problem to disappear.
People can be averse to taking some actions as the tasks are annoying, boring, frustrating, or hard. Therefore, they will keep on procrastinating about doing this task.
Working on small tasks because they’re easier
Often, we will choose to work on “filler” tasks because they are quick and easy to accomplish. This may include checking your email, talking to a co-worker, or doing some light paperwork. While these tasks may make you look and feel busy, and make you think that you are getting a lot done, it is really just a creative form of procrastination. Small tasks are easy to do and give you a quick sense of accomplishment, so by doing them first, you can get instant gratification. People want to feel successful and accomplished sooner rather than later. Retrieved from https://www.developgoodhabits.com/causes-of-procrastination/
People procrastinate for several reasons: lack of self-esteem, the difficulty of concentration, lack of attention, dispersion, lack of energy, fatigue, poor time management, lack of self-control, poor organization, etc.
Perhaps you have doubts about your ability and are worried about failing, so you put it off and seek comfort in doing work that you know that you’re capable of completing.
Whether due to personality, lack of motivation, poor confidence or other emotional issues, dealing with procrastination usually means dealing with the underlying problems that make us put things off, delaying them or avoiding them.
Understanding why you procrastinate is beneficial since it can help you figure out how to deal with your procrastination. If you that you are feeling overwhelmed you might break down the project in several small tasks, rest to gain energy and tackle the tasks one by one. Knowing why will allow you to set the right strategy to tackle it.
How to stop procrastination?
There are many tips we can use to overcome procrastination:
1st Gain awareness and acknowledge that we are procrastinating is a start before taking further actions. Create the habit to track your impulses to procrastinate
You may be procrastinating if you:
- Spend your time doing unimportant;
- Leave an item on your To-Do-List for a long time, even though it's important;
- Read emails several times over and not make a decision on what to do with them;
- Prioritize tasks requested by others, instead of doing important tasks that matter to you;
- Wait to be in "the right mood" or wait for the "right time" to tackle a task;
- Make up several excuses why we are not doing a task;
2ND seek and understand why we procrastinate, what triggers your behaviour? Once you understand you can then take action to move forward.
Ask yourself some questions:
- What am I trying to avoid by not doing this task?
- What is making me uncomfortable around this task?
- What would I gain by doing this task now?
- What is the worst that could happen if I ignore this task?
- If I cannot do it today, when can I do it?
- Explore what is holding him back, explore fear and beliefs. A coach can help with that goal.
3rd Put in place strategies, habits which can help you to refrain or stop procrastinating
- What first step can I take to move forward?
- Who or what can support me to accomplish this task?
1. Do a 5 to 10 minutes daily review of your priorities. Prioritize tasks by urgency and importance
2. Focus on your most important things which have the biggest impact
3. Eat the Frog. Complete the hardest thing 1st at your peak time (high focus & energy).
4. Break down an overwhelming task into more manageable chunks. Set timelines to these small tasks.
5. Attach all tasks to a goal. How it relates to your purpose, to your important goals?
6. Create accountability for your tasks. Get someone to check on you.
7. Minimize distractions
8. Reframe your thinking to support you to move forward
9. Reward yourself when you accomplish a task which allows you to move forward.
10. Face your fears with courage, share with the party concerned or a friend or a coach…
How to handle procrastination in a coaching situation?
Coaching relies on a partnership between coach and coachee, where the coach provides the framework, space, time and tools for the coachee to feel that he/she is moving forward. In this process, the client is very likely to increase awareness around values, behaviours and priorities that were not clear.
Ana is a temporary teacher. She wants to become a permanent teacher next year but for that, she needs to pass an exam to become a permanent teacher. She needs to write 3 research papers to be delivered to her mentor and together they will decide which one to present for her final exam.
As a teacher she needs to prepare her lessons, teach, and correct students’ exam papers. She is also part of an association with an admin role and needs to support the association with the organization of meetings and events.
She is struggling to find time to work on her research papers and keeps on postponing the delivery dates for her research papers and prioritizes other tasks from her association.
She is now getting stressed and has decided to take a coach to support her to pass successfully her exam.
Why is it a problem?
By constantly postponing the submission dates of her research papers, she is feeling more and more stressed, losing confidence and doubting she can succeed in her exam. She received a reminder from her mentor, telling her that delaying the submission of the research papers might hinder the quality of the work to be submitted for the final exam. She is now feeling overwhelmed and does not know where to start. She has been prioritizing her association tasks which are less important than her research paper as she expressed.
How long has it been a problem?
She has been in that delaying state the entire quarter 1 and did not deliver any research paper to her mentor. She needed to deliver 1 research paper in quarter 1. Now she needs to deliver 2 papers in quarter 2 and, she is feeling even more stressed.
- What specific coaching skills or approach did you use in this case?
- Establish the coaching agreement and ensure to get a clear outcome;
- Elicit client values to understand what is important to her;
- Ask powerful questions to drive awareness;
- Examine the underlying fear;
- Reframe client perspectives;
- Visualization to encourage motion by leaving the client in a positive state of mind;
- Design a SMART action plan and accountability to complete her research papers;
Explain your process in detail
At the discovery session, Ana wanted the coach to support her to pass successfully her exam.
After exploring what successfully passing her exam meant and where does she stand today, the client expressed that she was scared to fail which was the reason for procrastination. Client and coach agreed on 10 coaching session in 5 months to support Ana to be well prepared to pass her exam.
First coaching session:
Coach established a clear coaching outcome with the client, after clarifying the topic and exploring it. The outcome was to understand why she keeps on delaying working on her research papers and to establish a few steps to start working on her first research paper.
Coach asked a powerful question: What is stopping you from starting to work on the research papers?
The client expressed feeling overwhelmed, not knowing where to start, and lacking confidence.
After exploring these different feelings, the client came to the awareness that she was procrastinating due to a fear of failure, so she was resenting to start working on the research paper.
The Client gained the awareness that she fears to be embarrassed in front of her peers if she fails her exam. She also realized that she was doing the exam for herself and not for others and others judgement should not take control of her life. She wants a stable job, a better salary and lifestyle. These attributes are aligned with her values of stability and comfort.
The Coach asked these questions to support the client to face the fear of failure?
- What would happen in by putting off writing your research papers?
- What is the worst possible consequence that could happen?
- How would you handle a negative outcome?
- How often do people die from failing an exam?
Coach gave her this statement from Michael Jordan to the coachee and asked her what do you think about this statement?
“I missed 9000 shots in my career. I lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I was trusted to take the victory shot and I missed. I failed again and again and again in my life. That’s why I succeed”
Coach supported the client to reframe her language:
Ana said: “I have to do these research papers.”
Coach: “Would you have to do these research papers? or would you choose to do them?“
Ana: “I choose to do them as I want to be a permanent teacher. “
Coach: “What actions can you take to start working on the research paper?”
The client came up with a list of actions to overcome procrastination
- Get an appointment with the mentor to get more directions;
- Break the tasks down into small steps;
- Find out what she needs to know to start doing research before writing;
- Schedule or block out time in her calendar;
- Set deadlines and ask her colleague to hold her accountable;
- Set rewards for completing tasks.
Coach challenged the client on what can come on her way from taking these actions and questioned the client on accountability.
To leave the client in a positive state of mind:
Coach asked: How would you feel if you could tick this pending task off your list?
The session ended with a visualization of Ana submitting the first research paper to her mentor.
- What were the results of the coaching process?
Ana called me after one month to inform me that she submitted her 1st research paper.
- If you could approach this problem again, what would you do differently?
Checking if there were the reason for procrastination than just the fear of failure.
Measure the level of client commitment on an action plan.
- What did you learn from this experience?
It is important to understand why one procrastinates to be able to explore it and come up with an appropriate action plan to move forward and stay committed.
This coaching experience requires a partnership between coach and client. The first step towards moving things forward is for the client to recognize that she is procrastinating and for the coach to hold the space for the client to express it on her own. The coach and the client will work on getting the awareness of the deeper reasons for the procrastination.
This paper had the intent to understand what procrastination is, why people procrastinate and the strategies to overcome it. To explore how the coach could leverage this understanding in supporting the client’s coaching experience.
ICA Power tool Trust versus doubt