December 16, 2021 by Amanda Reill
Procrastination can conjure up equal dread in students, business people, and creatives. We all know the feeling: understanding that a task is essential and choosing to replace it with any number of potentially less urgent (but likely more enjoyable) activities. Before long, you’re dancing around the task, avoiding it for hours, days, even weeks, until the deadline looms and you have no choice but to complete the task. Around 25% of adults claim “procrastinator” as a defining personality trait.
In life coaching, it’s not uncommon to meet clients from all career paths and walks of life whose procrastination habit has gotten out of hand. It’s essential to get a feel for how this much-maligned issue manifests itself in your clients – and yourself – so that you can move them past the avoidance and into achieving their goals.
Procrastination is not always a result of laziness. It’s also not always an indication that a person struggles with time management. Laziness typically implies apathy, a complete disinterest in doing anything. But procrastination leads people to do something else rather than face what they don’t want to do. They have the energy and drive to do something; they just put their energy into things that aren’t as important or urgent.
Two major indicators make fertile ground for procrastination. The first is demotivating factors, or anything internal that kills someone’s motivation. These are usually negative emotions like anxiety, boredom, or fear of failure. The second is hindering factors, and these are environmental. They include distractions or a routine that is so strict or stressful that it leaves the person exhausted.
These demotivating and hindering factors wage war on our self-control, which motivates us to perform tasks, even tasks we don’t want to do. If the factors override our self-control, we procrastinate. And most people try to wait it out, hoping the balance will tip back in their favor. Sometimes it does, and we finally do the challenging task when we feel “up to it.” But sometimes, in the worst cases, it doesn’t. And that can lead to a habit of procrastination, a trail of tasks left unresolved, and a rising tide of negative emotions as well as forsaken goals.
On some level, we know that procrastination isn’t a good habit and can severely affect our lives. When we procrastinate, we buy into the idea that the short-term distress or frustration of doing a task outweighs the long-term consequences of avoiding it, and that’s not always the case.
Putting something off can make our negative emotions worse, not better. The more tasks we leave unresolved, the deeper our feelings of guilt, shame, and overwhelm can get. In a work or school setting, we can lose momentum in our productivity and eventually become disillusioned, and even depressive, the longer we procrastinate. If the challenging task is health-related, the consequences can be even more dire, especially something like putting off a needed doctor’s visit or making a health-related change to our routine.
While the short-term feeling of putting off a task may seem like a relief, the results can be unintended but severe. And that’s why beating procrastination should be a top priority for anyone who wants to achieve their goals, whatever they may be.
Your clients will come to you with unique issues regarding procrastination, and no two experiences will be the same. Simply improving your time management skills isn’t always enough; you have to start with the internal reasons your client is procrastinating and build out from there.
The most important gift you can give your client who struggles with procrastination is digging deep enough to understand the true core of their difficulties. Procrastination is normal and should be taken seriously, especially by you as their coach. With a bit of understanding, some shuffling of goals and priorities, and some well-placed incentives, your client can stop procrastinating. And when they feel the thrill of doing the tricky thing without avoidance, the privilege of watching them chase their goals with freedom is a reward in itself!
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