This year's Autumn brings new challenges to the whole world. Distance from friends and loved ones, from our old routines, lack of sunshine with darker evenings and an uncertain outlook on the close future does not help. Some of you might be starting to give in to procrastination more often than before. As a coach, you might find your clients are struggling with it.
As human beings, it’s safe to say many of us can often spend far too much time overthinking our problems within our lives.
It is a huge challenge and across the board, we’re forced to stop and ponder over various key points; whether it be work, home, relationship or personally related. Around 95% of us fall into this trap to some degree, according to considerable research by Dr Piers Steel, a psychologist at the University of Calgary and the world’s foremost authority on procrastination.
Procrastination is more than just a waste of our resources. Research has shown that persistent worry, over-thinking and ‘holding back’ can damage your happiness, your health and lower your self-esteem. It can even ruin your career, reputation and relationships with the people you love.
Such vacillation comes into play when our negative thoughts talk us into engaging in anything other than the task we know we should be completing. The more negative emotions we apply to a certain task, the more likely we are to waver and delay positive responses; thus even possibly talking ourselves into making completely the wrong decision.
Persistent avoidance of targeting problems via procrastination is a deeply rooted pattern of behaviour and this cannot be resolved overnight.
However, as with most habits, it can be changed over time. Consistent practice in positively changing our thoughts or beliefs can go a long way towards the best possible chance of succeeding.
1. Understand why you’re procrastinating
Understanding the root cause of your hesitation is a good starting point before you begin to tackle it. There are all sorts of reasons why we ‘dilly-dally’ with completing a task; whether it’s completing a tax return (boredom), losing weight (too difficult to maintain), tackling some tricky coursework ( too complicated) or relaying some bad news to someone (too upsetting and risk of ‘losing face’).
Sometimes, the way-laying of task completion can be fear-related. Perfectionists can procrastinate because things have to be perfect for them. The task may just be boring and they can’t summon the enthusiasm to do it due to fear it will be under the standard they’d intended. This leads on to the next point – ‘fear’.
2. Beat fears that can cause procrastination
We all experience fears of success or failure in different ways and to a different extent. This is natural as we all want to feel good about ourselves and we tend to put off doing the things that scare us.
If fear is the root cause of delaying completion, it’s always best to block it from feeding any negativity in your mind. It’s a good idea to pinpoint whether the fear is rooted to the task itself (for instance, a spreadsheet compilation which is proving too tricky to execute successfully), or the result (an email producing a potentially negative reaction).
Once you understand the root cause, run small tests by doing a little piece of the task at the time. This will give you more motivation to focus on the positives, which will help you to finally overcome your fear.
In addition to the self-help goals above, a good Life Coach can help you scrutinise where your fear comes from and what you truly want from life, thus enabling you to beat your fears more effectively.
3. Set challenging enough goals #Perfectwhelm
If poor organisation is at the root of your ponderings, setting challenging goals is a good starting point. Write down your ultimate goal and the benefits of achieving it, and display this where you can see often during the day (e.g. fridge or reminder board in your kitchen).
This step will inspire and motivate you, and provide you with a clear sense of direction and decision making. Big and unrealistic goals feed procrastination. Challenging but realistic and achievable goals will motivate you to move on, e.g. “Completing my Coaching Diploma within 12 months from now”. On the other hand, goals such as running 1000 km within 1 month whilst working full-time would be unrealistic and could cause you to feel stressed and demotivated.
4. Plan and schedule
Poor organisation can lead to lengthy delays in achieving your goal. Make a detailed plan and schedule of how you’re going to achieve your wishes. This will help you allocate your time, effort and focus more efficiently. Big tasks can make you feel confused, overwhelmed and can lead to hesitancy simply because you don’t know where to start. Break these into smaller, manageable and measurable chunks, and set deadlines on each task and subtask.
It is important to prioritise your tasks effectively. Prioritising can massively reduce stress and boost your productivity as it helps you to identify the most important tasks, so you can focus your time and effort on the right ones. Through prioritising, you’ll be clear on what tasks you need to spend your time on and why.
There are several project planner apps freely available to download that can help you plan your time productively and reduce your stress levels.
5. Keep up with a schedule
Commit yourself to the tasks and keep focused on completing them – not avoiding them. Identify when your actions are at their most effective and tackle the tasks you find most difficult at those peak times.
Keeping your vision centred on the deadlines will leave you no time for overthinking. Keeping track of how you spend your time within your schedule is also a good way to retain concentration. Utilising project planner or time management apps can improve your time management and help you stay within your pivotal target range.
A productive working environment with minimised distractions (TV, loud music, Social Media etc.) can also prevent you from wasting precious concentration-time and help you stay on track with your schedule.
Be self-disciplined but allow for the odd moment of flexibility with your schedule by building in time for unexpected things to occur out of your control. This means you can adjust your planning time wisely.
Remember to tick off the task once you’ve completed as this will motivate and give you a sense of personal satisfaction and momentum that you could bring to the next task.
6. Visualise your success
‘Seeing is believing’. Visualisation is a powerful tool that can motivate and prevent you from procrastination. Studies by Kent University have proved that visualising your future success can boost motivation.
Spend 5 minutes a day creating a vivid mental image of what your desired outcome looks and feels like. You’ll then begin to see the possibility of achieving it. By visualising, you are tethered to your goal and this will motivate you to pursue your goal and thus increase your chances of achieving it. The more vivid your success looks and feels, the quicker reality becomes.
Not a visual person?
Create a physical mood board for yourself. Make a playlist of songs that help you image the feeling of success. Dance and move to celebrate that you are on the path of your progress.
7. Reward yourself
Encourage yourself towards achieving your goal by rewarding yourself with a treat; going out for a walk, calling a friend for a chat, a slice of cake or a coffee from your local favourite shop. Choose a reward that corresponds with the size of the challenge and make sure you notice how it feels to complete and tick off the task. After all, you deserve it as you’ve gone the extra mile!
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