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Ways To Respond To Procrastination by Christina Gillett

4 responses to your procrastination that are more effective than name-calling

(Read the full blog post here)

Anastase Maragos – Unsplash

As a coach, I often meet people who are exasperated by their procrastination, but despite name-calling and getting ‘tough’ with themselves, still nothing happens. And, especially for the people I tend to work with – in helping professions (NHS , teachers), and others driven to make a positive impact, it’s not surprising. You are already motivated to do a good job and make a positive difference – you don’t need the push. But something is blocking you. Underneath the passion and the procrastination, it is not unusual to find things like people-pleasing, overwhelm, perfectionism, anxiety, imposter syndrome, stress, low self-worth, or believing that you are only worth as much as you can produce and fearing it won’t be enough – all of which can be associated with procrastination. If pushing yourself harder increases the pressure and stress, it might make the problem worse in the long-run.

If any of this resonates, consider consulting with a qualified professional such as a therapist or coach to help you address these underlying issues. And in the meantime, here are some responses to your procrastination that don’t involve insults, punishment, or harsh discipline, and might be more effective at getting you past the block: 

  1. Just put the shoes on
Braden Collum – Unsplash

When I first really got into running, I loved it, but if I missed sessions, I often struggled to go back again. The problem was that instead of ‘just a run’, I couldn’t stop seeing it as part of the overall goal – that I was now BEHIND on and at risk of ‘failing’. So I switched to the other extreme: ‘Just put the shoes on’. That’s all I have to do – I don’t even need to run today. Or I would decide just go to the running route, maybe walk a little – anything small enough that I could do. It was starting that was the problem, not the actual doing. Usually this worked so well that I did the full run and got over my mental block, but I had to genuinely believe that it would still be progress even if that day I just put on the running shoes. Goals can be very motivational, until they are not! So today plan to JUST put the shoes on, read the contents page, find the phone number, or save a new blank PowerPoint. Choose something so easy it couldn’t possibly say anything about your ability or likelihood to succeed, moving your attention from the final result, to today’s task. I smashed my goal by the way. 

  • One thing
Hannah Olinger – Unsplash

Your growing to-do-list is already infinite but yet another day has passed and you haven’t ticked anything. So, take everything off the list and just put one thing (max. 3) back on it. Whatever is the smallest number you need to make it possible for you to face the list. I know it’s impossible to pick one task – but do it anyway. When you get it done, you can decide whether to do more. You’ll have some task momentum, a dopamine kick, a bit of confidence in your ability to do things, taken some pressure off. Or stick with that one thing, and you have done exactly what you planned. This reduces the distraction and overwhelm and allows you to focus on each task. 

  • Make it intentional

You know when you genuinely try to get it done, but nothing happens? Next time you see that coming, instead of sitting at your desk for an hour feeling bad, make the intentional decision to leave it. You are probably over-focussed on the thing you need to do, stressed out about it, in a frame of mind where you can only see what can go wrong with it (perhaps unconsciously). Go for a walk, preferably in nature, look around, move your body, de-stress, give your mind some space. Even without actively thinking about the task (in fact it’s best not to), research suggests that when you return, you are more likely to see the bigger picture, make useful connections, feel energised and capable and be better equipped to get the job done (probably in half the time). If not, you wouldn’t have done it anyway and at least you’ve got out for some much-needed exercise and fresh air.

  • Try to understand what’s happening
Elisa Ventur – Unsplash

If you keep finding yourself blocked, look at what could be behind it. Could it be an issue with:

  • The task itself?
  • The circumstances or context in which you are attempting to do it?
  • Any thought patterns, beliefs, ways of looking at yourself or the task?
  • Exhaustion and general overwhelm?

If you want help applying these or coming up with your own personalised ‘unblockers’ that don’t involve yelling at yourself, get in touch for a free introductory call to see how coaching can help.

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