Dealing with Procrastination in Life Coaching
Procrastination is a problem that can affect many areas of our lives. The real truth is that most of us procrastinate about something. Let us go through the following list to see areas in which we might procrastinate. Highlight any that seem to speak to you:
o You hate to clean out the refrigerator.
o You hate to clean the dishes.
o You have a garage to organize.
o You do not like to pay bills, so you avoid opening them.
o You have not resolved that issue with your sister, brother, parent, friend, or neighbor.
o Your sex life is not what it used to be, but you live with it.
o You have trees or bushes to trim.
o The house needs to be painted.
o Your car needs a tuneup.
o You forgot someone's birthday or anniversary.
o You have a medical procedure, such as an annual mammogram, to have done.
o You need to lose weight.
o You should exercise.
o You need to refill your medications, but you have to see the doctor first.
o You have a mole that should be checked by your dermatologist.
o Your GERD symptoms have gotten much worse.
o You have some nagging chest pains, but they do not seem to be really bad.
o Your knee is still bothering you, even after three months.
o You promised your doctor you would start a meditation or yoga class three months ago.
o Stress at work is getting worse.
Career or School
o Your office is messy and disorganized.
o You have phone calls to return.
o You have thank you notes to write.
o You have a term paper to write.
o You have a test to study for.
o You really should get that Web site up.
o You need to establish a filing system.
o You have warm leads that are growing cold.
o You have continuing education credits to obtain.
o It is tax season again, and you are not ready.
As you can see from the above list, procrastination affects many areas of our lives. While one or two can be put down to just being busy or "I just didn't have time," if you have highlighted more than about two items, chances are good that you are a procrastinator.
Hurray! You have taken the first step and admitted that perhaps you have a problem. Now that you know, you can begin to fix it.
In order to evaluate the cost of procrastinating, you will need to take stock of the areas of your life in which you procrastinate and then write down what this is costing you.
While this is a really hard step, it is necessary for change. If you ignore that you have a problem, it simply will continue and only get worse.
What you should not do is judge yourself. Do not say to yourself, "I'm such a loser," or "This is hopeless," or "I have no business doing _____."
We need to take a look at the facts of the situation so that we know what we are dealing with. Knowing the cost can sometimes help you to become more motivated to get it done.
Here is an example: Let us take office organization. This has been an ongoing problem. Papers, files, and folders are piled everywhere. You cannot find an envelope and a stamp to save your life. Most of the time, you have only a small corner of the desk to work from; the rest is covered with piles and piles of papers, books, magazines, etc.
Each day you enter your office to work, the first thing you see is the mess. We actually have an instant stress response when our surroundings are messy because we already are dreading that request to find something. You know the request is coming, but you keep hoping it will not happen today.
As you sit down to work, you have to clear a portion of your desk because you need to open the file you just brought into your office. You boot your computer, or you try to boot your computer. There is so much dust on the intake vents that your computer fan finally burned out and your computer is running hot. Should you risk running this way? Let us say you decide to.
A call comes in, you answer it, looking frantically for a pen or pencil. There is no notepad in sight, so you flip a file folder over and write your note on the back of the file folder. Great, you managed that call, now you have to find some information and get back with your caller. You were pretty sure the information was in this pile over here. You spend 10 minutes going through the pile, but come up empty-handed.
This process is repeated over and over again throughout the day. You are getting almost nothing done. You have lost the note you took from your very first call because you forgot which file folder you wrote it on. Your next calls are less successful because you cannot find the information you need, so you have to set an appointment to call these busy people back.
By the end of the day you are frustrated, harried, anxious, and really ready for the day to be over. You may have lost an account, you have gotten very little work done, and you are in a really bad mood.
Identifying the Cost to You:
What is the cost to you?
In terms of career implications, including loss of clients and income, and the health effects of increased stress, the costs could be pretty high. Unless you do something about it, it is only going to get worse.
Ask yourself the following questions and write down the answers:
1. What would someone who truly wanted to be successful in my position do?
2. What am I actually doing? (Not what should I be doing.)
3. What is the gap between the two? What does this cost me?
Now you need to figure out what you are doing with your time. Experience proves that most of the time we are engaged in nonessential tasks, such as:
o checking e-mail,
o surfing the Internet,
o talking to non-business contacts on the phone,
o busy work,
o worrying about how much you are not getting done,
o wasting time looking for materials that should be right at hand.
This type of evaluation of your problem is critical, but you have to do it without judgment. Consider yourself a scientist, and you are simply gathering facts. There are two reasons for this:
1. You need the facts to be able to approach the problem.
2. You need to see where you started to be able to evaluate your progress as you work toward this goal.
Most people feel pretty badly about themselves at this point. You must not think this way. In fact, you should talk to yourself just as you would to a friend in need.
"Of course you aren't a failure! Everyone can see how hard you're trying to get things done, and you're just having trouble getting everything taken care of. I know that you've been thinking about getting your office re-organized so that you can work more efficiently, but you've not had the kind of time you needed. You've been doing the best you can with the information you've had to date, but now you're learning something new. Let's see where it can take you."
If you can learn to talk to yourself with compassion and empathy, you will be able to do that for your clients, too. Remember, life coaching is about mirroring and modeling behavior. Whatever you are going to ask your clients to do, you have to be an expert at it first.
As Bill Murray's psychiatrist, Richard Dreyfuss was trying to help Bill handle his life problems by teaching him to take baby steps toward making improvements.
That is the kind of thing we are going to consider doing.
Here is a story about a woman who needed to lose weight:
Annie was overweight and her doctor informed her that she was at very great risk of developing diabetes and possibly cardiac disease. Her parents had both died of cardiac issues at relatively young ages, so Annie's genetic makeup predisposed her to a similar fate.
Her doctor wanted her to get a treadmill and walk on it for 10 to 15 minutes a day.
That does not seem like much, right?
For Annie, it was like asking her to run a marathon. In her mind, it seemed to be an insurmountable task.
Annie's doctor was a wise man. He asked Annie, "What do you like to do first thing in the morning?"
"I like to read my newspaper and drink a cup of coffee. I do that every morning, and it just helps me to get my day started."
Annie's doctor asked, "Do you think you could just stand on the treadmill every morning while you're drinking your coffee and reading the newspaper?"
Annie was thinking, "There's no way standing on the treadmill is going to help me to lose weight," but because it didn't seem threatening to her and thus she did not fear standing on the treadmill, she agreed to do it.
After a week, she spoke to her doctor on the phone and admitted that while she felt a little silly just standing on the treadmill, she had done it every day that week.
Her doctor then said, "This week I want you to stand next to the treadmill while you read the paper and drink your coffee, but this time, turn the treadmill on while you are doing that."
Annie was beginning to think her doctor was a quack. How could a running treadmill help her to lose weight if she was not on it? Still, she agreed to do it.
Again, at the end of the week she told her doctor she had done as he had asked for the entire week.
"Annie, this week, I want you to actually get on the treadmill and walk for 30 seconds. Do you think you can do that?"
Because she had felt so silly standing next to a running treadmill, this sounded like an easier request to honor. "Of course."
The next week, when Annie and her doctor chatted on the phone, Annie said, "You know, Doctor, I started out with 30 seconds and that's all I did the first day. Then the second day, I just stayed on for a little bit longer. At first I thought I would walk 10 minutes every day, but then the next day I didn't feel like walking 10 minutes, so I told myself I only had to do 30 seconds and then I could be done if I wanted to."
"Annie, that's exactly right. Set your goal so low, almost impossibly low and keep it there for a week. If you feel like walking more after your 30 seconds, that's perfectly fine, but if you don't, remember all you have to do is 30 seconds."
Annie and her doctor went at this for another two weeks. At the end of all this time, Annie was walking 45 minutes a day and sometimes was even increasing the speed so she could jog for part of the time.
Why did this work? Because Annie's goal was so simple and silly that she laughed at the idea that just standing on her treadmill would help her to lose weight. In fact, the very silliness of it is a powerful way to overcome resistance.
What happened, however, was that Annie's reluctance to use the treadmill was overcome by taking baby steps. Taking the smallest possible action as her daily requirement worked. Then, if she chose to do more, she could, but at the start of each day her goal went back down to 30 seconds.
Why not set her goal higher? Because she would have felt threatened, that the expectation was somehow just too much for her, and she would spiral back down into feelings of negativity and failure. All her progress toward her goal would stop.
Really big things can happen as a result of taking very tiny, silly steps.
One man was a hoarder. His entire house was so packed full of junk that he had what amounted to trails coursing through his house. He never had friends over because he was so embarrassed about the state of his home.
He hired a life coach to help him with this problem. As you can imagine, this problem was affecting all three areas of his life: career, relationships, and health.
At the suggestion of his life coach, the man was required to pick up just one thing every day and do something with it: throw it away, put it away, or give it away.
o That's it!
His only requirement was that he take care of only one item every day.
You are probably thinking that this cannot possibly work. The man had hundreds, even thousands of items piled everywhere in his house. At this rate, his grandchildren's grandchildren would not be able to get the house clean.
As you may have guessed, some days he was not motivated at all, but he took care of his one item. As time passed, he realized that on other days he actually was motivated to clear off a small end table or organize a drawer in his kitchen.
Within three months, this man's home was beautiful. Friends and family could not believe it. They had tried for years to intervene, but had met with great resistance. Because this man set his goal so low that he could not possibly fail, he was then motivated to achieve really great things.
People have used this method for one area of their life and found, to their amazement, that it was affecting all areas of their life. The key behind this method is that every time you accomplish even a very small task you begin to feel successful.
Remember: We avoid pain. Success brings pleasure.