Procrastination is a topic that clients often ask to discuss during our coaching calls.  Sometimes they lament, “I know I’m a procrastinator, it’s just who I am, I wish I could change.”  Others will comment, “I want to stop procrastinating, I know it’s ‘bad’ for me, but I just do my best work when I’m under pressure.” Sometimes clients will say, “I’m so excited to tell you – I started and finished the project early!  I’m so relieved not to have this hanging over my head.”

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At some point in this blog, I’ll dig deeper into “I just do my best work when I’m under pressure.” I’ll also share my thoughts on “It’s just who I am.”

Plus, in those future posts we will celebrate “I started and finished the project early!”

But today … we are going to look at procrastination from another perspective – the perspective of a client who NEVER procrastinates, yet finds herself putting off starting a project.

“Listen in” to my client “Rosy”:

Today during our coaching call, I really want to talk about procrastination.  I have a big project due next week. I’ve scheduled blocks of time to complete this project over the last few weeks, but I keep rescheduling (i.e. delaying) the time.  Now I’m getting down to the wire, and I don’t have anything done.  What are some tips to help me stop procrastinating?  This isn’t me!”

I admit – her request to discuss ways to overcome procrastination caught me off guard.  We had been working together for 3 months, and this was the first time she mentioned procrastination.  Typically, once a task was scheduled into her calendar, she completed it.

So I replied,

“Rosy, help me understand.  Other than on this project, do you typically procrastinate?” (To which she replied no.)  What is it about this project that is different?”

Here, Rosy shared that she was under contract to produce an e-learning course for a company that she typically loves to work with.  AND the course she was creating is in her expertise.  Both great things . . . so typically she doesn’t have a problem starting and completing excellent work.  So the company and the work itself was not the obstacle.

Upon further reflection, however, she realized that she didn’t believe in the specific content for this particular course. And so, because she didn’t believe in what she would be teaching, she kept putting it off.

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Often for both the coach and the client in a situation like this, the tendency is to move right into problem solving mode (“I want to stop procrastinating.”) and we examine a multitude of techniques to stop procrastinating… causing us to start treating the symptom without recognizing the cause.

In this case, the cause of Rosy’s procrastination was she didn’t believe in the product she was creating.  She could have tried a couple of procrastination busting strategies – however, this would have provided limited value.  Knowing WHY she was procrastinating will help her in the future as she identifies which projects she wants to accept.

If you find yourself delaying a specific task and that’s not usual for you, examine the what and the why for answers. Are you confused about what is your next step? Do you feel the task is too difficult? Or like Rosy, do you simply not want to take it on? When you uncover the core reason for the procrastination, you can then find the solution.

So tell me, what kinds of things cause you to delay starting a project? How do you overcome it? Share below – you might help push someone else along!

And when you’re stuck and can’t find your “why,” it may be time for an objective third party to step in!

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(image credit Salvatore Vuono)