The Frustration of Procrastination

The Frustration of Procrastination

ProcrastinationOh the irony of putting off writing about ‘putting things off’.

Oh the pain of resisting getting started with something and finding endless ways not to do it.

Oh the frustration of procrastination.

I was prompted to reflect on this subject by a recent discussion with a client.  She spoke about how hard she finds it to get started with certain projects and tasks.   The inner-me nodded knowingly.

Given that 95% of us admit to regularly putting things off (according to The Procrastination Equation by Dr Piers Steel) and 20% of adults in the US identify as chronic procrastinators, I imagine this maybe familiar to you too?

But I bet, like me, you feel you are busy most of the time, hectic even, working hard with endless To Do Lists?  That you are constantly striving to get things done and forever juggling different needs or wants and that fine balance between work and the rest of life?

Procrastination isn’t the same as being lazy.  In fact, it often goes hand in hand with perfectionism; if you can’t do it just right, you won’t start it at all – better that than doing it wrong or risking failure.  I recently read that procrastination is an active process and therefore different to doing nothing.  I found this quite reassuring.

When I put my mind to something, there is no stopping me.  I feel that wonderful sense of purpose, creation and achievement, all things which I value and know I am good at – when I choose to be.  I can move mountains when I feel like this.

So why do I have other days when I struggle to get going, when I find it hard to make decisions or just lose my momentum?

It’s often about the task itself and how we feel about it.  What is your internal voice telling you when you are faced with certain tasks?

Maybe you find the task boring.  As my client pointed out, it’s generally the activity that she finds least exciting that she puts off most.

Sometimes it’s the perceived enormity of the task – when it feels so onerous, where do you start?

Maybe it’s because it is a bit scary or puts you out of your comfort zone.

So you avoid doing it.  You turn to all manner of distractions (this is what YouTube and social media were designed for right?).  You feel the urge to do other things, anything but the thing you know you should be doing.  You tell yourself that you know it needs to happen, but you don’t feel like doing it now.   It’s almost as if you are seeking comfort in doing other things – at least you get to tick something off your list, even if it wasn’t actually on the list.

[In my student days, when I lived with 3 housemates, I was known to have headed off to the laundrette with a term full of dirty tea-towels, rather than get started on my essay.  At the time, this was an extreme measure of avoidance!].

If you find yourself getting to the ‘dirty tea towel’ stage, try these steps instead:

Step 1: recognise when you are procrastinating.  Become more aware of how you feel about the task.  What is happening, what is concerning you and what dialogue you are telling yourself? E.g. “I should do, I don’t want to do, I don’t feel like doing, I feel stressed about doing, I’m not sure how to do, I’d rather clean the loo than do……”

Step 2: re-frame the task.  Ask yourself:

  • Are you catastrophizing the task; is it really the terrible thing you think it is?
  • How will you feel when you’ve done it?
  • What are the benefits of achieving it – what will it give you? Consider the short and long term benefits e.g. feeling proud, prepared or confident, pleasing someone else, the impact on your career, your development or reputation…..or simply being able to move on and not having to do it again.

Step 3: focus on – no, implore yourself to….just…get…started.  Do something, a tiny part of the task, even just for 10 minutes.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, just a start.  It’s easier to come back to something than nothing.  Then each day, try to do one thing that helps you to make progress with it.

Experts on this sort of thing advocate starting each day with the most unpleasant task first.  I know people who actually do this, so they get those things out of the way before they move on to something they find more interesting.  It’s almost an annoying trait, but oh how I envy them.  Give it a go, you may find you hit anti-procrastination gold.

Step 4: use a prioritisation strategy (e.g. urgent vs important model).  Just think how amazing it would feel if you spent most of your time on the ‘important but not urgent’ stuff!  Schedule time in the same you would if you were having a meeting.  Commit to it and minimise any distractions.  You wouldn’t arrange to meet someone and not turn up, so treat the time on this activity with the same respect.

Step 5: reduce the pain of starting by breaking the task down into bitesize chunks.  Taking one small step at a time is easier than staring at an enormous mountain.  Oh, and give yourself a deadline so it doesn’t trail off into the ‘should have, could have, would have’ ether.

Ha – so what makes you stick to the deadline and not put it off?!

Step 6: promise yourself a reward for completing the task, or perhaps for each chunk of it.  A cup of coffee, a slice of cake, a look at your social media or just some of whatever you’d rather be doing.

Step 7: enlist the support of someone else; someone to check in with you, to help you keep on track and hold you to account for what you have committed to.  Not wanting to go back on your word or let others down can be a powerful motivator.  Perhaps you can offer the same in return?

Step 8: be kind yet firm with yourself.  Forgive yourself for past procrastinations and drop the notion that things have to be perfect before you can start (or finish).  Life and work rarely are, so you could be in for a long wait.

Breaking the pattern of procrastination isn’t easy, especially if your natural preference is to leave things to the last minute, relying on the subsequent surge of energy to get the previously put-off things done.  But as with all changes in behaviour, it starts with focusing on your awareness and consciously taking small steps towards the benefits and the place you want to be.

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What’s fun got to do with it?

What’s fun got to do with it?

What's fun got to do with it?There are frequent themes that crop up when people come to me looking to create a change in their career.

Wanting greater flexibility and to do something that they really connect with tend to be the top ones, but as we explore a little further, another theme repeatedly emerges.

It’s one that is raised in a slightly tentative voice, the thing they almost don’t mention, yet as soon as they do, realise just how important it is to them:  “I’d like to have more fun at work”.

In my experience, the phrases ‘having fun’ and ‘at work’ are not used together often enough, and my clients seem to reflect this.  It’s as if it is a silly expectation or something that is considered unimportant or inappropriate.  Yet not having any opportunity for fun within your work can be hugely de-motivating, and if someone feels this way year after year, is it any wonder that they start looking for a change?

This theme is naturally a big concern for these individuals, but it is also one for the people and organisations they work for.

There is evidence that shows how having fun and experiencing positive emotions at work has a lengthy list of benefits…….here goes:  it increases people’s happiness, helps to protect them against stress, enables higher productivity, promotes exploration, enhances creativity, supports learning and builds individuals engagement and company loyalty.

Phew….and hurrah, fun at work is good for people and for business.

If you were in any doubt about what fun has to do with it – say it out loud – EVERYTHING!

So what does fun at work mean and who is responsible for creating it? Continue reading

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Choice – a blessing or a curse?

Choice – a blessing or a curse?

I recently had cause to buy a new pull-out bin to fit inside a cupboard in my kitchen.

Not a very scintillating purchase and one that I thought (hoped) would be a quick one.  Bear with me, there is a point…..

As I opened up a website, I was faced with 48 different options and before I knew it over an hour had passed and I still hadn’t chosen ‘the one’.  Who knew that such variety in bins even existed?  “Just pick one” muttered my partner – but it was late in the evening and I was stuck in bin choice paralysis.  How did life get this exciting?

A few days later, I happened to comment to him how I prefer to shop at our local mini supermarket rather than go to the bigger one.  He looked at me slightly quizzically.  I tried to explain, “It’s so much easier when there are just 1 or 2 choices for each item”.

I hadn’t realised I felt this way until that moment.  Normally I love having choice – being able to have something just as I like it is one of life’s pleasures.  And I’m not the only one.  From food to gadgets to fashion and more, the consumer world has gone mad for enabling customers to personalise everything and choose just the right combination, flavour, colour, function or style for them.

Thinking more widely, having choices and options in life are of immense value, perhaps more than we can possibly imagine.   To have choice in life is to have freedom.  Having freedom gives us the ability to decide what we do, who we do it with, how we do it and when we want to do something different.

But here’s the thing:  sometimes having too much choice can be totally overwhelming. Continue reading

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Marvin wanted more – how about you?

Marvin wanted more – how about you?

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Our thoughts and creativity can be sparked by many different sources.  Paying attention to these can result in seeing aspects of your life in a different light and learning from unexpected places. 

In this case, I draw parallels from my daughters book ‘Marvin Wanted MORE’ by Joseph Theobald.  It’s a great children’s book about a sheep who is feeling gloomy and wants to be bigger so he can run as fast and jump as high as the other sheep.  To get bigger, he starts to eat more…..and becomes so intent on wanting more he eventually eats the entire planet.  But now he is unhappy – he has no-one to run and jump with. 

The story has a happy ending (of course) and I love the morals behind it.  Slightly randomly, it is also a story that I relate to in my career coaching work.  Who would have thought it possible to take such inspiration from a sheep! Continue reading

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Back to work: what if new stationery isn’t helping?

Back to work: what if new stationery isn’t helping?

Back to work

There’s something about September that always signals a new start.  For me, it’s even stronger than the calendar New Year.

It may be years since I left full-time education, but that ‘back to school’ feeling remains incredibly familiar, with it’s mixed sense of anticipation, optimism and sometimes foreboding, plus a strange urge to buy new stationery.

It’s that time of year when your head is still in holiday mode, but your body is back in the formality of work, with all its expectations glaring at you.

I’ve always found that the longer you are away from work, the harder it is to return.  Monday mornings after a 2-day weekend can be hard.  Bank holiday weekends harder.  Getting back into work after a 2-week summer holiday can feel like an hourly battle (imagine a year’s maternity leave!).   And you can pretty much double the struggle if you are less than motivated or feeling severely overstretched or unfulfilled in your current job.

So, how can you manage your initial ‘back to work’ hurdle? 

Continue reading

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What does success mean in your life?

What does success mean in your life?

What does success mean to you?For many of us, January signals a time to think about the year ahead and start making some decisions and plans.

What will make this a great year for you?

Our energy, motivation and resources are rarely limitless, so how will you choose to invest yours in 2016?

I was recently reminded of a conversation I had with a teacher friend of mine.  She had set an assignment for her Year 6 junior school pupils and asked them to write about “What do you want and hope for in your future?”

When reading their work, there was a distinct pattern; iPads/gadgets/new technology, a good car, a big house, some said a family, others said to be famous but mostly they wanted lots of stuff!  All except for one child who said they wanted a happy life.  Such insight and wisdom at the age of 10 don’t you think?

It made me wonder what people set out to achieve – be it at the start of a new year or over a lifetime.  What constitutes success for each of us and how will we know when we’ve got it? Continue reading

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Reflecting to Learn and Learning to Reflect

Reflecting to Learn and Learning to Reflect

ReflectingWhen I first had my twins, I initially went from a capable, confident individual who could take most of the usual quirks and responsibilities of everyday adult life in her stride…….to a clueless parent who had no idea what to do with two babies, couldn’t fathom the mechanics of their double pram and was rendered a nervous wreck when trying to leave the house with them in it.

This was undoubtedly the biggest learning curve I had been on since, well, since I was about their age! There is nothing like jumping in at the deep end to realise how little you know and how much you need to work out. But when you are busy in a new or challenging situation, and preoccupied with the ‘doing’, it can be very hard to stand back and observe what is happening, understand how you feel about it and identify what might help you to increase your competence.

During the first month a Health Visitor came to our house once a week. She did the usual baby weighing stuff and then each time asked me this simple yet insightful question:  “What have you learnt this week?” I smiled the first time she asked it. As a coach, I knew the power of her question.

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Signs that you are getting ready to change

Signs that you are getting ready to change

Signs of changeMy hair has been long for most of my life.  Somehow it formed part of my visual identity and I had always liked it that way.  It came as quite a surprise to me when I decided to have it cut several inches shorter; a fairly modest ‘just above the shoulder’ length but a big change for me.

Thinking back, I know I was partly inspired to go for a ‘new hair-do’ by my partner who (very) tentatively suggested that a shorter style might suit me, but as I definitely don’t always go for his tips in fashion, I know there was more to it than that……

I was on the brink of actively seeking a change in my life and cutting my hair was an outward sign.   Altering something about the way I looked reflected my growing strength to create a new working life, and in a sense, it was affirmation that I had the courage to do it……..if I could cut my familiar long hair then I could change my familiar job.  How right Coco Chanel was when she said “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life”.

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Lost your career mojo?

Lost your Career Mojo?

Career Mojo 2Take a seat and imagine this……. you are feeling a bit stuck in your working life….. you’ve lost your career mojo and really can’t remember what inspired you to follow the career path you are on.

In fact, you’ve all but disconnected with what motivates you, what you are really good at and what impact you intended to have on the world.

You’re sure it’s in you somewhere but fear you may need the very latest sat nav to locate it.

Then picture someone sending you a link with the chance to re-connect with it.  To explore what is important to you, to review your strengths and the skills you enjoy……to identify what gives you purpose and truly gets you going (yes, as well as needing to pay the mortgage).

In this reverie, someone is guiding you through this process, supporting you, helping you to think big and reflect on different perspectives.  You feel listened to and any slightly battered pieces of self-belief are starting to regenerate.

After 7 Explore sessions, you have clarity on the ingredients you need to be fulfilled in your career and working life.  This is the foundation you were longing for;  with this in place you can find ways to either improve your current career or maybe consider new choices or changes in a time and way that suits you.   You feel more in control…..excited even…..

…..and click…..you’re back in the room.  This is THAT link…….the one to The Explore Coaching Package offering you the chance to have a really good look at yourself and work out what you actually need and want in your career.  You could think of it as a Career MOT.

Get in touch now to find out more or book a FREE consultation.

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Being the Role Model you want to be

Being the Role Model you want to be

Role ModelYesterday, on the afternoon of the UK 2015 General Election, one of my twin daughters (aged 3.5 years) asked me what I had done while she was at nursery.  I told her that it was a special day because the whole of our country was deciding who should be in charge, and that I had gone to say who I thought it should be.  Her response was:  “Oh, who is SHE?”

I have to admit I almost burst with pride on two accounts!

Firstly, that the fight for women’s right to vote and the on-going one for gender equality lives on in my daughter’s instinctive assumption that a woman would be in charge.

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