Communicate Influence

Know when to fight or embrace procrastination

When to fight procrastination
how to coach a leader
Bruce Mayhew

The mind is a powerful thing. It can be disciplined and help drive us towards goals, or it can trip us up and prevent us from reaching what we want.

Want success? Learn to deal with procrastination

Procrastination is one of the most common methods humans use to prevent themselves from reaching goals and achieving success.

Procrastination is a conscious and perhaps deliberate process employed to bring about failure, according to psychologists.

Corporate trainer, executive coach and mentor Bruce Mayhew explains how to connect with our subconscious and inaccurate self-appraisals so that we learn to understand what procrastination is telling us and that we do what needs to be done and meet our goals.

In his next article, Bruce will address the next common method we use to prevent ourselves from being successful: self-sabotage.

By Bruce Mayhew

Everybody procrastinates. The definition of procrastination I use when I’m teaching a workshop or coaching executives is: “Procrastination is when you intentionally avoid doing something important you should be doing.” The key word here is intentionally. We are not aware of actions that keep us away from doing something important that is likely self-sabotage.

A small number of us procrastinate because we don’t like the task ahead, while others engage in long periods of preparation in the belief that we’re making progress.

Procrastination can be good for us

Procrastination isn’t all bad and I believe can even be a good thing. For example, intentionally taking a break after working on a project for an hour or two gives our bodies and our minds a chance to rest. We can come back to the same project feeling refreshed and can likely see our work in a new light including creative opportunities we missed earlier.

Whether we choose to take a 15-minute walk, help an associate with one of their projects, or watch highlights from a past ‘America’s Got Talent’ show, as long as we choose to not work on one of our priorities it’s procrastination. Other people might call it taking a break or clearing our head. If we’re feeling tired or burned out, this is when we should actually embrace procrastination.

When procrastination is a problem

Where procrastination starts being a serious problem is when our short break turns into hours, days or even years of intentional avoidance. When this happens, it isn’t about clearing our heads; something serious is going on. There are many reasons why people procrastinate for long-periods of time. Some of the most familiar reasons include:

  • The task and/or the outcome is unpleasant
  • The task is boring
  • We don’t know what is wanted
  • We don’t know where to begin / how to do what is asked
  • Fear we will fail and look bad

Being self-aware is key

To overcome procrastination, we must first recognize why and when we are doing it. This means we have to be self-aware. When I work with clients on this, I often begin by helping them become very aware of three things:

  1. What is their procrastination ‘trigger’? Perhaps it is one of the five listed above.
  2. What do they feel when they are being triggered and want to avoid something?
  3. What they do when they procrastinate? Read/write email, watch videos, do work they know even thought it is low-priority? The list goes on and on.

Procrastination triggers are different for everyone

What triggers procrastination is different from person to person. Being self-aware of the events that trigger our procrastination cycle helps us learn to choose to not fall victim – at least not for long periods of time.

As people learn about procrastination, they also learn that for every reason you might procrastinate there are ways out. For example, if I don’t know where to begin, a few options to overcome procrastination are to:

  1. Start – anywhere along the project. As we start doing we often begin seeing clues to what else needs to be done and/or who can help you.
  2. Ask a friend to brainstorm possible solutions with you.
  3. Go online and search for possible solutions or articles covering that task
  4. Ask your boss to coach you – or for someone else who can coach you

In the end, I don’t think trying to avoid procrastination all together is a good thing. If we are using it to rest and regroup, then procrastination is healthy. Learn to be self-aware and understand the difference.

Sheelagh Caygill

Sheelagh Caygill is an award-winning content marketer, communications practitioner, and journalist. Based in Toronto, Sheelagh has worked for media outlets including The Edmonton Journal and The Northern Echo, as well as the corporate and non-profit sector in Canada and the U.K.

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