Coach's Corner

A selection from frequently–asked questions

Dear Coach,

I’ve acquired a self-defeating habit – procrastination. It’s beginning to affect my career and even my important relationships.

I’ve tried a number of things without real success; after a few short weeks I just go back to my old ways. One of these days I’m going to do something about it; meantime, is there anything you would recommend that could help me get things done while making life easier for me?

Response:

I love your self-deprecating humour! There’s hope for you yet!

Procrastination is widespread and pervasive; some sources say it’s in the top three ‘career-limiting’ habits among business managers. There’s no question about its ability to rob any person of quality of life through diminishing self-fulfilment and sense of accomplishment.

This is one notable feature of procrastination - it affects us all from time to time; I know of no one who can honestly claim that it has never been a factor or concern at some point. Many of us can identify specific and major losses and/or disappointments that can be traced back to this chronic condition and some of these can be life-altering!

The good news is that behavioural science has discovered several sure-fire strategies that are of substantial help; in addition, almost every person you meet will be able to share a few ideas and techniques that have worked for him or her. The secret here though, is not to succumb to short-term, easy fixes but to build a full personal strategy that will fix things for you in a sustainable way.

Let’s recognize that we’re all individuals with a complex personality or character that we’ve assembled over our lifetime to date. Along the way we’ve experienced a rapid start-up between the ages of zero to six/seven years when we readily assimilated the values and perspectives of influential people in our lives. Then we became more selective but no less hungry for input as we pursued our formal education and mastered life.

In the process of building character we acquired a number of values-in-action which may have served us well for a season but which could be having negative benefits for us today or tomorrow. Among these are the trait of obedience (which relieved us of the need to develop self discipline) and the trait of acceptance (which had to be replaced with some form of questing). More importantly, we learned originally to have fun in order to learn and adapt but then later we experienced the need to take life more seriously.

Each of these transitions, and a few others besides, has demanded a shift in our perspectives and perceptions, some of which we may not have mastered properly. As a result, we’re facing life’s challenges with a sub-optimal set of coping skills which are perhaps inadequately suited to meet today’s needs.

The strategy for you to consider is centered on personal awareness and adaptability.

First you need to raise your awareness of your inherent strengths – the behaviours that are supported by your strongest personal values. You’ll recognize these as your passions – those personal attributes that you engage consistently and which stimulate and energize you.

Then you create an implementation strategy which employs these strengths, either for direct outcomes or for trading off with others, doing for them what you’re good at and allowing them to reciprocate in areas where they are stronger but you have less drive and contribution to offer.

For example, if I’m passionate about curiosity, innovation and design, and you get really high on working with other people to coordinate activities and results, we could cooperate on any initiative where I’ll drive the planning and you’ll manage implementation phases. This way we both enjoy winning and can become friends.

Here are some general points for you to consider that might help you locate the deeper-seated reasons for your current perspectives, perceptions and related habits as you develop and apply this strategy:

  • Have fun – we should never forget that we learn best when we’re engrossed in activity, using our imagination, enjoying role-playing new experiences, and exploring at the frontiers of our capabilities.
  • Be optimistic – use positive expectations and confirming self-talk; Henry Ford is credited with the axiom, "Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right!”  He was right!
  • Use all the Strengths and skills available to you – which means learn about, encourage and solicit those useful inherent strengths in others; everyone performs best in areas where they’re passionate.
  • Share the load – find a buddy and work together, sharing available resources, risks and rewards as you go. Life, like love, is a lot more fun when you share it with someone else.
  • Be self directed and ‘other aware’ – know what it is you have to contribute as well as what your limitations are; encourage others to do likewise and, above all, respect each others differences.
  • Celebrate every small success along the way – you do not need to defer rewards until the job is completed; break it into portions and celebrate each and every stage of accomplishment.

These six points are not a strategy so much as an approach, a perspective and a mindset. We build solid relationships to enhance the quality of our lives but we often forget that reaching out to the world in order to add real value with and through others is what life is actually all about.

So think more about creating enhanced life experiences than about securing outcomes – it’s easier and a whole lot more fun that way!

I hope this helps.