One of the best leadership behaviours is the ability to avoid procrastination.
I set aside time on Monday to write this. I didn't.
On Tuesday it was nagging at me, but I was too busy.
On Wednesday I "forgot" to do it.
On Thursday I put it off until Saturday.
On Saturday the weather was too nice.
And now it's Sunday. I can't put it off any longer.
Is this familiar to you? Do you find yourself putting things off until you can't avoid them any longer? Are you surprised that these blogs don't just write themselves?
We all procrastinate at times. But, notice what happens when you put things off?
It is a fact of life we've known for centuries. For so long that, the second "noble truth" of Buddhism can be summarised as:
Suffering is caused by craving and avoidance.
I've been craving that the work was done and avoiding doing the work. Which is silly. You know why?
I love writing this!
And so, I wish I'd had a coach this week. A coach who could have hit me with the left hook, right hook and uppercut of questions for a procrastinator. These are:
What have you already tried? 🤜
What's the next or first step? 🤛
And when will you take it? 💪
The honest answers would have been, "nothing", "sit down and write" and "now".
But still, by procrastinating I did remember this coaching tip, so it isn't all bad 😎. You'll just have to wait until next week for the tip I planned to write.
But, in the meantime, I have a question for you:
What are you putting off that you could or should be doing right now?
Well, that you should be doing as soon as you have finished reading this 😉.
How It Works
Why do we procrastinate?
A theory I love is put forward by Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art: Break Through The Blocks And Win Your Inner Creative Battles.
Pressfield argues that there is a force in the universe called resistance. To achieve anything in life we need to recognise and then overcome resistance. As he says:
The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don't just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.
So that is the solution to procrastination. The solution is to sit down and do the work. The moment you start, the inspiration will come and you'll be doing what you wanted or needed to do all along.
And, the suffering (craving + avoidance) will end.
If You Are Coaching Someone
This is a classic combination of questions for a coach. Almost always the client knows what they want to do, knows what they need to do, and knows that they want to do it.
They just need a nudge to overcome their resistance.
Usually I recommend warming people up to the coaching tips I share. In this case it is better to dive straight in. Ask the questions. Give the client time to reflect, but move through the sequence and don't fill the silence.
Also, don't be tempted to explain resistance in this moment. That would lessen the impact of the your perfect combination of questions. 👊