So you procrastinate, do you?

Procrastination! It sounds like some stomach complaint that you can pop a couple of relaxants for.

In some light comical way, there is a connection. People who put things off usually come up with a series of verbal excuses to justify their altered course of action. However, everybody knows – speaker and listener – that excuses they remain. And these excuses end up causing pain for their creator.

So what’s it all about? Especially in a work environment, why do people procrastinate even when it will cost them time, money and effort? As a business moderator, I come up against this issue frequently. Just recently, I was faced with a champion “putter-offer”.

Our heroine, call her Miriam, runs her own small company in the service sector. She is well-educated and understands the world of commerce. And yet she has been struggling to take on new clients. She has not even been initiating, going out of her way to find other things to do instead of selling her skills. Can I help?

I met with Miriam several times. Will she do this or that? No. Why? Just won’t. Does she realise that she is forgoing income and thus not doing the things she wants to do. Yes? Will she change? Not really.

And then something interesting happened. Rather than waiting for me to start off the discussion, Miriam turned up to a meeting with a conundrum. Should she take on two new clients? In other words, she had received a double bonus from heaven, but was considering turning it down!

We spent a good deal of time discussing the pitfalls of the situation. What if this and what if that happened? We looked at some personal considerations, which may have been clouding Miriam’s judgements. “Yes, I appreciate that, but this will not make my hesitations go away”, she responded.

And at that point, I realised that Miriam was about to reach “the eureka moment”. I opened the trap door.

  • Michael: So, you are concerned that you will not be able to do the work nor do so with the quality that you demand of yourself?
  • Miriam: Correct
  • Michael: That is a devastating worry – too big to handle?
  • Miriam: That’s it
  • Michael: Don’t you see. Your search for excellence is not just a weakness. It is also your strength.
  • Miriam: Look of non-plussed – as known as the look of  ‘I will be embarassd if you catch me out’.
  • Michael: It will push you to achieve the result you want to provide. After that, if your client achieves (or not) what they want to do, it will be dependent on themselves and not you.
  • Silence. Embarassment. Relief.

In other words, Miriam’s high standards were a double-edged sword, but she had been trained to see only the negative side of the story.

That is why she procrastinated about handling the new customer base. Unplaced fear had blinded her from her strengths and thus from reality.

The problem for all of us is how to ensure that we surrund ourselves with “help tools” that will allow us to see through the darkness.

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One Comment on “So you procrastinate, do you?”

  1. […] have written here on several occasions about procrastination – how professional managers simply put off […]

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