I can’t tell you how many times I have met with clients who initially resist telling me they procrastinate. They see procrastination as a poor leadership quality, something to train out of. I offer another explanation to my consulting clients. Set judgement aside and consider your procrastination may carry a message for you. Here are seven positive messages I have identified when analyzing my leadership coaching clients procrastination habits.
You are operating outside of your strengths.
When you operate within your strengths, you get brilliant genius energy. Genius energy activities propel you forward. For me, when I am in my genius energy, I am in strategy mode. I’m instructing a client on communication strategy or working in the background putting strategy together. I am looking at communications, scanning for inconsistency, and making words sing like music. When I am in my genius energy, I am building shared vision in teams. I’m watching it click for them. Whether it’s my team or one of my clients, seeing a team “get it” lights me on fire. When I am activating, making things happen, I am really in my zone. I can keep plates spinning knowing that the cooks are cooking up something delicious to go on them. I make things happen, for myself and for my clients. If I am stuck too long in strategy, I get listless. I like things to move! If they aren’t moving, I get out the scissors and I start cutting red tape. I pull out my personal bulldozer and plow through road blocks.
What’s outside of my genius energy? Sales. I can network once I have a personal connection, but I always go personal first and its a SLOW boil. Even then, procrastination kicks in, as does the SHOULD monster. I SHOULD be handling my own sales, right? Not necessarily. That’s why I’ve decided to bring on a sales team. By removing myself from the “doing” of the sales function and into a leadership role, I will empower my firm to grow.
Where are you operating outside your strengths? Where could you supplement that with team or vendor services?
You are operating outside of your passions.
Have you ever just felt that slog of, “I just don’t want to do it?” I think we all have. When you are jumping out of your shoes to do something, odds are you are passionate about it.
It’s kind of like this blog post for me. I just HAD to write it. And, once I started writing it, it just wrote itself. Writing is not my constant passion, however. Inspiration is necessary for me to write. I would not call writing a passion. Communicating is more of a passion for me. Communication strategy, coaching, teaching, consulting – maybe not the nuts and bolts production of it. But, when I get inspired to teach, I teach. Sometimes, passion and talent can get confused. When I get going, writing is a strength of mine. But, put me in a cubicle and tell me to write all day long. Suddenly, that inspired teacher becomes a factory worker. The flow stops because it’s not my passion.
So what’s one to do? Things need to get done, right? Blogs need to be written. If you can’t afford to grow a team to work only in your passions, give your other tasks a sand box to play in. Set boundaries with it and allow yourself to produce more, but not less. I commit to writing one blog a week because I know this blog might pique your interest about my firm. And I know, as the firm grows, I can teach someone to be my voice and to grow the content marketing, inbound marketing, piece of it. Good sandboxes keep procrastination sand from spilling out and ruining the playground of your business.
What non or quasi passions can you set a sandbox around? How can you play and get things done without getting stuck and sacrificing your precious energy?
You are depriving yourself of fun.
Inside of us, we all have a pleasure-seeking, borderline hedonistic, 7 year old. This id driven archetype wants what they want, when they want it. This inner kid is the reason we turn on the TV, reach for Facebook or other social media, allow co-workers to drone on a little too long in the middle of the day, and stretch the limits on our work boundaries. It’s kind of like going on a diet. If you went on a diet that said, NO CHOCOLATE CAKE, what do you want? You might find yourself really wanting chocolate cake, even if it wasn’t your favorite to begin with. Why? It’s because you told your inner 7 year old you couldn’t have it.
Instead, try this. Don’t time your work, allow your fun and time your fun. Always be working toward your fun. Award your focus with a big proverbial lollipop of whatever you like to do for your 7 year old.
Are you guilty of inner child neglect? What ways could you fix that this week to increase your productivity?
You need to allow a break to inspire you.
Sometimes, you just need a break to gain fresh perspective. I travel a lot and, sometimes, I find myself working at coffee shops or co-working spaces. Two sometimes three times a work session, I will shift my location for a literal change in perspective. A couch versus a table is a good choice for me to work at. This allows me to put my computer down, lounge, and observe my surroundings for a bit. Sometimes this isn’t possible in a corporate environment. But you would be amazed how feasible it might be. Reserve a conference room. Work with a co-worker in their space for a bit. Take a pad of paper to the lunch room. Or, just move to a different area of your office. A break in routine disrupts your thought patterns just enough to jog inspiration loose.
Question to ask: How can you shake up your day to day to leave room for inspiration?
You need a physical break.
Bodies are not meant to sit in the same position for long periods of time. It’s the logic behind the standing desk trend. We don’t stand exactly the same way, in the same space, for long. If we do, muscle fatigue will set in fast. Standing desks encourage movement, collaboration, and variety. Now, I’m a sitter. I always have been and I always will be. I am not advocating you run out and buy a standing desk. What I am saying is, shaking it up is good for your body. It’s good to move. As much as moving around my work space helps my inspiration, it also helps my joints. I’m not as stiff. I’m also more energized when I get up. I’ll throw in a little stretch sometimes to.
What can you do to give yourself a physical break?
You need a mental break.
Last, but never least is your mind. Procrastination seeps in when your mind is just simply tired. Stop slave driving your mind. Genius doesn’t come from overwork. Generally what you get is exhaustion, overwhelm, discontent, and a general distaste for what you are working on – no matter how much you love it. Good self communication comes from understanding when you need a mental break. You might notice this from yawning (your body and mind asking for oxygen). When you need a mental break, you may tend to breathe shallow. Shallow breathing increases anxiety. It’s also exhausting. Set your work to the side and take three diaphragmatic breaths.
Do you feel better about procrastinating now?
Next time you do it, stop and listen to what the procrastination is communicating. You can use it as a productivity hack to increase your energy, effectiveness, and awesomeness at anything you do.
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