I’m writing a speech on procrastination. I procrastinate. We all do to varying degrees. As I’ve watched myself, my husband, and my clients procrastinate, I’ve learned that there are different reasons for procrastination. I thought I’d heard them all until today when a coaching client spoke of what was keeping her from completing a task that was not difficult or even time consuming to do.
I’ve known for some time that my ADHD clients can paralyze themselves by looking at the whole task to be done instead of focusing on the next step to take in the completion of a task. I call it the “looking at the forest instead of the trees” problem. It happens when the enormity of a task shuts down mental processes. It’s a very common cause for procrastination. It can be addressed by breaking a task into a series of smaller steps (eat an elephant one bite at a time) and taking one step at a time. If you do that you can avoid shutting down your brain and keep making progress.
What I hadn’t heard before was procrastination caused by viewing a task as too overwhelming because you’ve added a much larger task onto a smaller task. In this case my client needed to complete putting Christmas decorations away in order to reclaim her dining room. That task would normally have taken 30-45 minutes to complete if she simply put things the decorations where they belong.
However, in my client’s mind the “Christmas decoration task” became connected to the “organize the garage” task. She saw putting the Christmas decorations away as an opportunity to also tackle organizing her garage since that’s where the decorations are stored. Those two tasks were then glued together in her thinking.
In her mind the task was no longer a 30-45 minute, fairly simple task. It had become a time-consuming, complicated task that could take hours and perhaps several days to complete alone. Putting the Christmas decorations away was just a minor part of that big task.
Because putting the Christmas decorations away had ballooned into a garage reorganization project, it became so big that the “looking at the forest” problem kicked in and led to procrastination. What is exciting about the coaching process is that we had the opportunity to unearth the block that kept my client from completing the task.
As we talked and explored her reluctance to finish putting Christmas decorations away, she became aware that she was thinking of the Christmas decoration cleanup as part of the much larger garage organizing task. That awareness helped her realize that her expectation that she reorganize the whole garage at the same time that she put away Christmas decorations was keeping her stuck. She was then able to consider ways to disconnect the garage reorganization project from the Christmas cleanup so she could finally be done with Christmas.
Look at some of the tasks you are avoiding. Are you stuck because you’ve made a simple task into a much more complicated project in your mind? If so, you too have the option to change your mind to get unstuck and moving.
If procrastination is a recurring problem for you, coaching is a great way to make changes necessary to reduce procrastination. I offer a free 30-60 minute Back On Track phone coaching consultation for anyone who wants to experience coaching first hand and explore options for addressing challenges that interfere with their productivity. Start your New Year on the right track! Schedule a free coaching consultation now!