Procrastinating on a difficult task or decision? Think about whether emotions are at work, underneath it all. That’s the piece to resolve before you will be able to move ahead. My 3 suggestions today are to help with Procrastination Cause #1: Difficult Emotions or Conversations.
So that I can share strategies you can experiment with, this has been a blog series. Talking about procrastination is like talking about struggles with “time management.” It’s too big to solve for. You have to break it down in some way so you can zero in on the solution that’s going to work for you.
The 4 causes of procrastination I see most often are these. [More accurately: “See” AND “Experience myself!”]
- Procrastination Cause #1: Difficult Emotions or Conversations [Today’s article.]
- Procrastination Cause #2: It’s Too Big.
- Procrastination Cause #3: No Energy or Urgency.
- Procrastination Cause #4: It’s Mundane, Tedious, Boring. [I’m writing in backwards order!]
Your Question before You Start
What are you procrastinating on ? Where are you stuck?
Recall a task you know you procrastinated on so you can figure out a redo for the future. Something you dreaded. Put off until midnight the night before. A task that may have caused friction with employees, business partners, or at home.
With your example in mind, mentally test how these solutions might work and decide which one you can experiment with.
Procrastination Cause #1: Where to Start If Feelings Are in the Way
3 suggestions to combat these scenarios.
The most difficult part is realizing that your reason for procrastinating won’t be solved with a practical solution, as I’ve laid out in other articles in the blog series. Recognizing that emotions are at work is the key step here. How do you do that?
- Try all the practical solutions first. If you’re still not moving, it’s likely there is some emotion you’re not aware of yet.
- Or do the opposite and first nail down how you are feeling about this task or conversation.
#1 Search for and process the emotions.
If you find it is anger or fear, these are not specific enough to solve for. They are “umbrella” emotions, meaning they are sitting above the underlying emotion. What is making you angry specifically?
One client* was procrastinating at hiring a financial planner to plan out their future. The client was angry that the spouse had been spending out of control. How to discuss it though? Was it anger at the spouse’s spending? Or at the financial impact, when they’d agreed to begin plotting out their future? Anger at allowing this to happen, so anger at oneself?
A therapist can be helpful to process and sort out the emotions. Journalling can work, walking/swimming/exercise, meditation – whatever ways you use to process emotions normally. Only then will the conversation about spending and the financial planner be possible.
#2 Set aside emotion by pulling yourself out of the picture.
A client needed to have a difficult conversation with a team member. She knew too much about the employee’s personal situation, which she could tell was interfering with getting the job done well. How could she have the conversation in a sensitive way, yet make the points about job performance?
We role played the situation, but using someone else as the manager, not my client. She imagined that she was a manager she had worked for years ago, a manager she respected a great deal. What would that manager have said? How would she have started this difficult conversation? What results or outcome would she have asked for? How would she monitor progress?
This set aside the emotion. In portraying the respected manager, she remained more objective as she reimagined how to handle the discussion.
#3 Lean in and trust it’ll work out, but practice first.
My client knew he needed to apologize to his client for project delays. Not an easy conversation, with emotions high on both sides of this conversation.
We worked on empathy and understanding of how it felt to be his client. Then we wrote out a script together of how to get started and where to head. He practiced it until he left emotions behind. Also, he wrote down the key points to cover so he could get rolling and into the conversation, and then stick with his points. Talking it through together with an outsider, having a plan and practicing helped him stay focused.
I hope this series has helped with the times when procrastination has hit you. My aim was to give you practical solutions to try, with whatever you’re wrestling with.
*Many of our situations are similar and that’s how I write, in a general way, but enough to make the point. I purposefully mix together stories. How one person’s situation is resolved or the particulars of habits and strategies are quite different. No client’s specifics are ever shared. So, if you think you recognize your situation, know that you are not at all alone.
P.S. If you’d like more specific discussion on your procrastination challenges, send me an email or call to for your new client, no charge 1/2 hour discovery session. You’ll walk away with solutions; that’s a promise. My hope is that when you see the results, you’ll come back for more. It’s that simple and straightforward.
Sue@CoachSueWest.com or 603.554.1948.
And if you’re not quite ready to do more, meet me on social media, follow the blog or stay in contact through my newsletter.