Today I spoke to a client and the conversation was about procrastination. She told me she has a strong tendency to avoid conflict and difficult tasks.

When asked how she was doing, she told me she felt overwhelmed. She was doing two courses simultaneously and all the videos, meetings, assignments… it was just too much.

I told her a bit about my view on people with a strong tendency to avoid difficult tasks and conflicts. The good thing is that probably she has a strength in maintaining peace and harmony inside herself and in relation to other people. She was probably perceived by others as easy-going with an even-keeled temperament. Other strengths of her are probably that she’s flexible and adapts easily to situations. Others might also see her as someone who is non-judgmental.

Now, as with all strengths, these strengths also have a dark side. On a bad day, people with the strength of being flexible and adaptive, will probably say ‘yes’ to things they don’t want. On a bad day, these people who bring harmony, will downplay the importance of problems.

They will avoid difficult tasks and conflicts and instead lose themselves in comforting routines and habits. For me personally, that is reading books, watching videos, writing articles… All things that don’t challenge me. This way, I maintain inner peace. For now. Because at the end of the day, I feel guilt, shame anxiety. All because of my awareness of all the tasks I know I should have been doing but procrastination on.


Hypothetical thoughts

For example, as I write this, I know I should be calling a potential client. I sent him an offer almost three weeks ago. He didn’t respond to my e-mail nor the reminder I sent him three days ago.

The thoughts in my head say:

  • “Don’t call him, he told you he was busy. You’ll annoy him by calling.”
  • “Plus, you will be perceived as pushy.”
  • “You see, he thinks the price of the offer is so ridiculously high, that he doesn’t even bother to contact you anymore.”
  • “He chose another trainer.”
  • “You are not important enough to even give you an update.”

The fear that by calling him I might discover that this turns out to be true is paralyzing. So I rather write an article. For the moment, I don’t receive a rejection. But the negative emotions of guilt and shame that haunt me for days, is actually far greater. So this inner peace turns out to be an illusion.

I stopped writing and called the client. What he actually said was: “Hi Eelco, thank you for calling. These are hectic times for us. I am still waiting for an offer from another company. I will let you know in two weeks. The training won’t take place before October anyway, so I’m not in a hurry.”

You see, none of the thoughts were true. And even if they were, don’t take it personally.


Tackle procrastination

Back to the conversation with the woman this morning. In our meeting we agreed that she would try to catch herself in the moment when procrastinating. And then take some deep breaths and take at least one action.

After our meeting, she sent me a text, repeating her homework and that she came across a book on procrastination which she already started reading.

After asking for permission to challenge her, I wrote to her:

“You said you are in two parallel courses and you are overwhelmed by all the content: videos, assignments, meetings…
You also say you are an avoider: procrastination the things you know you have to do.
Now you are telling me you picked up even more content: a book.
Wonder how you see that”.

She wrote to me she agreed.

I continued:

“You have enough knowledge and information.
Stop hiding behind the safety of a book or a video.
Start doing the scary stuff.
Start now.
(This kick in the ass comes from a place of lots of love ❤️)”

This avoider trait is a nasty one. You kick it out through the front door, and it creeps in again through the back door.

Make a procrastination list right now. In maximum 2 minutes, write down the 10 things you have been procrastinating. Find one thing on the list you are willing to tackle today.

How do you handle procrastination? Write it in the comments below.