One of the biggest “a ha’s” I had when I started working in the coaching profession, was learning to look at words without attaching judgment to them.
There are some words that conjure up stronger feelings than others, and one of those words is procrastination.
Let’s look at some of the well-known quotes we have probably heard that suggest that procrastination is “bad” and starting early is “good”:
“The early bird catches the worm”
"Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder". (Mason Cooley)
"Never put off until tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well" (Mark Twain)
Let me ask you what might be a challenging question:
What if procrastination wasn’t good or bad? What if it was just a description of an action?
As you know, one of the many ways I work with students in their college planning is to help them explore their values, their strengths and their interests to discover more about who they are, what they love and WHY.
This is not only the foundation for college planning. It really has an impact on everything students will experience along their journey. From choosing their extracurricular activities and classes in high school, to writing essays and conducting college interviews, this foundational process is at the heart of every experience!
This process of my students learning who they are, what they love and WHY they love it, can also help us recognize procrastination as simply the dictionary definition:
Procrastination – (noun): “The action of delaying or postponing something”
Once we look at this word for what it actually means, instead of creating a judgment around it, we can begin to ask more enlightening questions besides “is this good or bad”.
Without judgment, we can ask questions that provide insight into the REASONS behind the delay, or questions that might show us why procrastination could be a strength instead of a weakness.
This became abundantly clear several years ago when I was working with one of my first students.
I asked him to describe his process for working on projects. As he described what he did, he sheepishly got to the end and said:
“Well, to be honest, once I get here, I usually wait until the night before and complete the project”.
Then, instead of launching into how he could plan further out and what steps he could take, I found myself asking him:
“And…how does that work for you?”
(I can only credit incredible restraint and intuitive inspiration combined with my coach training that prompted me to ask the above question!)
After I asked him this question, he broke into a HUGE SMILE of relief, excitement and pride and said:
“Really, really well actually”
He then proceeded to tell me exactly why it worked for him, and how having a firm deadline gave him the motivation to push himself to do his best work.
I then asked him if there ever was a time where he waited until right before the deadline and wished he had started earlier or done anything differently.
He thought about it and said:
“No, there hasn’t been”.
What an eye opener for both him AND me!
For him, it was the first time that he was actually acknowledged for his process instead of criticized. For me, it opened up a way to take this strength of his, and explore how he could capitalize on it to complete his college applications.
While he worked ahead on gathering the information he needed- he combined that with sitting down 2 days prior to each of the deadlines we had set up.
What if it wasn’t about the good or bad, right or wrong of the process?
What if it was more about the individual aspect of why we do it and how it works for us?
What kind of possibilities might that inspire?
To your success!