One of the more powerful questions my Dad ever asked me when I was a teen was, "David, what if your procrastination issue is more about fear than pure laziness?"
(Long pause to process...)
That question really made me think. Maybe the reason I put things off is because I'm afraid of something. And as I thought about it further, I realized I WAS afraid of a few things. I was afraid to fail. I was afraid of looking stupid. I was afraid of what others might think of me. I was afraid I couldn't actually do the task. The list could go on, but the bottom line was that I needed to deal with my fears in order to improve productivity. Fear was keeping me from moving into action, and consequently, I put things off and created more stress for myself.
What if our teen's procrastination issues are more about managing our emotions than simply being a bumps-on-a-log?
Listen as I talk about teens and procrastination.
David Roux is an Academic Life Coach for teens and college students from Fishers, IN. For more information, check out www.davidrouxcoaching.com.
Below is a transcription of the podcast:
Announcers: You're listening to Powerful Influence, with your host, Dave Roux.
David: Hey everybody, welcome to Powerful Influence, my name is David Roux, and I'm all about helping teens navigate life successfully and helping parents guide them along the way. I'm your host, and I primarily work with teens and young adults as an academic life coach. Recently I was talking to a few teens about pursuing what they're passionate about. I spoke about having a vision for their life and some big goals, and I loved it. I had a lot of fun, and the room seemed to light up with tons of excitement about the future and they wanted to experience success. They all were talking about, "Oh, I want to be able to be successful in this area, I want to be successful in this area, and I have this goal, and this goal." So it was a lot of fun.
After discussing a little bit about their dreams, I asked them this question, "What behaviors will keep you from achieving the success you desire?" And the number one negative behavior that came back was procrastination. Now, there were a ton of other behaviors, but that was the number one thing, and I said to them, "You know what, I actually can relate. That's a big for me." So, let's talk a little bit about procrastination.
For years, I used to believe procrastination was just the result of my laziness. I'm sure that's been the case many times, however, my dad suggested something to me. He said, "David, what if your procrastination is as a result of something you're afraid of?" And I thought, "Huh, never thought about that." And then as I thought about it further, I was like, "Yes, it clicked." Many times...the thing I determined was that many times I was fearful of failure. I'm fearful of what people think, and that influences my procrastination. So, if I'm afraid of something, I don't go do it. Therefore I put it off, and then the cycle continues, because now I'm way behind, now I'm afraid to catch up, and then I'm just in this overwhelmed panic.
But the cool thing was, it was really good to realize, I'm not just a lazy bump on a log all the time. Sometimes I am, but it was good to know that the root influence was something I could deal with. I could recognize that I'm afraid of something, and then I could deal with that and move into action. That got me thinking, "What if most of procrastination is rooted in some form of emotional, mental issue, and not simply poor time management?" So I did a bunch of research and it was fascinating. Most of why people procrastinate is centered around an emotional issue and deeper perceptions of ourselves.
Psychologist Timothy Pychyl said, "It's a coping mechanism gone awry in which people give in to feel good." He also said, "For whatever reason, people feel fear of the task at hand, and to avoid that negative feeling, they procrastinate by doing something else that makes them feel good". Here's the kicker, as the deadline gets closer and closer, there's much more extreme shame and guilt that sets in with ton of pressure, and I have definitely experienced this. For an extreme procrastinator, those negative feelings are a cause to continue to put the task off further and further and further, and then it just creates this vicious self defeating cycle.
So, my question is this, "How do we change the cycle? How do we change this?" Here are three things that you can do. One, forgive yourself. One of the things that Timothy Pychyl talks about is that, it's important to forgive yourself when you procrastinate. That's the quickest way to get over something and move on. We're not very forgiving of ourselves, so he said, "Forgive yourself." Here's the second thing, and this is what has been incredibly helpful for me. And that is, you need to identify what you're ultimately afraid of. Because if it's more of an emotional management thing, versus a poor time management thing, then we need to know what's going on inside. And a lot of times for me I think we don't do certain things because we're afraid. So identify what you're afraid of and then figure put a plan to deal with it. For me how I deal with it when I start realizing what I'm afraid of, I just start asking some questions, "Okay, what I'm I afraid of? Second, what's the worst thing that could happen? Okay, that's not that big a deal, if someone rejects me, move on, it's not the end of the world." So there's different ways to deal with your fear, and that's the way I deal with it for me.
Here's the third thing, focus on the bite sized action. The small thing that you need to do next, not on your feelings. Okay? One of the things that Pychyl suggests is that we train our kids to internalize that you don't have to feel it to do it. So we've got to train our teens how to think though. Okay, think long term. Think about yourself and what you could experience that's positive, and then set in motion of what you need to do to get there. So, we need to train our kids to not just, "Oh I got to feel it before I do it." Sometimes you just have to do it. You just have to. Again, it's more of an emotional management issue than the time management deal.
To quickly summarize, again, first, forgive yourself. Second, identify where you're ultimately afraid of and put a plan in place to deal with it, and third, focus on the next small action you need to do. Just don't go with your feelings, go with what you need to actually do.
So if you have a teen that's struggling with procrastination, here's the deal, just take that first step. For instance, working on a term paper, just take that first step and just start writing. Don't think about anything else, just start writing. I think that's the key, just start with a small little thing and go.
That's all I have for today. You can find me at davidrouxcoaching.com. That's R-O-U-X, davidrouxcoaching.com, and you can find me on Facebook, on Twitter, and LinkedIn. The other thing you should know is that I co-authored a book, that is a tool for parents. It's called "Powerful Influence. Encouraging words for your teen". You can find that on Amazon or on my website. Again thanks for listening and we'll chat in a couple of weeks. See ya.