(It's not always bad!) Purposeful Procrastination in 5 Easy Steps...

Procrastination is not the "black or white" issue I had previously thought; it's not that we are either a "procrastinator" or a "doer" - we can be both. You see, I recently discovered (after 10 years of personal development and coaching) that I was a secret procrastinator. I say secret because I HAD NO IDEA I regularly procrastinated.

Instead I considered myself a "do-er", someone who can be relied upon to do what they say they will. In the last 10 years alone I've moved country, changed careers, built a successful business from scratch, moved again to a small island, built a cottage with my hubbie, started a B&B business and bought and revamped a tourism website. I DO stuff.  Finally facing the fact that sometimes I am a TERRIBLE procrastinator has been hard. Which is probably why I've avoided admitting it to myself for so long (oh – the irony!).

What does my procrastination look like? Well, I'm great at doing things with deadlines - things that HAVE to be done. But as soon as things get complicated, difficult or scary I stick my head in the sand and just don't think about it. I regularly procrastinate over tasks and answering emails that require extra effort from me. I procrastinated over booking my root canal (OK, so many of us might procrastinate over that!) and it took me 6 months to create the reader survey that recently went out. But what woke me up to my procrastination was an action I gave myself over 2 years ago, to contact the ICF (International Coaching Federation) about becoming an ICF Business Solutions Partner. When an email from the ICF went out to over 20,000 coaches listing all the business partners, I realised that could have been me if only I had got my act together - a great business opportunity missed because of my procrastination.

So, after this missed opportunity and my procrastinatory(!) revelation I made a point of noticing when I was procrastinating - and why. I could easily blame this on ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), but as I considered the things I procrastinate over (whether they're time consuming or over in seconds) the reason for my procrastination is always a fear of some sort. And often what's really holding me back is a fear I know is not real ie. where I'm worrying/over-reacting/avoiding my gremlin. For example booking my root canal and facing my fear of "bodily invasion", or filling out the forms to apply for the ICF Business Partnership and facing my, "Who do you think you are?" gremlin.

"Procrastination is like a credit card; it's lots of fun until you get the bill." Christopher Parker

We all know this from our coaching: You can't deal with something you're not willing to acknowledge. When we're conscious of our fears we can do something about it, but when we avoid looking at our fears then those fears control us. So recently, I've been facing my procrastination fears, acknowledging them and then making a conscious choice of WHEN to take action. I may do it now or later on today, but I could equally give myself permission to do it next week or next month. And what I learned is that once I've admitted my fears AND when I give myself permission to do it later AND set a deadline, I actually do it!

ICF Business Partner Logo RECTANGLE White BackgroundAnd that's what I did with the ICF Business Solutions Partnership! I knew the first step I had been avoiding was making a call to speak to someone at the ICF. So, I set myself a deadline of the next day to face my fear instead of unconsciously procrastinating. I kept thinking about what I was missing out on - and that helped me make the phone-call. And after the phone-call, thinking about what I was missing out on helped me with the next step of filling out the forms. And now The Coaching Tools Company.com is an Official Business Solutions Partner - 2 years after I first set myself the action! It feels fabulous.

So, Whether It's You Or Your Client, Here Are 5 Easy Steps To Successful Procrastination:

Before we start, I'm assuming the action being procrastinated over is something you WANT or NEED to do, but if you're not sure, you could use one of these 5 quick tests to check here >>

    a) List all the sensible, rational reasons you may be avoiding this action.
    b) List all the silly or irrational reasons. Just keep your pen moving after writing out the rational reasons and put down whatever pops into your mind. Ask yourself, "What am I SECRETLY afraid of or avoiding here?"
    Before moving forwards, simply give yourself permission NOT to do it until you're ready.
    WHEN will you do it? Now pick a date and time and PUT IT IN YOUR DIARY! A great tip is to make it FIRST thing eg. when you get to work, straight after lunch or when you get home - before you get distracted…
    1) What do I GET by completing this action? (what are the positive outcomes)
    2) How could things get WORSE if I don't complete this action? (like a filling turning into a root canal!)
    3) Or finally, what will I MISS OUT ON if I don't complete this action?
    Notice which of these responses motivates you the most. Then picture this when you need that extra motivation to get over your fears or resistance and get it done.
  5. NOW DO IT!

Oh - and there's a bonus! Facing your procrastination and DOING the difficult stuff is good for your self-esteem too. I guarantee you will feel better about yourself - I know I did!

"Procrastination is, hands down, our favorite form of self-sabotage." Alyce Cornyn-Selby

In Summary: There is nothing wrong with procrastinating as long as it's a CONSCIOUS decision. Simply stop unconsciously procrastinating and move to CONSCIOUS procrastination! This means committing to yourself. Say, "I won't do it now, but I WILL do it this evening/tomorrow/next week" and then do it.  Just don't wait too long - some opportunities once missed are gone forever...

If you liked this article on procrastination with tips, you may also like:

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce Kindness.com. She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools, resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>


  1. Danny

    terrific article,Emma-Louise. I am going to try some of your recommended tips. Who knows, one may be the right thing to get me to move into ACTON!

  2. Paul Couture

    Thank you for being real and saying alot of what the rest of know is the truth about ourselves. Thank also for a tool we can use to move ourselves forward once I will admit and face my procrastination comes from my fears. Thank you for the way you gave me permission to start the climb out of my procrastination.

    • Emma-Louise

      Dear Paul, thank-you for taking the time to comment! I think we all have issues - if only we talked about them more... Glad to have helped you along the journey. Warmly, EL


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.