Coaching through Procrastination

Powerful ways of Coaching through Procrastination

Procrastination is a really common issue in coaching and life. This week Coaching through Procrastination was a theme in my Coaching Circle.


For those of you not familiar with Coaching Circles, I facilitate a group of coaches to help them hone their skills. The idea is one person is a coach and someone else in the group is the client for a mini-session. The rest of the group observes and I offer feedback and guidance where needed. After the mini-session, there is a group discussion about learning points and other approaches that could have been used.


This week three of the “clients” had issues coaching through procrastination. This gave the group three opportunities to explore how to help clients with this type of issue.


I thought it might be useful for you to have some general understanding of procrastination and how it might arise. With that in mind here are a few ideas.


Whenever someone procrastinates there is a reason, it is not just laziness despite the fact that clients often say it is.

Coaching through Procrastination boredom

The reason is valid and needs addressing before the client can move on and get on with what they need to do. In NLP this reason is known as the positive intention behind the behaviour (in this case procrastination).


Here are just a few possible reasons:

  • Overwhelm, the task is just too big.
  • Not knowing where to start.
  • Fear of not getting it right.
  • Feeling the need to gather more information.
  • The task is boring or tedious.
  • The task is unpleasant.
  • Not having the knowledge or skill required.
  • Where procrastination is about communication it can also be fear of the response from others.


This list is just a start, you may already be thinking of another example or two.


So how do you do coaching through procrastination?


Whatever approach you end up taking you will probably need to start in the same place, uncovering the positive intention behind your client’s particular form of procrastination.


For example, overwhelm creates anxiety and paradoxically avoids the task, maybe with the hope of avoiding the feelings of anxiety. Sadly, this really doesn’t work, the anxiety is still there.


Staying with this example, one approach could be to coach the client in techniques that are very practical such as planning, use of lists, breaking the task into manageable chunks etc. For some clients, this will be enough. If you help the client keep the focus on “the next smallest step” they can take they will feel able to make progress. This approach to coaching through procrastination will change the frame size of the issue making it feel more manageable.


This may not deal with the bigger picture issue of overwhelm and anxiety in general but will certainly be a start. The client will now have a tool kit. Working with the pattern of overwhelm may need tackling with approaches such as NLP, Mindset methods and Core Transformations.


Some of the other causes of procrastination could be suitable for approaches such as Transactional Analysis (TA). For example, fear of getting it wrong, needing more information, boredom and fear of other peoples reactions could all be prompted by personality type. Coaching with TA involves helping the client gain some insight into what is driving their behaviour. Self-awareness is the key and with that self-awareness, the Coach can help the client create strategies that give them permission to make changes.


Another approach to procrastination is to use the NLP technique of Timeline. In this technique, the client is guided to experience what it feels like to have already completed the task. This creates a positive internal state that can be directed toward getting started and completing the task. Using this technique can remove the psychological blocks allowing either non-directive problem solving or practical coaching to be used (or a mix of both).


Finally, if procrastination is a regular recurring issue for the client it might be worth looking at deeper interventions such as Core Transformation to help the client clear unhelpful patterning and mindset.


There are many other possibilities to help resolve this issue. What is your favourite approach?


Melody Cheal MSc MAPP
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