• Couples Therapy

    Procrastination — It’s Making Me Late


    Songstress Carly Simon had a big hit in 1971 with the title track on her second album, “Anticipation.” The chorus? “… is making me late.” For many of us, it might have been more relevant if she’d sung “procrastination.”


    As I procrastinate writing this blog, I’m simultaneously observing what’s going on inside me as I avoid doing what I’d intended to do. You’re a rare person if you haven’t been there: Procrastination is part of the human condition. Postponing tasks we anticipate will be difficult, painful or uncomfortable is common.


    So why do we procrastinate? And what are the potential solutions?


    In this case, my internal dialogue was “I’m not sure I can do this,” and those thoughts generated feelings of inadequacy and frustration.


    With those feelings welling up, I began distracting myself by scrolling through

    Facebook. As is often the case, this particular procrastination allowed me to temporarily avoid sitting with my negative thoughts and emotions.


    But simply noticing and spending a few moments acknowledging negative feelings can sometimes help you move ahead with the task at hand. And it worked for me, as demonstrated by this finished article.


    For some, procrastination and the accompanying avoidance can be more than occasional — it can evolve into a style or personality trait. Often, this occurs following disturbing or traumatic events earlier in life. For example, a child with undiagnosed ADHD who’s repeatedly shamed by well-meaning parents for not doing schoolwork or chores may start suffering from impaired self-esteem. That insecurity can further impede the child’s ability to take needed actions and manifest as procrastination, which perpetuates a negative self-fulfilling prophecy.


    In this situation, the guidance of a therapist can be helpful. The work of therapy may involve examining long-term behavioral patterns and self-beliefs. Ultimately, the goal would be to foster more constructive and adaptive patterns and beliefs, as well as develop greater compassion for oneself.


    Here are a few tips that may help you overcome procrastination.


    1. Be aware. When you procrastinate, notice what you’re feeling both emotionally and physically — and what you’re thinking. Notice the behavior associated with these thoughts and feelings.
    2. Break it down. Try to divide large tasks into a series of smaller tasks that feel more achievable. To write this article, I first had to pick up my pen, then write the first sentence. That first sentence evolved into a paragraph. And the first paragraph led to a second.
    3. Set time limits. When approaching a task, think about it in terms of time rather than completion. Say to yourself, “I’m going to spend one hour organizing my closet,” rather than, “Today, I’m going to organize my closet.” The imposition of a time window limits the perceived “suffering” you anticipate. And you may find that, once you start, you may even blow past your time limit and complete the entire task.
    4. Be alarmed. If just getting started is difficult in itself, set an alarm on your phone. Condition yourself that, when the alarm sounds, you always begin.
    5. Be accountable. Tell someone else about your intentions to create social accountability.
    6. Be kind to yourself. Harshly berating yourself is unlikely to get you to act. Instead, you may create even more procrastination and avoidance.


    If you need help managing procrastination, I’m available. You can reach out through my website, CouplesTherapyOrlando.com or by phone at 407-579-2070.

    Therapy services available via Telehealth.