Procrastinators Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from chronic procrastination.

New member, first post

This is my first post here - I've been lurking around for a quite a while. I've been a chronic procrastinator for a long, long time... I think since high school. It started affecting my quality of life in a significant way in college and grad school, and much more so in the past few years of professional life. I am unable to do even simple tasks at work.,. there are days when I do absolutely nothing, and there are days hwen I work like a dog to get stuff done by deadlines. Even when I do manage to finish projects, the end-result always seems so sub-standard or mediocre. It's always a disappointment, whether the task gets done or not - a lose-lose situation. It makes me so damn depressed. Somehow, I get away with all this - I still get pretty good feedback from my peers and supervisors, which seems really odd to me. I keep thinking it is just a matter of time before I'm fired. I was given something to do over a month ago, which I've been thinking about all the time and every day, but have made absolutely no progress on. It's literally the first thing on my mind when I wake up and the last thing on my mind before I drift off to sleep, hanging over me like a huge cloud. I keep telling myself, why get so stressed over a simple powerpoint deck and some stupid quantitative analysis - it should take me 3-4 hours at most to complete. But I simply can't get myself to start - I don't even want to open the damn file. Each time I'm on the computer, I just spend hours surfing the Internet. A couple of times I've stayed up the whole night this way. Complete and utter paralysis. Every night I set my alarm to 6am and every morning I wake up not earlier than 9am. It's like I'm incapable of controlling my sleep patterns. I've absolutely no discipline in this respect. I've walked into work as late as 11 or 11:30am several times, missed so many college classes, even walked in late to exams. And I as I said, I still manage to save face in front of others, but even that is getting harder and harder now. I'm running out of excuses to make and I'm sick of lying to them and myself.

Anyway, this powerpoint deck, I need to finish in the next 3 hours. For the past 10 hours, it's literally all I've been thinking about, while at the same time avoiding it. It's not like I think about it in detail either. Other than, "I have to finish this," nothing else comes to mind.

I'm so tired of all this. It feels like such a lame condition to be in.

Thank you so much for the support

Thank you everyone for the supportive comments in this thread and in my unsuccessful check in a few days ago. I've been going through this sort of thing on and off for many years now, but it's become much more chronic and debilitating this past year. Peggy, I feel the same - like I'm on the verge of some kind of breakdown.

Why do people become perfectionists? Why do we become so demanding and harsh with ourselves? I'm sorry to ramble - I don't really know why I'm writing this here or if it is of any interest at all to anyone. Maybe it helps to share personal stories to see larger patterns.

My mother was very demanding of us when we were children - we had to get very high grades or she'd become very upset with us and make us feel terribly guilty. It was as if we made her look bad and disgraced our parents if we didn't study hard and do well at school. She'd say such mean things, it really hurt. I remember my sister and I were always praised a lot in front of my parents friends for being "such intelligent and bright" kids; people were so sure that we too would become doctors like our parents. In fact, that was the plan - my parents were going to open a private practice and naturally, it was expected that one of us would take it over. For some reason I managed fine with the pressure ... my mom's guilt treatment always made me desperate to get back in her good books and I'd work hard for it. I was a straight A student throughout school. My dad had a sudden heart attack and passed away when I was 14, but my school performance didn't suffer at all. I coped. My sister, who was much closer to my dad, suffered a lot - I don't think she was ever truly happy again. Her grades gradually fell and after a while I think she just couldn't be bothered with the charade. She was my mother's problem child. Anyway, I did fine. I wanted so badly to study English Literature, ended up in a Computer Science program for my mother's sake, but did fine.

My sister, whom I adored, the only one who could really empathize with all that we had been through growing up - living in 4 different countries, changing 8 schools, dealing with the contrast between our conservative Indian home and multicultural friends and teachers at school, having to flee with our family during a war, losing a father, trying to make ends meet as a foreign student in college...
She committed suicide last year. That was a couple of weeks after I joined a new job and had moved across the country to a different state. She had been suffering with bipolar depression for several years, and being very close to her, I was very involved with her ups and downs... I was the one always there to hold her back when she fell, constantly telling her again and again when she was low that she had hope, that I believed in her, that I knew she could be happy, that I was convinced she pull through. I even had a few nerve-wracking experiences trying to find her or talk to her on the phone when she was suicidal before. After all that, years of falling and climbing, when she ended it all... I don't know. 3 weeks after her death I went back to work. It was mechanical and mindless for me, but I was thankful for the routine.

This June, my mother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. It's a relatively rare form of cancer, and unfortunately, it's at an advanced stage for her, so the prognosis is quite poor. Average survival rates are not more than 18 months. I've taken a leave of absence from work, and have been with her since June, caring for her after her surgery and now during her chemotherapy. She's the only family I have left and I'm determined to stay positive and keep her spirits up.

But nowadays, I'm just feeling so tired and angry. I lose my temper quickly. I'm bored without work to do, so I told my employer I'd work remotely. But I can't get that work done. It's so embarassing, because I ASKED for it and I'm not able to do it. I have such a good husband, wonderful and plenty friends, a very understanding employer ... everyone says I'm a very strong person, but I'm not. I need a break. I want to quit my job and change my career, but am terribly confused about which direction to go in.

I've got issues, eh!

Don't rush

"I need a break. I want to quit my job and change my career, but am terribly confused about which direction to go in."

Right now is not the time to make those kinds of serious decisions.  This might not sound like the kind of advice you'd get from a procrastination site, but put it off.  Right now, take care of yourself and take care of your mom.

What do you do to treat yourself well?  Make sure to take and make time for yourself when you're under this kind of pressure.  Burnout can happen at places other than work.


Hang in there, dewdrop!

I am sorry for your loss and the tough time you've been having!  I can really relate to your description of procrastination, as one which, while having been a life-long issue, has become "chronic and debilitating" as you say.  I think the addition of life stresses such as you have experienced just make the procrastination problem unmanageable - that is certainly true for me.  I agree that perfectionism is a big part of the problem, as well as being our own worst enemy by being too hard on ourselves.  The harsh critic in our heads make us focus on our failings instead of our successes, so even when we do succeed - get things done that need to be done - we fail to really "own" our success, but instead beat ourselves up about the fact that it is late, or just a drop in the bucket in terms of all we have to do, etc.  

I guess all we can do is pray for the strength to do at least the minimum of what needs to be done - that is better than nothing! - and to encourage each other that we are not alone in this daily struggle.

Take care and hang in there!



Wow, you really do have a lot of issues to deal with.  I'm sorry to hear about all the bad stuff that's been happening with your family.  I don't know that I have any advice, you're probably doing better in that situation than I could do.  <3


Demand resistance?

HI dewdrop!
I have similar issues.
I didn't understand until I read about Demand Resistance.

I then realized that I resist any demands  --
demands from other people
demands from my schedule
demands from my own self.

And I have "demand sensitivity" -- in that I tend to perceive things as demands (even if they are not demands) -- and then resist.

Sometimes the idea of bookending really triggers resistance in me.

For me I have found it is NOT helpful to say "I have to do this".  Because the words "have to" trigger resistance.
What works better for me is to say "I CHOOSE to do this".

Whatever we can do -- to make our "inner resistant brat" decide that she or he WANTS to do the task.

Truly.  When I say to myself "I HAVE to do the dishes", then I get all pissed off at the world. Despite the fact that people all over the world wash dishes,  I think I shouldn't have to.

But when I say to myself "I CHOOSE to do the dishes" .... my whole head changes around.  I may still feel reluctant, but I am much less resistant.

Paperwork and long term projects -- those are very difficult for me.  Because I think I have to do the whole thing right now, which is impossible, so I don't even start.

I have an I.Q. in the 99th percentile, and I don't have any diagnosed learning disabilities, but I flunked out of the university because I got mad at the idea of "HAVING to" do homework.  I wish I had known about the concept of "demand resistance" back then.

I think that if you say to yourself "I have this big project I have to do" ... you are looking at "have to" and you are looking at "Big project".

I wish you good thoughts.  Might I suggest saying to yourself:  "I choose to work on this project for 5 minutes and I choose to stop at the end of five minutes"   Then see what happens.  Then take a short break, and see if you are ready to try another five minutes.

It's like with alcoholics trying to quit alcohol.   They cannot think of committing to a lifetime of no alcohol.  But they can commit to "no alcohol for the next five minutes".   And then another 5 minutes.  Until the minutes add up to "one day at a time".

Maybe you can choose to work on the project in "manageable bites" of a few minutes at a time.

Feeling guilty (for me) is often just another form of procrastination.

So I would suggest (not demand) that you remember to forgive yourself and try again. 

Best wishes,
Moving Along

my first post

Well this is my first post and I am sure wont be my last. I am very excited about what I will learn here. I have bee a queen at putting things off for all my life. To bad being a queen of this does not feel like something to brag about or put a crown on my head about. Even as I type I am on my first day of vacation with many things I want to get done. already I have waisted a morning (aside from finding this website) on not getting much done. I really hope to find support here and find ways to deal with this. Its nice to meet you all ( or thoughs who will read this)

dewdrop - I totally relate!!!!

You could be describing my life.

Only one thing has EVER helped me to get unstuck. Decide on one action to do next. Not an abstract thing like "do PowerPoint presentation", but something like "open file and read through it". Then I post here what I'm going to do, I commit to doing nothing but this for the next 15 minutes (whether or not I continue after that), and I commit to posting a check-in in 15 minutes to report my progress. This works. It gets me started, and once I start I usually can finish.

It works best when there are others here to cheer you on (I'm almost always here on weekends, others are here during weekdays), but it works even if it's only you. Something about checking in is magical.

And oh, do I so relate to your self-description. It hurts so much, doesn't it? We can get past this!

Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.

thanks, but....

Thanks pro and journey... but am sad to report, I still haven't opened the file. :( :(

Vicious cycle?

Dewdrop, I hope you read this, your original post was a few weeks ago.  I got into a total paralysis like you describe a few years ago while working in middle management at a huge corporation.  I had 4 departments under me, 28 people, and lots of impossible deadlines.  I ended up leaving in a huge layoff.  I could have bumped somene else and stayed (my management was counting on this and wanted me to stay), but I left because I was so burned out I couldn't face it any more.  If you will forgive me for feeling like I'm meddling, I wish I could just mirror back to you what I see (from experience) in just the few paragraphs you've written.
1.  You are a high achiever.  This is evidenced by how much you have achieved so far, and the respect you have from peers and those above you.
2.  You have high standards for yourself.
3.  You are clearly stuck.
I suspect that you are a perfectionist, you are talking to yourself like a dirty dog because the Perfect You looks with disdain on the foot-dragging of the Real You.  This never works, it only makes things worse, btw, but we perfectionists can't help ourselves.  Could it be that the Real You knows something and is speaking very loudly and Perfect You is ignoring it?  That happened to me, I'm just throwing it out for consideration.  My life was horribly out of balance, my underlings LOVED me because I was making everything wonderful for them, my bosses overloaded me and they LOVED me, too.  I was getting crunched in the middle and I LOST!  Meanwhile everybody in my house was happy except me - same scenario everywhere. 

I had to go to a counselor because I was sure I was having a nervous breakdown or something.  Turned out I just needed to take my life back.  Which I did.  Things got worse (some people didn't understand) then they quickly got a lot better.  I had to get all the pressure off of me and I couldn't do it alone.  It helps to have someone to be on your side.  After all, YOU are even pressuring yourself right now and it isn't helping.  You have to have something different in the equation to break out of the paralysis and vicious cycle.  Maybe an organizational counselor would help, I'm not saying this is an emotional breakdown -- it wasn't in my case.  But any kind of good counselor might help you be able to back off from this and find a handle on things.  You have lots of responsibility on your shoulders, it is certainly feasible that you would need help figuring that out from time to time. I found out after my situation that the managers around me frequently sought out help from outside sources to sort through things like this.  It just never occurred to me.  So I am passing this idea on to you to think about.  I hope you don't mind my suggestion, I just want to help because I sympathize with you and I've been there!  Ugh!  Hate that stuck feeling!  Hope you're already doing better!!


Hi Dewdrop

We feel your pain . . .lol . . .
maybe try just working on it for five minutes.


Dewdrop. How's it Going?

Or, maybe (since you had a deadline), how'd it go? I am sooooo familiar with what you described. Pro is really right about the magical effect of checking in. I don't know if I would have been able to do even the little bit that I did today if I hadn't tried (my Attempt) to do the bookend and checkin today. (tonight)... And Journey is right about the 5 minutes. Even the tiniest committment to the time (set a timer!) will have an effect. I was re-reading this essay on "Structured Procrastination" the other day. It used to be a 1998-ish layout but it looks like he's reformatted it and titled a whole blog! 

Maybe there's some inspiration for just moving. Maybe I'll read it first thing tomorrow, and see how it goes. Gnothi Seauton ~ Know Thyself

Hey Dew

You sound exactly like me :) 

Welcome, I just found this site myself and I'm hoping it will help! 


Ditto, Journey, Pro & Dewdrop.

Ditto, Journey, Pro & Dewdrop. :P

For this entire year, I've been doing nothing but procrastinate on my work to the point where I might end up staying for a third year at my college since I practically failed every class! My gpa is around the 1 pt. something mark and the only thing that may prevent me from getting kicked out of my school is the disability service for ADD!

I've also been a chronic procrastinator since high school and in the lower ranks gpa-wise (from a once straight-A student) for three years now.

Anyway, I have much to learn about creating better and healthier work habits & mindset.

No matter where we are in life, I'm sure everybody here can pitch in to help each other attack the root causes of procrastination. :)

Look around at the resources (book recommendations, articles, etc.) as a starter. :) I've just begin reading 'The Now Habit' by Neil Fore and so far I find it a useful tool. It brings to your awareness of how you use procrastination as a form of dealing with your anxieties including how you can start a project in a more realistic manner.

"Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power."