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.

need help!

Hi guys...
I'm going through some difficult times and thought you could maybe help me.
My boyfriend has suffered from chronic procrastination since his adolescence (he's now nearly 30). He is a university student and really needs to overcome his procrastination as he is suffering from it terribly. I have bought books on the subjects, printed out tips and strategies, tried to coach him, and found him a psychotherapist but nothing seems to work. I try not to put to much pressure on him and always show him that i trust and believe in him. But he is like stuck in this problem and seems to have tried for so long and not managed to progress at all. He procrastinates so much that he doesn't even do things he likes if it means he has to make an effort. I could send him to this site or support groups but he tends to procrastinate so much that he would probably just postpone doing it for ever. I really don't know what to do to help him... I think i just need some support... Thanks for all the advice you can give me :-)

advice for Lola

Hi Lola, welcome.

In Al-Anon, the 12-step program for families and friends of alcoholics, they have a saying they call the "3 Cs": "You didn't cause it, you can't cure it, and you can't control it."

Trying to fix someone with an addiction of any kind - and compulsive procrastination is an addiction - is crazy-making. If your boyfriend's behavior is driving you crazy (and it sounds like it is), then I suggest you go to either an Al-Anon meeting or a CoDA meeting (Codependents Anonymous) to get help for yourself.

The only person who can help your boyfriend is your boyfriend, and it has to be his decision. Tell him about this Web site, and if he wants to help himself he might check it out. If he doesn't, then there's nothing you can do. Don't repeatedly make the suggestion to him. Another saying from Al-Anon is that saying something once is a suggestion, more than once is an attempt at control.

In the end, it's your boyfriend's life to do with as he wishes. If you can't stand being with someone who is behaving as he's behaving, then force him to accept the natural consequence - losing you. Hitting a bottom is usually the only thing that makes an addict get help - there have to be consequences. If you cover for him and try to do it for him, he'll never help himself.

Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.

i understand but...

well i can completely understand what you are saying... but i don't see myself as covering for him, controling him or being driven crazy by him, as you described in your answer.
His suffering affects me in one way only: i don't like to see the person i lover suffer as much as he is. Other than that his procrastination has no impact on my life. I can live with that feeling but i would prefer to help him as i'm sure he would help me if i was having difficulties. That's what i thought couples did...
I recognize that he is suffering and am wondering if that is a way in which i could help him. I don't feel that that makes me a person who is in need of help, as you suggeted.

trying to help

I had a partner once who tried to help me in the way you are trying to help your boyfriend, and it made things much worse. I felt constantly pressured, even more like a failure, and the "help" felt like incessant nagging. It just didn't help to have someone needling me all the time about a problem that I was all too aware of and trying to solve in my own way. I'm not saying that this is what you're doing, but there's a high potential for this - there always is when a compulsive behavior is involved.

I'd just suggest that the best way you can help your boyfriend is to follow his lead. This is his life to fix, not yours. Has he asked for your help? Has he asked you to do things for him or research things for him or buy him books? Talk to him about his problem if he wants to talk about it. But the action has to come from him or it won't work - as you've already discovered.

I'd be surprised if his behavior didn't affect your life at all. Even if you're not married, his putting things off makes him less available for free time activities, plus his mood is obviously affected.

Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.

Hi Lola

Hi Lola,

That sounds really frustrating!  I wish I had a magic answer for you, but then, if I knew how to cure procrastination, I'd have cured my own ages ago!

Of course you know you can't change your boyfriend -- he is the only one who can change himself.  The best you can do is be a source of encouragement & support if he wants to change.

I guess the first thing I'm wondering is, DOES he want to change?  Does he express a desire to work on his procrastination?  If not, then nothing you do is likely to make a big difference, and may prompt him to dig in his heels.

The second thing I'm wondering is, do you know why he procrastinates?  Someone who procrastinates out of perfectionism may want a different kind of support from someone who procrastinates out of demand resistance, for example.

There are some interesting articles on this site.  If he's open to talking with you about it, perhaps he'd be willing to look at them and share with you some of what's behind his procrastination, and his own ideas for what would help him change (if change is what he wants.)

Best of luck!



Thanks for your advice...
To answer your questions, he does express the fact that he wants to change desperatly and that it makes his life terribly difficult. But it's like a vicious circle because the more he thinks about the fact that he is not doing anything, the more he feels bad about himself and the more he then aviods doing anything that reminds him of that. Therefor he ends up only doing things that distract and entertain him...
It's hard sometimes cause i feels that nothing I do helps him... even though he is willing to be helped!!
We have talked alot about the causes of his procrastination and it seems to be linked to his fear of failure. His parents were very cruel and completely distroyed his self-esteem.  Now he is terrified of failure and never dares to take charge of his life because he is scared of failing at everything he will do...
I'm not sure if there are specific stratagies or ways of encouraging people who suffer from that particular type of procrastination...

Maybe he needs practice!

Hi Lola,

Sounds like your boyfriend avoids failing by avoiding doing anything.  So he hasn't had a chance to get good at failing -- he needs practice! 

If he's interested in suggestions. . . my suggestion is to practice screwing up!  Deliberately fail at something and see what happens.  Sign up for a community adult class in painting (if he's bad at art) or accounting (if he's bad at math) and do a lousy job on all the assignments.  Try doing one thing a day really badly.  Have fun failing!

If he does try any of this, you can help by praising & rewarding him for failing -- which really means, giving him positive reinforcement for taking risks.  It might sound silly, but I'm serious.  Most of us fail at things all the time, live to tell about it, and even learn from it.  And so can he, with a little practice.  Failure doesn't have to be the end of the world, and the best way to find that out is to experiment with it.  De-fang failure, and it will be safe to take the risk of acting, whether that leads to failure or success.


procrastinators helping procrastinators

Suggest to him that he come here. We can help him here in a way that you cannot because we share his problem. Everybody here knows how he feels.

Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.