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.

visualization block

I've become aware of the fact that I rarely visualize the task I am avoiding when I procrastinate. It seems like there is a mental block where the mind rejects every thought related to the task, and turns the attention to something else. It feels like there is anxiety, fear, and other emotions which act to steer the mind away from thinking about doing the task. Does this kind of thing happen in other people too? I find that the most challenging part of starting a task I have been avoiding is to first think about doing it. If I can only visualize in my mind myself doing the activity then I will probably cure my procrastination. I've found that I have had the most success in doing activities when I have pictured in my mind doing the activity well before even doing it. The trouble is it sounds easy for others, but really it's incredibly difficult thing for me to accomplish. I feel that overcoming procrastination is over 90% mental, and the rest is physical effort (creating habit, scheduling, etc.).

Visualizing a task

Hey,only just read this...
(of course) ;P

I have the same problem. With the tasks I'm really procrastinating on, I can't even get near what I'm supposed to do mentally. I can't visualise the task, I can't journal about the task, let alone even say, open a file.

And the more I try and give myself pep talks, and tell myself that no, I really do want (need) to it, the more I resist it.

I've been having a little success with a new technique, so maybe it'll be helpful for someone else?

First of all, I go the opposite way, I exaggerate my dislike if anything. For example, I tell myself -
I don't want to do the dishes.
I hate doing the dishes. :O
And say it with some vigor.

Then I ask myself - is that true?
Is it 100% true? Do I absolutely know that's true?
And then I have to somewhat sheepishly acknowledge that - well no, that's not really true.
And then my brain has already started coming up with reasons why - I actually kind of like having clean dishes around, I actually feel pretty good about achieving some sort of order out of what was chaos during and after the cleaning, there's something kind of satisfying about it, etc etc.

(I think when I try and kid myself along, telling myself I *do* want to do something when I don't entirely, my brain is doing the reverse - coming up with logical reasons why I don't don't want to do it. I know, I know - reverse psychology! But it works on me!)

Then I ask myself what would happen if I believed the opposite? That I say, wanted to do the dishes?
I think about how I'd just be able to get on with it, and then get onto other things, it would be less horrible because I wouldn't resent the task, in fact, I might kind of enjoy it and feel proud/satisfied with myself, and hey - I'd even have clean dishes!

And obviously, by this point, I'm actually visualising doing the task, and suddenly it's not so bad.

I'm still having trouble with the really big scary tasks, but I think I just need practice turning it around.

So, I grabbed the basic idea of the questions from something called 'The Work' by Byron Katie, here -
I can't tell you anything more about it, or recommend it, because all I've read that webpage, and just ended up trying it later. I'm not even using the full technique. :rolleyes:
Now that I'm reminded of where it actually came from, I might try doing the proper-turnarounds things for my big scary tasks, and see if that helps.
What I've been doing so far seems to be helping me for the easier tasks at least...

Ok, back to work. Or lunch. Or a cup of tea?
Option c, I think.

do i really hate this task?

fascinating idea, grail. I can report that same exaggeration of a disliked task into a dreaded task. As i read your questions, i can feel the exaggeration melting away. not only do i not hate doing the dishes (i do dislike it, but not hate it) but there is indeed, mixed with the dislike, a sense of satisfaction at getting something done and having a clean sink.

Very clarifying. Thanks.

The work - great web site!

Thanks Grail.   Some practical suggestions for changing your thinking! 

"The sooner you get behind, the longer you have to catch up." - Steven Wright

One of the most mind-blowing

One of the most mind-blowing things about studying myself and my procrastination has been the realization that procrastination is, as kpoet says, a very emotional issue.

Basically, if you don't 'feel' like it, you generally won't do it. No matter what the task, what justification you try to use to convince yourself that you are wasting time, no matter what words you use to try and 'scare' yourself; "I HAVE to do this, otherwise I'll lose my job!", you won't do it if you don't feel like it.

We all have our comfort zones, and just like we all love sleeping in a nice cosy, comfortable bed, we like staying in our comfort zone. Sometimes, no matter what you say to yourself, you'll sleep in anyway right?. We procrastinators need to start becoming more conscious of this, being aware of the moments in which we are lingering in our comfort zones, and take direct and early action to stop it. Right now.

Sometimes just jumping into a task and just doing it for 3 minutes (the time it takes to go toilet, flush, wash hands and go back to your seat) will start to take you out of your comfort zone and give you a new feeling; be it a challenging, competitive feeling, or a fun feeling, or maybe a sense of mini-achievement, or even belief. We've all done this and seen evidence of this before (but probably didn't realise it).

Change the way you 'feel' right now and inherently you'll change the way you feel about doing a task.

ditto, ditto, ditto

i agree with all 3 of you (kpoet, e, journey). It is hugely emotional and mental. Getting started is more than 50% of the battle. Forward motion creates more forward motion, but it's so hard to get that forward motion started.

I have mental blocks, fear, and anxiety. Dread is what i usually call it. Unreasonable dread about simple tasks, and even fun tasks, sometimes. But also about legitimately big and risky tasks.

Visualization helps me, but not really, because to visualize i have to have gotten over my initial wall of dread at least a little first--so in that vein i'm like kpoet.

What journey said about breaking down things in small chunks, even microbursts like e said, i do this. This is how i get buy.

But for me, there's a step before all of that. There is the step of surrender. I think for me the world is full of interesting possibilities and they all call to me all the time. All kinds of things to learn about on the web. All sorts of projects to make the world a better place. Etc, etc. For me to do something, to focus on JUST ONE THING, for any amount of time, is to forgo all the other delicious possibilities in the universe. I think that's what's hard for me.

That's the positive version. The negative side of that coin is something like this: by working on just one thing, other things are not getting done and i will be accountable for them. I will fail in them.

So, it all starts with the surrender of self to the higher power for me. I have to take that drastic step of surrendering all that is me. I forsake myself. Once i take that step, then i have the power to forgo all the other possibilities. Because then i'm not doing my work, but higher power's work. I'm following, not self-directing. I trust that all the other problems of the world will be solved by higher power, and i can just focus on this one task for myself. I can accept that i if i do this one thing, i might fail at other things, because i've already giving the whole game over to higher power.

Anyway, that's what it's like for me.

Ditto your Ditto

I like what you've said about surrender, and trusting that while I focus on this one thing, my higher power will take care of all the other things in the, that's trust! And focusing on my higher power's work...!  Great post! 

clem - re: focus on just one thing

 Clem said "For me to do something, to focus on JUST ONE THING, for any amount of time, is to forgo all the other delicious possibilities in the universe. "

Yes, that describes it very well!  I'm always second guessing myself.  I chose to do A but maybe I should have been doing B, and it would be fun to do C, and I forgot about D, etc. etc.   Sometimes I can't enjoy a restaurant meal because I can't stop thinking about all the things I DIDN'T order.  It's dumb!  But this is the way my brain works.  I'm learning to accept that I'm going to feel that way, and that's ok, and keep returning to Task A. 

I'm too egotistical to be quite as selfless as Clem describes above, but it does help very much to admit helplessness over this procrastination/distractibility/whateveritis and ask HP for help when planning the day.  That makes it much easier to stick to the plan.  HP will keep the earth rotating for today, and I don't have to worry about it :).  My job is to do Task A, and chill. 

THanks for the insight Clement~



"The sooner you get behind, the longer you have to catch up." - Steven Wright

re: meal i didnt order

geesh. I have that too. It's hard to order because of all the things i CAN'T order, and i'm always jealous of other people's food.

re: re: the meal not ordered

lololol I'm glad I'm not the only one.  

Seriously, this is a real ADD symptom.   I've taken all the tests, and I'm not quite bad enough to be diagnosed with ADD, but I do have those tendencies.  When I feel this way, I try to remind myself this is just the way my brain works.  There are many good things about my brain working this way, but there are some drawbacks, and this is one of them.  Just laugh at your silly brain and focus back on the meal you did order.  Or the task you and HP chose for you to do at this moment.  And enjoy it.  (if only it were that easy hehe)

The book "Driven to Distraction" by . . . Hallowell I think??  really helped me with this.  I highly recommend it. 


"The sooner you get behind, the longer you have to catch up." - Steven Wright

re: re: re: the other meal

Actually i can see how the HP comment fits. It's the same thing. Forget about all the other possibilities, so that i can focus on what's in front of me. Whether that's my burger or my task. They're so similar. It confirms that it all comes from the same wiring or personality or whatever.

making things difficult

One of the things I'm aware of with procrastination is that we make it difficult on ourselves. Often we overanalyze the problem. When we do something we want to do it is often automatic and done without question. We even have systems in place which makes us automatically break down an activity and approach it in an effective and efficient manner. Procrastination stretches a problem and causes us to question ourselves and our abilities. In a sense we are making a mountain out of a mole hill.


yeah, i know what you mean. I have stressed out many times over getting up and going into another room to get a piece of paper. A trivial task if there ever was one. And yet, it has proved extremely hard to overcome this pattern of behavior for me.

Gotta go be productive now ;)

re: visualization block

Yes, absolutely.  As I'm becoming more aware of those things, I can almost feel the block.   It's not so much the fear and anxiety that I feel, it's my mind putting up a barrier so that I don't have to feel the fear.  If that makes any sense.  

I'm still working on this, but it has helped me to 1) plan what I'm going to do for the day in smallish chunks - like half an hour chunks 2) once the plan is made, only think about one chunk at a time.  Forget all the stuff that didn't get done yesterday, last week, last year.  Forget about all the stuff that has to be done tomorrow.  Just think about that one 30 minute task.  


"The sooner you get behind, the longer you have to catch up." - Steven Wright

90% mental

 ... or emotional

I identify with your feeling that the hardest part is starting: dread plays a huge factor in delaying things for me. I don't find that visualization really helps (or perhaps I just have not tried it thoroughly enough) but I do know that any movement in the right direction can propel me onward. Someone wonderful (whose name escapes me, but I think it might have been movingalong) wrote of the concept of microbursts: a tiny movement of some sort towards where you are thinking you might want to be. In my case that might be, opening my briefcase instead of  committing to actually dealing with any of the papers inside. Using the chatbox to talk myself through things also can help with microbursting: I find that the little good things can sometimes allow me to tackle the big scary stuff.