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.

Make the 'right' choice

How many times have you spent hours analyzing various facets of a decision because you wanted to make the most intelligent choice you oculd? Then, when you thought you finally had the best answer, you froze when you tried to move forward on it. Even though your logic said "OK," the decision still didn't feel quite right for some reason.

Loads of times? Yeh, me too.

And as I've been thinking about this more and more about why this is, I've discovered more about how I actually make decisions. And this includes the decision to procrastinate. Whether it's obvious to us procrastinators or not (it wasn't obvious to me at all), it is WE who are choosing to procrastinate, and WE procrastinators will do so regardless of the tasks. It is US, not the tasks that is the problem. Taking responsibility is one of the things that I'm trying to do more, and so far it's had a positive impact.

When you make a decision on something to do, if you've ever questioned yourself as to WHY you've made that decision, you'll have probably come to similar conclusions to myself.
Even if you think you've made your decision based on some logical reasoning I've found that it's not true. In fact, in the end I've realised that I end up just making a choice based on primarily my emotion at that moment.

If you see something on your to do list that makes you think and feel "down", then you'll want to escape, procrastinate, to anything that makes you feel remotely better. I repeat again, no matter what you may think, all of your choices are pretty much made emotionally rather than logically. Even when you think that logic played a part in making a decision, in the end all it does is make you FEEL a certain way. And it's how you feel based on that logic that determine your choices in the end.

This is the whole thing with procrastination. Even though we KNOW, that to procrastinate on X is the wrong thing to do logically, emotionally we still feel like we WANT to be doing something else.

So what do you need to do? Well you need to first become conscious of this choice. Regardless of logically whether the task is the 'right' thing to do, or not, you have to ask yourself, am I choosing to do this out of fear (maybe that there'll be serious consequences if you don't do it)? Or inspiration (the best kind I think)? Because I know i'll feel good after doing it? Or am I only doing it because I feel fear when thinking about another task?

Once you've determined that, you can make a better choice - one that is in alignment with your emotions. Make the choice to choose something to do based on emotional reasoning rather than logical reasoning. Logic can play a part, but know that in the end you need to trust your instincts, your heart, for everything you do. That's how you get alignment. And with that alignment, you'll feel the motivation to do your tasks, and do them well. And since action breeds more motivation, you'll find a happy perpetuating loop of 'productivity' (or just emotional satisfaction).

That's how I've been making the 'right' choice for the last few weeks. And it's helped me tremendously so I wanted to share it with everybody. Please try it too. I'd hate for anyone to feel the way that I did at my lowest.

If you don't 'feel' like it,

If you don't 'feel' like it, hardly anything you think or say or reason will make you do a certain thing.

It's a subtle difference but a powerful one when you realise that everything you do, you have to at least slightly want to do it first.

I'm not saying replace emotions with logic. But rather it is the emotions which drive the logic. If you don't want to leave your job, you'll find reasoning that will make you stay. The emotion has to be correct first otherwise any logic you try to apply will be wrong for you.

For example, I thought I was having a great week last week. But then I had an argument with my brother, who I'm very close to. After that, even though there was absolutely nothing wrong with my work - I was still in a very structured productive set up, i was ahead of my work and I remember previously enjoying my time.

But I just didn't feel the motivation to do anything. I felt down. Except this time I wasn't 'down' because of the work. Rather I was down because of the argument with my brother. Either way, the point is: I still felt down. My emotion was a negative one. And so I just didn't 'feel' like doing anything.

I found myself almost immediately starting to procrastinate, falling back into bad habits. I tried to read motivational material, watch motivational videos - things that usually inspire me. I tried to tell myself to just carry on like last week, where "you were feeling really productive and happy."

But it didn't work. On any other given day, those material might've given me such a tremendous boost that I would come here, to these forums, and rave about it to everybody.

But they didn't change the way I felt. Why? It's because I WANTED to feel that way. I CHOSE to feel that way. If I WANTED to change, then any of those materials or reasoning to myself would've work. But I had to want to first.

Of course nobody really wants to be down, but you have to realise that there is part of you that does. You are responsible for feeling that way, because you chose to. Other factors may have helped, but you can't change that. Just focus on yourself; being responsible for yourself.

How did I get out of that rut? I talked to my girlfriend, who made me feel ten times better, and immediately i recognised a change in my emotions - i felt more positive, more energised. And I CHOSE to use it as a springboard to get me back 'up there', to do my work and to feel good again. It's important to realise this, which is basically my whole point: there have been plenty of times when I've felt down, been cheered up by something, and yet I still felt down afterwards. Why? Well ultimately because I chose to. It was hard to admit it, since I was always blaming other things. But It was me. All me.

Someone said that you can't just will yourself to change your feelings.

Well I believe that you can.

Not just by simply willing. But instead I believe in triggers, or more specifically: actions trigger new emotions. Put simply, doing something else will change your emotions, usually whether you like it or not. Think about it? If we couldn't willingly change our emotions, how do we ever get out of a rut? At some point in the future, we do something else, or something else in our life happens, and we start to feel better. This is why sometimes all you need to do to get out of feeling like procrastinating is to just see a friend, or change the environment.

Now I admit, this is where I break down. I'm not a guru on what you should do to make yourself WANT to do something.

I, quite honestly, have no conclusive rule or idea. Sometimes I'll choose to do something like running, which nearly always gives me a boost, and yet it won't 'cheer me up'. I simply don't know yet.

What i'm doing now though, is looking at my task lists, and in choosing which ones to do in what order, I'm trying to discern how I feel about each one. I have to be very careful because a lot of the time I think I'm being honest with myself but in fact I'm just using logical reasoning to avoid the task. I have to really try hard to listen to my feelings and see how I really feel about a task.

And if I find that I'm putting the hard task at the back out of fear, then I'll simply push it to the front, as a way to force myself to confront and maybe overcome that fear.

It forces me to confront my procrastination.

I've written before about the 'physical feeling of resistance' that you get when you are forced to confront something you've been procrastinating on. I'll feel that resistance in the beginning, from the moment I push that task to the front. But somehow, I've learnt to be stronger, to stand my ground and not procrastinate on tasks like that anymore. And after a while I'll tend to feel better about it, I'll find good reasons to do it which are congruent with my feelings, and I may even find the motivation to do it right that very moment!

But note this: even if it was logically correct to put it at the back of the queue—say I didn't have finish it for months—I will still put it at the front to push through the fear, because I knew that I wasn't putting it at the back for the right reasons.

Actually, I might put it at the back of the queue in the end, but only after I've made sure that I'm not putting it at the back out of fear. I will consciously try to overcome that fear and put it at the back for the 'right' reason.

See, this is my whole point about logic. Even if you always make the 'logical' choice, say order the list of tasks in the most 'logical' way, when you come to it if you don't feel like doing it, say because of fear, you won't do it! So you still have to overcome that fear to do it. The emotions MUST come first. Because it is emotions which drive you, and me.

Also, I've come to not really 'trust' logic. This is the controversial bit where most of you will probably disagree with me. I'm not loony—I am basing this on my experiences.

Logic, or more accurately MY logic, is never ultimate. As in, I may have made some logical reasoning on e.g. which new car to buy. And that reasoning may well seems like a pretty good argument and 'correct'.

Despite that, there will almost always be another person or argument which can come along and dwarf my logic. I'm not saying I'm stupid. I've just come to accept that any logical argument that I'm making in my head is MY reasoning, not the 'ultimate' reasoning of truth and logic, and that often I'll come up with reasoning that will generally fit my emotions.

If I'm scared to leave my job, my brain will rack up a solid, logical argument that will convince me to stay. Even if you come up with a better logical argument saying that I should leave my job, if I don't want to and I can't argue back with a better logical argument, I'll probably just end up ignoring you or go into denial. Haven't you read really inspiring articles that haven't changed you in the long run. Is every article's logic that you read wrong? Is it just a fluffy argument that sounds inspirational but has no grounding? I believe no. Its just that either I'm in denial, or I'm not ready to take the actions required from that article yet. Either way, it's not the article. It's me. All me.

So in the end, I think the best thing for me to do really is try and 'feel' what is the best option for me. That 'feeling' doesn't really have to a specific one, like happy or sad. But just a certain feeling that I know it's 'right' for me.

Have you ever tried to convince your kid brother that doing his homework is the right thing to do, but he still won't do it, even though your reasoning is absolutely correct (or at least better than his reasoning)? I'm guessing that most people have found that even if you forced him to do it once, he won't have the initiative to do it the next time.

If he doesn't want to, he won't choose do it.

Kids always ask 'Why?' to everything you ask them to do; from tying their shoelaces; to brushing their teeth; to eating their greens. Sometimes you can't always come up with the greatest reasoning for doing some of those stuff like tying their shoelaces. Does that mean that the kid is correct? Remember, just because someone argues better than you, doesn't mean they're correct.

I still use logic, as everybody does. But I just now know that my logic, as is everybody else's, is not 'ultimate'. And that to make choices based on the 'right' emotional reasons first is a better foundation that the other way around: logic, then emotions.

There will be people who read this, and even before they start, will decide that it won't work. I've done that loads of times with other articles, where I'll read it with subconscious intentions to try and argue against it, prove it's wrong.

Now I know that I only did that because I was scared of what it might mean to me if it were true and what I would need to change in myself as a result of it. I didn't want to change, so I came up with reasoning that supported it; namely, I just argued to myself that it won't work, or its not true, to the point where I believed the logic. (I'm not saying that my article is the be-all and end all and it's 100% correct, I'm just trying to get the concept across.)

I convinced myself that I was taking the right choice in not doing it, MY logical choice.

Whereas in fact, I was just fooling myself because I was really doing it for emotional reasons i.e. I didn't feel ready to take action on it, maybe out of fear or whatever.

What I really hope people do is not only read this article and then forget it, but to go away and have thoughts, naturally. Then maybe read other articles that inspire you. But not just read it, go away and think about how it applies to your real life.

Most of us already know what it takes to stop procrastinating - we just haven't chosen to use it.

Making Choices - Emotion

Hi Steven,
I'm glad you've found something that's working so well for you!
I guess I'm still didn't understand from your post, the *how*? How do I find something good I emotionally want to do? How do I align my emotions with things that would be good for me to do? How do I change my emotions from things that would negatively affect me to do?
I don't have procrastination-with-a-little-p, like the 'I just have a few drinks with dinner', I'm often a Procrastinator with a big P. I often compulsively (emotionally) do things that don't make me happy (wasting large amounts of time reading crap online etc), I often don't 'emotionally' want to do things I know would make me happy to do (going out to dinner, meeting friends, playing a sport, watching a movie).
I am spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to neutralise my anxieties and negative emotions which are keeping me stuck, and I try and focus on what I have enjoyed from past events and will enjoy about future events, but just as 'Just Do It' doesn't quite work for me, I'm looking for steps that will breakdown this 'getting into alignment' thing a little simpler.

It's been a few weeks since

It's been a few weeks since the original post. And in hindsight, I can see that it's not the most convincingly written argument ever. My examples doesn't do the idea justice. It doesn't illustrate with enough clarity what I wanted to say.

So I understand why people have been dismissing the idea. It didn't make complete sense to me when I read it back too. :)

But, saying that, over the past few weeks, I have kept on experiencing countless situations and examples of how emotion does play a bigger part than I realise. It concurs with my original thoughts and I really do believe that, this time, this idea may be very important as it has supported many examples.

Right now, just knowing that emotion is a crucial element doesn't directly help me. But it's knowledge that I'm hoping to turn into some kind of action so that I can help myself 'get better'.

So really I just wanted to say: maybe you should try look more deeply in your actions too and maybe report back if you are seeing what I'm seeing too?

Looking at the emotions of my actions

Hi Steven,

I think maybe I am trying to do that - looking at my actions and then really trying to figure out what I'm feeling, and why I feel that way. It's been sucessful when I've managed it, but it's slow progress, because I seem to panic and avoid thinking about whatever it is I'm supposed to and having a 'reaction' too (ie procrastinating), when I try.

The opposite of 'don't think about the white horse' thing, instead - trying to think about the 'white horse' immediately leads to me distracting myself by thinking about 'pink elephants' etc!

But, I'm trying, and I think I'm making slow progress. So thank you for your thoughts Steven. A lot of the advice I've seen at the moment seems to be leading me to the same place. :)

Thanks for the support Grail

It's nice to have someone else trying the same things as me. Thanks Grail.

Unfortunately, I don't have any new answers to help with how it should all work. Like I said, I'm still trying to figure out how to 'use' it.

But I can say that when I have been successful, and consciously realised how my feelings are affecting my actions, I feel a much greater sense of control and mind power.

Have you felt the same way too?

I also wanted to say that, on the whole, I'm quite an emotionally driven person. So I've thought about the possibility that this may only apply to people like me, rather than - I can't find the word for it - the opposite of emotionally driven people??

But I really do have a strong feeling about this one. Darn it. See? Emotionally driven again! :p

Emotion is the motor of motivation, or the brakes...

It's true, as a very rational, logical type of person, I'm forced to admit it's clearly emotion that actually provides the 'motor' to get things done, or more noticeably, the brakes.

I wish it wasn't so, because my emotions *don't* make the better choice.

The challenge then, is changing my emotions to be in line with my logic. But, I can't just will it so. I can't ignore my emotions, I have to change them, and in order to change them, I have to listen to them, realise what it is, and move onwards.

It's not even so much my emotions that drive me to do things - I'm better to do something even if I'm not feeling 'motivated', fake it til you make it seems to bring on the motication, but it is definately the unthought fears & anxieties that keep me stuck, and until I work through them, I stay stuck.

If I made my 'logical' choices more often, I know I'd be happier. But because I am more logical, and don't have a lot of practice noticing my emotions, I often don't realise that something is making me anxious (I even resort to taking my pulse etc, but that's usually the same regardless), and therefore, I can't even figure out why I'm procrastinating. I'm working on different methods of identifying, and working better with my emotions & anxieties (I use that word often, but I'm not visibly or very-consciously aware I'm anxious).

Talking with your HP, is another way of reducing anxieties and bringing your emotions in line with your goals.

I know a lot of people work with things like EFT to clear emotional blocks - it doesn't really work through meridians/accupressure etc, but just by using tapping as a distractor while you desensitise yourself by thinking about the anxiety. Doesn't work for me though. :P

On a sidetrack, my subconscious doesn't know what's good for me either. I watched a self-hypnosis video that seemed to be working well, and suggested that afterwards I get right onto work, whatever it was I needed to be doing - and then, it suggested that my subconscious knew what I should really be doing, and that I should get right on it. Well, I came out and - I *was* feeling ready to start!  'Hey, that thing feels like it's really work - huh, I'd better go see if they've got anything else like that...' and bang, back on the internet. The mistake? My subconscious has been trained from a VERY young age that all the answers to my problems lie in a library - and now, the internet! Don't let my subconscious do the driving, it just means I do nothing but *read* about a problem all day!


interesting discussion! which comes first, the . ..

feeling or the action? 

I definitely procrastinate out of fear of the task that needs to be done . . . but if I wait until I feel like doing it, that will never happen :) 

This reminds me of a lyric from my favorite song of the moment (Aquarium Dreams, by the Rondo Bros.): "In in our minds, we seek to be divine, but in our hearts we know it's party time." lol  

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

I like that quote so much it's now my tagline!


"In our minds, we seek to be divine; but in our hearts, we know its party time." - Rondo Bros in Aquarium Dreams


Choosing from emotions or logic or gut or .... ?

Steven said:

... you can make a better choice - one that is in alignment with your emotions. Make the choice to choose something to do based on emotional reasoning rather than logical reasoning. Logic can play a part, but know that in the end you need to trust your instincts, your heart, for everything you do. That's how you get alignment. And with that alignment, you'll feel the motivation to do your tasks, and do them well. And since action breeds more motivation, you'll find a happy perpetuating loop of 'productivity' (or just emotional satisfaction).

From my personal experience, your suggestion does NOT work for me.

(But if it works for you, that's great, and keep going!)

Why doesn't it work for me?

Because I have found my emotions to be a non-trustworthy basis for decision-making.

And because I have found that what I might feel my heart wants isn't always what my True Inner Self, or "Authentic Self", or "Soul", or "Higher Aspect" wants.   Not the "Real Me".

And "trusting my instincts" can be dangerous at times, because sometimes my instincts are warped due to years of misuse.

There is more about "misdirection of instinct" in the chapter on "Step 4" in the book ""12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous".
Step 4 is here:

I suppose that if I were a truly pure person, my gut instincts and my heart would be aligned with my soul.   But I haven't evolved to that state yet.

So here's how I choose:  I think logically, see how my heart feels, and check my gut instinct.  Often all three will have different opinions, LOL.   Then let go off all of that for a few minutes and instead go "up" ... seek Higher Power guidance.

Higher Power guidance helps me to understand why I might think of one option logically, another option from my heart, and a third from my gut.  I can see the underlying motives behind all three:

* Rationalization can confuse logic.
* Desire and perfectionism can mislead the heart.
* Fear or greed can warp the gut instinct.

Once I've sorted all that out, I can relax and let Higher Power help me to laugh.  And then usually I can see the Clear Path before me.

It's about learning to discern the difference between the Voice and the voices.

-- movingalong

nice explanation, moving

Your words resonate with me.

I dont want to put off steve, tho. What he writes does sound wise. Even if it reflect what i or you have experienced, others will / have found it helpful. That's why we're all different.

I, as you moving, have been duped by all 3: logic, instinct, emotion, gut, ok 4, at various times.

I like the part about going UP the most. Yep, same here. When i go up, when i GIVE UP my logic, instinct, emotion, gut, and seek only to follow HiPo, then clarity comes, wisdom, the wisdom to tell the difference, as they say, and tell WHICH of my various pulls, to follow, or sometimes none of them.

And helping me laugh. That's definitely a part of it for me too. I find a lightness of spirit most of them when i pray. Nothing seems to matter as much after. What i thot were dire situations become just bumps in the road. Whem i'm most in the spirit, as they say, the trials of my life seem like thrills on a roller coaster, because i have that same certain knowledge that i'll come to the end of the ride completely safe, so i am free to enjoy the ride.

Thanks for the inspiration, moving & steve