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.

How to explain my procrastination problem to a non-procrastinator?

So I just did my last exam yesterday. Looking back at the semester, I see that even with the best of intentions I was not able to go in the right direction with my problem. I was still late for many projects, I was still not doing the work on time. Now I'm going to fail a couple of classes. It seems I just can't help myself, I need someone else. I would love to ask my parents to help me, but how can I explain my problem to them without having them thinking of me as a lazy kid who needs a kick in the ***? I don't know if they can understand me since everyone in my family seems highly productive and not afraid to work at all.

 Anyone with some past experience ?

Thank you

explaining compulsive procrastination to non-compulsive people

Hello and welcome.

RE: explaining compulsions/addictions to non-compulsive /non-addicted people:

There were some ideas written the the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

See Chapter 8 ("To Wives")
and see Chapter 10 ("To Employers").

Keep in mind that those chapters of the book were written in the early years of A.A., probably in the 1930's or 1940's.   And they were written mostly from the perspective of how to relate to a male alcoholic in those days.

But you can still get some ideas from those chapters ... just update the context to modern times and your own work/school/family lifestyle.

The chapters were written to be read by the wives and employers.  You could rewrite your own version by updating the cultural references and substituting "procrastinator/procrastination" for "alcoholic/alcoholism".

You could add in info from the following article, and anything else here on the P.A. website that makes sense to you.

You may or may not choose to show your writing to anyone.

But perhaps ... it might help you to simply do the exercise of "rewriting" those two A.A. Big Book chapters  -- doing it might help you rehearse what you'd want to tell the non-procrastinators in your life.

Note that you wouldn't need to actually write it out or type it up ... because that would be just another "project" to procrastinate on, LOL.

You could simply read it and rewrite it in your mind .... think to yourself how you'd adapt the words to your own situation.

Just spending 15 minutes thinking it through would be "good enough".


thank you for your

thank you for your support.

I'll try to tell them soon but not
right now, I think I'm going to tell them 1 on 1, and make them
understand how it affects me and that I don't know exactly why i'm doing this. I'll keep you updated when I'll do it. It might take some time though.

Great plan!

Sounds like a good plan, Vince. Congrats on making a decision. Best of luck; I look forward to hearing how it goes. :)

re: explaining to others

vince, that's a tuf one. I personally can report incredible shame (just like ksm did here) at being a procrastinator. I guess i really do not expect other people to understand. Several people have said that non-addicts can't understand. I dont know enuf about it but i can certainly believe that's true.

So, having to tell parents/ friends/ family / boss that i didnt do something has been excruciatingly painful to me. Oh how i hate that feeling. They always ask why. Well basically because i just didnt do it. Work supervisors were always trying to help me schedule my time or predict better or organize better, and that always felt very funny as if that could have an effect.

But i did have a thot--that i have not tried myself, but i pass it along just in case it might work for you. I'm sure your parents love you, and want the best for you. they certainly want you to be successful, but also happy. If that's so, do you think that emphasizing how painful it is for you to not be able to work as productively as you expect to--as everyone expects you to--that sharing the personal, emotional pain (as kristen had success with) might help them see that you're not just lazy--that it's something more? Might it encourage their compassion for you?

Again, i have not tried this myself, so use with caution. It's scary to be vulnerable.


I can tell you first hand that a lot of people just won't "get it." The I have only told 3 people- My typography teacher, my mom, and my dad. Out of the three of them, the only one who has been really supportive (and not treated it like some sort of joke) has been my teacher. 

I think it is really really difficult for people who have never experienced an addiction to even grasp the concept of something like procrastination feeling soooo out of our control. Even if they can, its hard for them to understand how hard it is to stop.

For me, its been best to just keep it to myself, and when necessary, explain that I have some "personal issues" that I'm working through. Thats just what works for me, though. You may have a different experience.

Keep us updated...I think this is something that a lot of us struggle with. Good luck! I hope you find more support from your family than I did.

I found myself telling my English professor about my problem

I was way overdue on a paper for my English class, and since the professor is pretty understanding I went to talk to her about it. I'm at a school where mild procrastination is common, which helped a bit—I mentioned that I was both a procrastinator and a perfectionist, and she understood right away. "It sounds like it's an emotional issue for you, too," she said, which was exactly it.

So now I've been able to explain it better to a couple people I've talked to about the problem since then. I'll usually say that I have a problem gathering the confidence to work on something that seems overwhelming, and if either of us mentions the word "procrastinate" I clarify that it's a highly emotional issue for me. Maybe this is a little more personal information than you'd want to share, and I know the underlying factors are different for everyone, but I've had a lot of success explaining that I'm struggling with some personal issues that make it hard for me to tackle everything I want to—and that I'm working on it. The most important part is to clarify that the problem isn't just the laziness that everyone gets from time to time, but something caused by a more serious emotional block. 

Hope this is helpful. Best of luck!

P.S. I'm in therapy (provided by the college, thank goodness) for my issue—maybe this isn't feasible for you or isn't something you want to do, but it's worth considering professional help in addition to asking your family for support. 

procrastination rampant on college campuses

Yours isn't the only college where many students have a procrastination problem. It's a major problem for a large percent of students everywhere. If you google "procrastination", many of the resources you find are from college counseling centers.

Writers - whose work is much like that of students writing papers - also have an unusually high rate of procrastination (count me in this group). Something about studying and writing seems to bring this out in people.

Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.

creative procrastinators

i've been having a feeling that sensitive, creative types might be more likely to be procrastinators. Creative people may stop to reflect on the importance of things--which might make boring, routine things hard to focus on, and hard to value. They might feel the pain of failure more deeply, which might make the stakes higher when trying new things. They might be able to sense many options in any given task, rather than just doing it the standard way and might then be more likely to become overwhelmed. They may feel a stronger sense of obligation to act morally, to be excellent in all they do, to do their best, to make a contribution to society, to make the world a better place--these are inherently overwhelming goals.

I seem to know a lot of people who aren't troubled by any of what i just wrote. Sometimes i envy the simplicity of their lives, but i suppose that's just because it see some simple beauty in it.

I think you're right, Clement

I'm a pretty sensitive person, and I almost always (used to, and sometimes still do) overestimate the importance of my current task, and devalue the ones I've already accomplished—as if, since I managed to do it, it can't have been THAT difficult! I'm very aware of how people react to me socially, and hold myself to very high standards; I can't stand to think that people are judging me. I think that's part of the reason I'm such a perfectionist. 

It can be a burden—but I believe that when it's managed properly, this powerful drive to do your best can be a great thing. I'm just trying to learn how to separate that from my self-esteem! 

a non-addict cannot understand an addict

It really is impossible for someone who does have the experience of compulsive avoidance or other addictive behavior to understand what it feels like. When I couldn't get stuff done, my sister would look at me like I had two heads and say "Just do it!" She has never had this problem, and can't conceive of what is blocking me.

That's why the only people who can truly help an addict (that includes us compulsive avoidance people) are fellow sufferers. We here understand very well. Those of us who have been where you are and walked a path out can point to the path and tell you where it is.

Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.

A challenge indeed

Unfortunately, few people understand our condition.  I'm convinced that our chronic avoidance/procrastination is qualitatively different that the normal procrastination experience of most people.  Others will try to compare the latter with the former--and that tends to come with a lot of judgement and lecturing.  Unfortunately, that's the equivalent of telling an alcoholic not to drink.

If you do want to share with your family, you might want to avoid using the word procrastination.  You can tell them that you've been finding yourself having trouble maintaining your attention and keeping organized.  Be sure to explain to them that you believe this is a problem that you want help for and that you have not been able to "talk yourself out of it." Do they know anybody who has been treated for an addiction?