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.

Maslow's hierarchy


A few weeks ago in my psychology class we talked about Maslow's hierarchy of needs. This has been on my mind a lot lately, because I realized I'm not functioning as high on the hierarchy as I would like to be. I also find it interesting that procrastination threatens at least one need in each tier, especially in the "Esteem" level.

Any thoughts on Maslow's hierarchy as it relates to Procrastination? 

Self-realisation & procrastination

Thank you for posting this Sammy - it has spurred some really interesting posts which have just left me nodding.

 I can see so many aspects where my life has been affected by procrastination but actually one of the things I fing most thought-provoking is its relation to the topmost point of self-actualisation. It wasn't until recently that I was even ready to acknowledge to myself that many of the things I do were in fact not self-realising but the complete opposite, But one of the problems I have is that sometimes my procrastination expresses itself in ways that will fool me into thinking I am being extremely spontaneous, like having sudden urges to watch something or do something at completely inappropriate times. But for a long time I really didn't see it for what it was, I seriously thought that I was living the moment.


Though this be madness, yet there is method in't ~ Polonius (Hamlet)

Carl Jung- spritual solution for some

Step 12 says "Having had a spiritual solution..."

For me, I could have all my needs met and still "pick up...."

Jung said for some people, or a certain time, he believed a spiritual solution was the only home.


I meant

Jung said for some people, of a certain type, he believed a spiritual solution was the only hope.

Also, not eveyone in AA comes in at the bottom of the pyramid, many, many people come in at the very top.

Maslow and the 12 Steps

When I got sober in AA there was a psych prof who gave a lecture on Maslow and tied it to the progression of addiction (top down), and the progression of recovery (bottom up). I totally agree that procrastination is a obsessive-compulsive disorder comparable to more widely-acknowledged addictions, in that we have a mental obsession (how do I fix my life) combined with a physical allergy (in my belief, adrenaline).

As the Dr's Opinion in the Big Book states, "...once having formed the habit and found they cannot break it, once having lost their self-confidence, their reliance upon things human, their problems pile up on them and become astonishlingly difficult to solve." Could there be a better description of us procrastinators?  Yet, that's part of a medical description of active alcoholism.

Back to Maslow and the Steps:  Maslow posited that this hierarchy of need underlies the motivation of individuals as well as whole societies, that one never fully progresses to the next level until all needs are met on the preceding level.  Therefore, self-actualization is impossible until the individual or societal system attains satisfaction on ALL the previous rungs. 

Note that satisfaction with one level may mean something totally different to one individual or culture, than it would to another. It's the self-perception of attainment that counts.  So there's alot to be said in this regard about our tendency toward unrealistic expectations and perfectionism. 

Still, I believe that if I practice the first three Steps consistently, one day at a time, on the bottom rung of Maslow's pyramid, I will attain a level of satisfaction that will let me progress to the next level, which may be why old-timers in AA emphasize the H.A.L.T. warning alot for newcomers who are on Step 1: Don't get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. By working Steps 2 and 3, I can begin to gain some new Power over my security (at least stop losing ground there).

Steps 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 let me identify my responsibility and re-claim my power to improve my relationships, even my sex life.  Steps 9 and 10 restore a ton of self-esteem, and of course by this time I am sharing my recovery with others (Step 12a) so this also builds self-esteem, confidence and respect.

I believe the ultimate self-actualization is the daily walking of Step 11 and 12b, by truly seeking what I am created for, the Power to walk in it, and to practice these principles in all my affairs.  I've heard different summaries of these principles by different recovery streams, but in my experience they are, from Step 1 through 12, these:  self-honesty, hope, faith, self-examination, self-revelation, willingness, humility, forgiveness, courtesy, commitment, trust, and generosity.

Thanks for this intriguing discussion!


My observations were something like this:

Self-Actualization: When I procrastinate, I sacrifice my creativity and my ability to do spontaneous fun things.

Esteem: My procrastination is due to, and further erodes, my self esteem in some areas of my life. It can keep me from achieving my goals, which can mean I lose the respect of others who are working with me on those goals. When others no longer respect me, I lose confidence.

Love/Belonging: When I procrastinate, I often end up having to give up family time, outings with friends, and time with my signifigant other. These situations can lead to my loved ones feeling used and ignored.

Safety: If I procrastinate at work, I risk the chance of losing my job because I miss too many deadlines. Losing my job would be a direct hit on the security of my family, my home, my car, etc.

Physiological: Sometimes I use food as a tool to put things off. When i finally get my nose to the grindstone and work, I often end up skipping meals in order to get things done on time. I stay awake for days at a time without sleep to finish projects I should have started weeks ago.

I guess what I am discovering is that procrastination is affecting my life in more ways than I was previously aware of. I'm not sure yet if this is something I can use to help motivate me to make changes in my life. Right now I'm just working on getting through the end of the semseter.


Maslow discussion

La Sorciere

I'm sorry that I missed the start of this thread earlier in the week; there's a lot to your post about Maslow's Hierarchy, Sammy, that has made me think about my procrastination problem in completely new ways!

I think that it's particularly important for we procrastinators to keep in mind that Maslow was quite deliberately describing a hierarchy of needs in his famous formulation...meaning that the order of the stages was fixed and not fluid.  Unless and until a person has been able to satisfy the fundamental needs of the first stage, none of the subsequent stages can be fully realized.  So, this is where our procrastination can be most crippling, since procrastinating around our basic physical needs and/or environment guarantees that we will not be able to satisfactorily achieve the objects of any of the more advanced needs.  For example, if I can't get myself out of bed, or can't get myself to do the laundry or get a badly needed haircut, I make it fairly unlikely that I'll successfully arrive at the second (safety) stage by getting and keeping a job.... and so forth, proceeding UPWARDS from the bottom to the top of the needs hierarchy.

The conclusion I draw from this is that Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a good map of the Hierarchy of Procrastinations.  We need to successfully battle each in turn and in order.  Although, certainly, my procrastination around issues described in Maslow's stage labelled "Love/Belonging" might have a huge impact on my life and be of major concern to me, I probably can't really work effectively on those problems until I've first mastered the procrastination issues that are getting in my way in connection with the "Physiological Needs" stage, and then the "Safety/Security" stage.

Once you begin to think of examples of common procrastinating behaviors relating to the first stage of the hierarchy, it seems pretty obvious that they will quickly sabotage achieving the goals of the second stage.  The same analysis can just as well be applied to any stage in connection with achieving the subsequent stage:  certainly, I can attest to the fact that self-sabotaging procrastination around job and work issues (second stage) eventually has seriously negative effects on achieving success and happiness with a significant other (third stage). 

Thanks for bringing this up, Sammy.  I'd love to hear what others think about my theory.

technical question, sammy

how do you paste a graphic into a forum post?

 i can't seem to figure that out.

 the maslow's heirarchy was helpful - i was aware of it, but hadn't thought about procrastination in that context before. thanks. 


This is the first time I have done it, too!

On the little....toolbar sort of thing right above where you type the comment, there is a little picture of a tree. Should be right below the "B" button for making things bold. Click it, then paste in the URL for the picture, and you're good to go! 

Lack of self esteem and procrastination

In my opinion lack of self esteem absolutely relates to chronic procrastination as it does to all addictions.

In fact after comming to this site I now believe that

Chronic Procrastinator = addictive personality = chronic attention seeker

The only difference between a chronic procrastinator an alchoholic, drug addict, gambling addict etc, is that we have somehow managed to avoid these vices as one of our procrastination activities:

But I would bet my bottom dollar that many of you like exibit compulsive behaviours in the form of:

1) Bouts of compulsive television watching

2) Compulsive use of internet chat or forums

3) Bouts of going to the gym every day when there are other things you need to do in this time

4) Avoidance through compulsive shopping

And these are just a few.

In all cases I think the core problem for us is a lack of self esteem resulting from a lack of self direction in our lives. How many of the tasks are we doing to please others? Be honest how many tasks do we need to do for ourselves but we feel are imposed on us by a need to please others and therfore we do not take ownership of.

We need to be our own bosses and to do this we need to do 2 things:

1.) Think long and hard about what we really want in life.

2.) Start the process of changing from a reactive person into a pro-active person.

Neither of these is easy, I am still trying to figure out what I really want in life and I am just at the start of replacing subconcious habits of approval seeking, self sabotage, failure mentality and negative self image with healthy subconcious habits of being self directed, feeling confidence in my abilities, a sucess mentality and a positive self image.

Even though at a concious level my new personality is emerging, this new thinking needs to be integrated into my subconcious and unconcious behaviours in order for me to be able to make the big leaps of progress I now know are possible.

I am comming out of the bottom of a curve, I am still at a low point in many ways but I am on a positive gradient and I can feel the change in the essence of my being.      

Wow, thanks for the post.

Wow, thanks for the post. This was a good read.  I have often thought this myself about self-esteem. Sometimes, for instance, I feel that if I thought better of myself then I would not procrastinate in writing or turning things in because then I would feel good enough to write it, but that's not it, even.  I think in this instance, my perfectionism wins over.  Like, it's got to be perfect.  But I feel like the perfectionism and self-esteem definitely work together for me.  And getting started again, the hardest part is starting.

self esteem

yes iitsall about self esteem


you could be writing my posts

 i completely agree with all the things you said--i really have had the same experience. 

 i don't drink or smoke or shop or anything else compulsively...and thank god, because i would pursue those things with a vengence...instead, i just delay and daydream alot..i seem to get lost in things easily, get chronically derailed, achilles heel really is procrastination.

 that said, i see the same tendencies in my 5-year-old son. and i find myself very critical and harsh with him, because i see in him many of my same flaws...but  this site has made me think that i need to actively work with him to build up his sense of self-efficacy (not just self-esteem) and decision-making capacities, so he has a better chance of finding his way in life and can practice, consciously and unconsciously, how to know what he wants, prioritize things, and then do them...easier said than done, for sure, but for him i have to try, even as i struggle myself...but as someone posted once here, "little by little, one walks far." :)




I think there is somewhat more variation in this chronic procrastination thing. It would be like comparing (most) birds with butterflies - sure they all display flying behaviour but the mental mechanics is going to be different.

Personally my self-esteem is just fine, its my self-efficacy that's been crushed.