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 do you identify realistic vs unrealistic expectations?

My 4th Step reveals a pattern of unrealistic expectations of myself, others, space and time.  When this happens, I become chronically late, rushed, stressed, frustrated, angry, disappointed, and/or either blaming others or wanting to kill myself.

Today I inventoried my feelings of burnout on a work project. My project is being forced out due to stuff beyond my control, and I have accomplished only half the objectives.  My procrastination is certainly a factor in the unfulfillment, but the fact is we've been given half the time originally intended, and the client's internal problems and the economic disaster played major roles.

So my team is appealing for an extension, which will save my job and my family's income. The problem is, when I honestly examined my feelings, I almost wanted the appeal to fail because I am feeling so burned out.  I lack the passion to push for it. Looking back, for months I have cut corners on the quality of my work. When obstacles arose, I failed to fight through them. Instead I cut corners and used old ways of faking progress, relying on the Authority Figure's ignorance about my actual work, and exaggerating the smallest successes to distract attention away from the lack of real results.

When I Fifth-Stepped this today, my friend pointed out how respected I am by other team members, one of whom would have caught it by now if I were actually a loser or slacker. He noted how distracting family health crises and my own car wreck injuries have been, and said I accomplished more than most people could under such difficult circumstances.

I checked these points with a colleague. She felt the same way.  Both these trusted people in my life, felt that I set my expectations of myself and the project way too high. 

As I reflected on that for Step 6, I realized it is a pervasive problem. I don't know how long things take, for example.  I have unrealistic ideas about quality, how much perfection is actually achievable or even desirable. In short, I don't know what "normal" looks like!  What is a "normal" amount to time to take on a phone call, an email, a weekly project report, a research analysis?

This might be the wrong place to ask this (lol, my fellow procrastinators!).  But...How does one set realistic expectations for how long things take? How do normal people balance the need for quality against the relentlessness of the clock?

realistic expectations

That's a really good question, Ag.   Let me know when you find the answer! 


"The elevator to success is out of order.   You'll have to take the stairs . . . one step at a time." - Joe Girard

good question

That's a really good question, Agnus. I seem to have the same problem. *Thankfully*, I'm almost done with my junior year of high school (I feel so young when I say that). Only one teeny tiny assignment to do tonight (if it gets late, and I still haven't done it, that's when I'll know I've reached rock bottom haha). I only need to go to school to give it in, and then I can go home. Anyway, I'm considered to be sort of an overachiever by my classmates. I'm not as good as the top tier at my school, but I'm well above average. Yet I procrastinate...often I find its because I have this unrealistic vision of what I want to accomplish and I have no faith in my ability to do it. When I complain to some of my friends about how bad of a work ethic I have, how lazy I'm becoming, sometimes they just laugh at me. I know I honestly have a problem with procrastination though...I torture myself nearly every school night forcing myself to do things I sometimes don't even feel I care about.

Anyways, I think so many of my procrastination problems have resulted from me always seeing failure in the distance and so I'd stress myself out over every mundane task. In reality, I haven't actually failed anything. And I swear half the things I've wasted hours over and lost sleep over, I've gone to school and discovered weren't really all that important or the teacher wasn't grading seriously. I'm so sorry for this self-centered rant I just went on...but I identify completely with what you're saying. I think I'm a little neurotic and have a hard time letting go when things don't go the way I want them to. I also think I have a hard time prioritizing and subconsciously convince myself that the most trivial of tasks is worth the same amount of time and effort as an important task that actually does affect me.

Basically it all comes down to this: when I'm stressed I can't reason things out like " task D is much more important to my well-being than task B, and therefore I should spend 2 hours on task D and only 20 minutes on task B." Perfection in humans doesn't exist, but those whose are living the best they can are wise with their time and energy. They spend it doing the things that matter or that they enjoy.

Again, sorry for the rant... my life experience is so limited. I don't know if this helps at all.  Having "unrealistic expectations of my time and energy" though is what I view as one of my biggest obstacles. I'll definitely be back here to post again if something occurs that i can add.

realistic expectations / hi-achieving procrastination

agnus, i have no idea how to set reasonable expectations. yes, asking a bunch of procrastinators is probably not the way to go ;=)

i think i set my expectations high, and then just try to live w/ the failure using forgiveness from Higher Power. I like that balance--because i'm always striving for the maximum, but i can go on when i dont reach it.

Well, that's a version of me that i am sometimes. Lately i've been just wallowing in misery--forget high expectations, i can't even do basic things.

But i know god will rescue me out of this.


one thing you said really struck me. People always used to say that to me in high school too--i would complain about how much i didnt get done, and they would laugh because i had mostly A's. But i could have easily gotten all A's if i had not procrastinated. You do have a problem, and i wish i had known that about myself in high school. It would have cleared up so many things for me. I probably would have started my recovery sooner, and suffered less negative effects from my procrastination.

OTOH, looking back, and looking at my life now, i see the value of celebrating the positive things in my life. I think it is healthy to recognize that i procrastinated and still did a good job. That means i'm talented (at least in certain ways). But that's realistic; to ignore that and only focus on how i could have done better is just not reality. In reality, i could have done better if i had not procrastinated, AND ALSO i did pretty good because i'm talented.

the touch of the master's hand:

"fall down seven times, get up eight" - japanese proverb

measuring achievement

Clement, I get this too, especially with uni assignments. I procrastinate, do a rush job on something, hand it in, then when I get it back I get a good mark. So in a way, why should I worry about it? Were my expectations not just too high?

Here's why I do consider it a problem, though: although there must be some talent there, as you say, I COULD do a lot better if I worked differently. Also, working like this doesn't satisfy me, because I don't feel as if I've pushed myself. Finally, working in such a way is very stressful.

What perpetuates it, I think is because I always get good marks anyway, I never address the problem - I don't 'need' to. So it happens time and again. It also leaves procrastination in other aspects of my life unaddressed, where it's more difficult to measure results and the effects of my procrastination. In fact, the only time I do address it is times like these, when I've got work to do and I'm procrastinating, feeling stressed and my fingers are hurting because I've bitten the nails right down.

It's like I'm two different people, in fact. When I'm 'out of it', when panic is over, work handed in, I relax and the problem is gone. I don't think about it. I never look at this site, for example. Then a deadline is looming and it all starts again. I'm now coming to realise that this is the way I work. What I'm going to do about it, I'm not sure yet.

Sorry, I seem to have gone off the original point of this thread completely. In fact, having realistic expectations is one of my problems - even though I'm saying that I could achieve more. Perfectionism and pritoritising is certainly a problem - like I've taken ages to write this post because I want to get it right, although I've got much more pressing things to get on with. But this issue will have to wait, because I really have to get on with my work.

wise ktgato

Wow, you have great insight. Age doesn't seem to matter here so thanks for not leeting it stop you from sharing. 

<<<And I swear half the things I've wasted hours over and lost sleep over, I've gone to school and discovered weren't really all that important or the teacher wasn't grading seriously.>>>

omg I gasped when I read this: I do the same thing at age 56 with work projects!  I feel terrible when my boss tells me I "overworked" some details in a project but missed the real point.  uuugh, hate that feeling.

It is SO wise of you to grapple with procrastination early in life because like all addictive patterns these things tend to progress and cause increasingly profound difficulties. For example my doctor just informed me I have some health problems related to my adrenal gland's inability to produce the right stuff anymore after years of living in the stressful state of chronic procrastination.  Keep coming back!