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.

False Deadlines (...are no longer working well!)

One of the tricks I use to overcome (you know what) is false deadlines. The reason why I do them is to get me anxious enough to start working.

For instance, let's say that it's Monday, and I have a essay due on Friday. I would tell myself that it was due Wednesday. That way, on Tuesday I would get all worked up about getting it done and I would get it done! Soemtimes, I would try to go a step further and break it into parts. "Try to get 100 words done within the next hour" for example.

The things is, sometimes this works, but sometimes it doesn't. You all know why.

It's because deep down,

1. I know exactly when it's due, and

2. I know how long I think I will need to take it, and

3. I know when I would really need to start working on it in order to get it done at the last friggin' minute!! (I call it the "tipping point")

4. No amount of "mental trickery" is going to get me to believe otherwise. (Or am I just not trying hard enough?)

Let's say the essay will take me 4 hours to write, and that I need to go to bed at midnight on Thursday in order to get to school. I would not feel anxious until the tipping point: 8:00 PM on Thursday night!

And sometimes I even go past that point, thinking that "oh, I can just go a little more quickly".

oh, my goodness... I'm such a messed up person sometimes Yell

How can I overcome all of this mental-chatter-garbage!? Are "false deadlines" helping me or hurting me? (Or not really doing anything at all?) Should I approach them at a different angle, improve the technique, or drop it for another?

Thanks! :)

Self-deception not the answer to self-deception

I've been thinking a lot about what you posted because it speaks to my own struggle.  I think the false deadline is doomed to fail, because it is predicated on a faulty assumption that isn't logically or emotionally satisfying in any way. Here are a few rambling thoughts that I've had over the past week or so.

Logically speaking, I am not ever going to believe a false deadline unless I can invent a men-in-black memory eraser and give it to someone to use on me every time I have a new task to do.  My intelligence is always--always--going to do the calculations and the gyrations you describe. I will know that the deadline is fraudulent, and call myself on that fraud. Logical self-deception is hard.

And it is emotionally more satisfying (in the SHORT term) to procrastinate instead of trying to meet the false deadline.  The false deadline doesn't matter at all to the little emotionally screwed up part of me that wants to avoid the pain of doing the task.  That pain could be because I hate the task, because I don't see the point, because it doesn't really fit into what I think my purpose in life is--but in most cases, for me personally, it's painful because doing a task (any task) is making a concrete choice about the life I am living right now.  If I don't do it, then emotionally I can delude myself into thinking that my life will be the way I want it tomorrow, and that the task will be easier tomorrow.

Emotional self-deception is easy. My particular brand of procrastination requires it. Through the force of emotions, I can warp my ability to accurately estimate the time something will take to do, or the time it will take to do it well.  And most importantly I can warp my ability to estimate how I will feel doing a task and how I will feel having done it.  Heck, I can probably warp just about anything through this screwed up little part of my brain that procrastinates--forget the MIB memory eraser!

So that's why I figure you can't fool yourself and shouldn't try. Logical self-deception is doomed to fail.  That said, I have no idea how to switch off the "emotional self-deception" power which is working waaaaay too well.  If anyone has any ideas, please let me know :)

Hang in there, Drew!  And thank you for asking a question that really made me think through some things in a helpful way. 

the memory eraser

When you turn 50 you get that memory eraser free lol!

Seriously, I agree with Kitty's points - at some point you can't fool yourself anymore.   It's like setting the clock 5 minutes ahead, you just learn to subract 5 minutes. 

I find it more productive to reward myself for working a certain amount of time.  20 minutes is a good amount of time for me.   Then take a 5-10 minute break to do or think about something else, rinse and repeat.


"Bless the present. Trust yourself. Expect the best." --Steve Nobel

On False Deadlines

Fals deadlines do not work for me because of point #1 you made.