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.

Saddened Student

I'm really struggling, and I need help...badly. For the past two years, I have had a tremendous battle with procrastination, especially when it comes to school. I think I've always been a person that puts things off, but it never became as pronounced as it did until these last two years. I was getting straight A's in the "easy" classes, despite my procrastination, because the work load was simply undemanding. So I thought, hey, I must be smart enough to take on more challenging classes, so I did. My course work was full...but I just wasn't doing as well as I had...and I'm not doubting my abilities, because I'm very much able, I just almost always distract myself with something else. I mean, at first, I thought it was just like any other feeling a person gets when he/she just isn't up to doing involved Calculus or Lit papers, but after reading some posts on this site, I recognize everything that I've been doing for the past two years. For instance, when there's a long, involved reasearch paper due, for which I have months to complete, I don't start freaking out until the week before its due, and then don't actually attempt it until two nights, or THE night before. On almost every assignment I have, I tell myself, "I'll do it after this." or "I'll just take a nap, and then finish." When people ask me, "Did you turn in that paper?" I'll lie and say, "It was a close one, but I got it done." When really, I've barely started, and then try to make up reasonable excuses for why its late. "I emailed it to you, why didn't you recieve it? Oh I must have messed up the address...I'll send it again." And then I'll rush home hoping an extra 24 hours will do the trick. Even though I've become more determined to beat this, it always seems to beat me. Its even affect timed tests, where I can't think of a word, or a perfect phrase, and I stop to think, or cross out for at least 1/2 my time, if not more. By the time I'm done, my whole paper is a mess of what looks like censor boxes, and inserts, even though my thoughts are often very complex, and very intelligent. My grades this year are even worse than the previous year, although I try harder. It's really frustrating, and gets me extremely depressed, making me feel like a failure, and that I don't even deserve to be in school. How do I cope with this? And even when I learn to cope, is this condition serious enough that I could explain it to those that will be judging my grades, and hope that they will allow me enough time to get control of this before they decide on my capabilities?

Please, someone answer soon, I'm lost...

Same here

I do that too. I found help on campus. It didn't help. Possibly because I started procrastinating on going there.


Hey, just read your post and

Hey, just read your post and I wanted to say I feel for you and identify with your situation. It sounds pretty familiar to me. It's really disheartening for me to know I can do something well, that's it's completely within my power and then watch myself not do it.

On the other hand, it's really awesome that you're taking the initiative to actually address this right now. Two years may seem like a long time but, really, some people take _way_ longer to recognize they have a problem and confront it. So kudos for doing it..

I was amazed to read this

I was amazed to read this and realise how familiar it all sounded. Every last word describes my situation and my emotions and feelings. I know i have the potential to do so much better in college, but when you try and explain to others why you are not succeeding, they simply think its an excuse. My final exams are coming up next month, and i am very tense at the minute. Everybody is asking each other whether they have started revision, but you try to put it to the back of your mind, knowing full well you should by now be buried deep in your revision.

First, find help on campus

Check with your campus's health services or counseling center to see what kind of help you can get on campus. It was years after my first failure in college before I found out that I could take advantage of a counseling center on campus for free. Counselors on campus will be familiar with the types of pressures and problems that students have, and will have good suggestions.

You are not alone -- it may seem that way, but plenty of people find themselves in similar situations. I myself failed out of college three times, thanks to depression and some procrastination.

From your description of crossing out answers on exams, I wonder how much of your delay is due to perfectionism. It's hard, especially after a history of stellar grades, to admit that anything less than perfect is still excellent or even good enough.

A lot of what you describe is classic procrastination -- doing other things before your work, and then having so little time to do the work that you have a built-in excuse for its flaws. This can come from a lot of different things, including a feeling that your work will grow to consume all your time, leaving you no opportunity to do anything fun or relaxing.

There are various methods that may help you. You may want to look into "The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore or "The Procrastinator's Handbook" by Rita Emmett (or other books). Make sure you keep time for yourself, and work on your projects a little at a time. Even 15-30 minutes of real, quality work can make real progress on your papers and other assignments. Don't worry about finishing, but keep starting until you get things done. Start early, start often, and you can do well.

I could probably go on for pages and pages... You can do it, but it does involve learning new habits to replace the unproductive ones you have now. It takes time, but it doesn't hurt, I promise. :)


Every Step Matters

I agree. Seeing a counselor can be a great help. Setting and keeping appointments with someone to talk about and deal with the feelings about your procrastination and spending a little time on figuring out practical solutions is powerful.

Remember, you don't have to be perfect! Even if you're damn good at what you do when you do it, you won't be harmed if you do it. I know I can be afraid that if I do something well and completely, that the next assignment will somehow be even worse, even harder, with even more expectation for perfection. Well, don't buy into that. Because really the universe will never ask you to do more than is just the right amount for you to do.

Think right now about what is really important for you to do this semester/quarter, and get behind your list. Know that it DOES matter. You already know you are capable, now accept that your particular brand of capbablity is good enough. Good enough for this moment, for this particular challenge.

I have a lot of compassion for your story, and I hope my insight is helpful. Good luck in school, friend! I know you will do it. It might be horrible right now, but the fact that you are here asking for help is such a signal that you will not be there in limbo forever. Change is possible.

Gnothi Seauton ~ Know Thyself

More Thoughts on This

I feel like my last post didn't properly respond to your description of the intelligent mess you get stuck in. Saying it "matters" isn't quite it. Of course, you know it matters. There's a subtle thing I wanted to get at that didn't come through. The truth is, I really, really relate to what you go through. It's intense that I still have these habits. I function, I'm a sporadically high performer, but I feel like I'm only in these past few years learning about the real nitty gritty of my procrastination routine. Hence, my presence here on this forum.

Here's my experience of what happens with me, and what thoughts go through my head before, during, and after. Then I'm gonna try Cognitive Behavioral technique to see which of those thoughts are the triggers that maybe I can learn to short circuit.

A friend asks me to help her do her website. I owe her one. I'm going to do that for her. There are only a few updates she wants. Change a picture here and there. Cut and paste some new information. Right? No. For me, I get caught in the enthusiasm of delivering a perfect new updated design, with perfect font kerning and colors and better navigation. I accept that that's what I have to do for her, since I know I'm capable of it. I have great ideas. I sit down with my sketch pad and start to draw squares and write ideas down. Then I walk away....for three weeks. First I imagine that the thinking about it was actually work; valuable though it is, it's not opening files and editing them. I get caught up in paying work, and almost forget I promised anything. I am confident that when I do do it, it's going to be great. It has to be. Especially since it's taking so long to "do." (Guilt hits) The forgetting happens for more days. When I remember, it always seems to be when I've hit a stride with other work, but I think, I don't have time for that extra thing right now, I'm only doing it for gratis, she can wait, she'll understand. I see her, she doesn't bug me about it. We socialize. I seem to be in the clear. Then five weeks later, she calls me when she's trying to log in to change her site--someone is there with her, someone who has come over to help her with the job. Suddenly, despite my other paying work deadlines, THIS is the most important job. On an competetive adrenaline/guilt rush I make the most basic changes, the only ones she expected. I do a little more, just to top it off (a pretty picture), then I suddenly have this huge urge to get approbation and approval and appreciation from her for how cool and pretty the new picture is. But that feels weird. So I just offer it and act low key and apologize for being so late. My other deadline comes and goes--I'll deal with them tomorrow. By the end of the day, I have barely produced mediocre work, all at once at the end of those five weeks. It's not bad, it looks okay, but the huge site revamp will have to really come soon or I'm not worth my salt. I feel vaguely sinful.

1. I will deliver a perfect new design
2. thinking about it was actually work
3. forget I promised anything
4. confident it's going to be great
5. It has to be great. I'm bad for taking so long. I have to make up for it. (pressure)
6. competition makes me think that even if I do my worst, it'll at least be better than them
7. when I'm "done," I have an urge to be a star, pleased with myself
8. Then I sink into a bad opinion of myself and how I handled everything

Wow, this was helpful to write it down. I need to recognize this pattern of thinking. What I'm noticing is that I never internalize that I really wanted to do this for her, that it's the right thing to do. That it matters that I just DO IT, at whatever basic, mundane level she asked for. That it doesn't have to be perfect. I get caught up in my own idea of the job, in the idea of perfection and I completely distract myself from the mundane, step-at-a-time work that has to be done to simply, simply, accomplish the task.

Its even affect timed tests, where I can't think of a word, or a perfect phrase, and I stop to think, or cross out for at least 1/2 my time, if not more. By the time I'm done, my whole paper is a mess of what looks like censor boxes, and inserts, even though my thoughts are often very complex, and very intelligent.

I hear you here. Can you tell yourself when you're doing that next time, that the perfect word doesn't matter right now, that what matters is putting A WORD down? If you get just this hurdle finished, at the ability that you're really at right now, you may have the opportunity to write your longer paper on the subject and that you will have time to think about perfect words. I think it's wonderful that you care about perfect words. Definitely remember that you LIKE doing things like that. You are probably a really great worker when you get rolling. Give yourself credit for your high standards, just don't let yourself be hijacked by them. Remember it matters to just show up on time. I think that's what I was trying to get at.

Believe you me, I'm helping myself here too.
Best to you.

Gnothi Seauton ~ Know Thyself

Old post - More Thoughts On This


I really got this. It's what I do also, and seeing it put like that, a case example, I'm aware of how much it applies to me - and now that I know, I can change, right?



Wow, I've definitely done that. Or at least, along those lines.

But I know that, my mom always told me that.

Knowing somehow doesn't equate to doing... :(

Comment on my Comment on my Comment

Hey everyone,

At the risk of doing more of the same, I want to just acknowledge that I spewed a bunch of words on that last post. Sorry for the bandwidth suck. Perhaps that's a perfect example of a time binge. I want to let everyone know that while I was writing it felt very important to convey the subtleties, and now it doesn't feel very important.

I feel responsible to the group to be a little more conservative in my postings and less self-indulgent. It's more in keeping with our declared best strategies. I appreciate the work everyone is doing of offering concrete practical advice on how to overcome the procrastination habit. I hope to contribute more on that level as I progress in breaking my habit. (And there HAS been progress, thanks to the support here!)

Thanks again!
--Gwen D

Gnothi Seauton ~ Know Thyself

Hi Gwen

I hadn't got the impression you were being self-indulgent - I thought you ~were~ offering concrete advice.

Just wondering what you mean by 'declared best strategies'? Do you mean the things that we've posted that have worked for us?


Thanks, Normy

Yeah, that's exactly what I meant. I think it's great that we have this place to be honest with one another. I really appreciate the challenge of focusing on our experience with these tools and tricks and philosophical approaches. I love it that the site can be, not another place on the internet to procrastinate, but a place that puts the problem front and center for us and gives us support to just shake up the habit a bit and try to do the right thing more often. I guess I was just feeling self-conscious. It's nice to hear from you. It's all good!

Gnothi Seauton ~ Know Thyself