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.

Anything but what I need to do

I'm wondering if this is even vaguely familiar to anyone else. I've been to psychiatrists and they just say "That's interesting, never heard that one before." And then have no clue.

Essentially I can do almost anything OTHER THAN what I need to do. Even when the tasks are things that I really enjoy and would get a lot of reward for doing it, I'll find something, anything else, to occupy my time. It's gone on since childhood and of late gotten much worse. I present well at work and speak well. No one has noticed that I've done almost no productive work in a VERY long time. I can quickly get together some material and appear knowledgeable for a meeting, am very intelligent, and look successful.

Recently I joined a 12 step group that includes all sorts of problems but I'm not finding that helpful.

Now 1:45 pm. Have done no work yet today. So I'll go out and exercise.

If I could just get myself to do even a small amount of work, and a small amount of studying on some certification I really want, it would be a "mechiah."

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

however, something i wonder

however, something i wonder is when ppl are not doing the things they need to do and doing other thiigs are those other things- in themselves as activities-are those activities still good things? becaus ei woukd feel better, if when i am not doing what i need to do, i would feel better even if i was just hanging out with freinds- i would feel better if i was just doing SOMETHING at least. something more thn just sitting in my apartment on a sunny day and surfing the net aimlessly. do other ppl sometimes do almost nothing like this often?

i totally know what you are

i totally know what you are talking about. actually, i always knew that i had som type of authority resistant problem with myself- but the first time i actually saw the term "demand resistant" was on this site. i also go through phases where the thing that i do instead of the things i should be doing becomes the same thing all the time.  things still dont get done, but i will say, there are some thinforms of procrastination that are technically less self-destructive than others. ive gone through phases where i avoided all other responsibilities by saying to myself- well i have to do SOMETHING productive for myself, so i would go to the gym. that was a time when the anxiety created by not doing things became so physically overwhelming that i HAD to do something to try to exorcise it. that was nice because i actually had a sense of some type of accomplishment- my overall fitness improved,i  felt okay about my body and felt like i had an ounce of control over my life. now a few months later, i long for the days where i wouldnt do anything but still go to the gym, its better than these days ive been having lately, of doing nothing and playing on the computer or smoking weed. so much more detrimental and totally NOT CONDUCIVE at all to doing something different, or having the motivation to. or feeling the want or need to do something different.

MosheFH - that's me, too!!

Oh good grief, are you kidding?! This is the Story of My Life!!!!

I finally discovered that this arises from something called "Demand Resistance". There's an article about this on the site, and lengthy comments with more information from a book I was reading about it. You can find the link by clicking on the Articles button and scrolling down (for future reference), but here it is to make it easy: Demand Resistance

I discovered through this Web site that Demand Resistance is my primary reason for procrastination. It sounds like it may be yours, too.

P.S. I moved through thread from the "Face-to-Face Meetings" area to the "Questions, Comments, and Insights" area.

Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.


I think that you have explained my behavior in a nutshell. I just don't think I am quite as capable as you are at surviving this way. I am very able verbally, can motor through things when the moon is blue or if it is absolutely necessary. But I avoid my own initiatives. For instance, I posted what I was going to do today and immediately checked out and accomplished NONE of what was necessary.

In fact, the only reason I get certain things done is because they are no longer priorities: I use them as actions by which I procrastinate on other things. The concept of rebelliousness seems true for me as well, but it does not always feel that way emotionally.

I have to be careful, or this site will be used the same way....


I'll show me!

I do the same thing. While I'm better at it than before, it's never perfect, and I seldom realize it till I've not done something. The only things I can share with you which work for me are prioritizing lists, and posting the very few most important things to do, and sharing with a real person what's gong on--whether by phone or in person. Even inviting a friend over while "I do this." helps alot. BUT, don't be conniving and get them to do it for you! On some really distasteful tasks, I'll even write it on my hand or arm. Going to hang out at the coffee shop isn't fun if I have "Clean bathroom" written on my forearm. Hope this helps.


Moshe FH

I know exactly what you are talking about. I'm new here and your comment is the first that I read. I have been through the therapy wringer a few times and still get the same reaction. Its as though no one else has the problem.

I call it the crosshair project. I am busy all day long and spend most of that time either avoiding (or covering for my avoiding) the one thing I need to do most. When I sit down to do the crosshair project, I get this overwhelming urge to do ANYTHING else. Problem is, I love my work. When I actually do it, I'm also good at it. The only reason I can't do the crosshai project is because it is the crosshair project. Every once in a while, I'll get into a rythmn and the work flows just long enough to let me slide by, maybe impress the boss if he's looking over my shoulder. But most days I avoid taking the tally of how many deadlines I'm missing.

I'm glad I found this site, if for nothing else than to know I'm not the only one.

I don't know why I don't seem to be satisfied unless I'm in a constant state of terror.

Matter of fact, I'm probably in trouble right now.

me, too - this is called "rebellious procrastination"

I have the same pattern. I'm reading a book called "The Procrastinator's Handbook" by Rita Emmett. She calls this "rebellious procrastination". She says this is about asserting power in your life (i.e. F you, I'll do what I want!), and the solution is to find more positive ways to experience personal power and control, because this isn't REALLY control at all!

one hour commitment

IIRC, Emmett also advocates forcing yourself to work on a top priority task for 1 hour (no more, no less).  This has sometimes worked for me.  I downloaded a timer program (, then I would set it for one hour and work on my highest priority task. 

Theoretically, knowing that you will only have to work on important stuff for one hour can help stave off rebellious proctrastination.  Or you can set the time for less than an hour if that seems like too daunting a chunk of time to start with.  Admittedly, this tactic has had limited efficacy for me -- it worked the first few times and since then has worked far less consistently -- but at least I got some solid work done those first few times.  If I overuse this trick, then it is as if the part of me that wants to rebel can no longer be fooled. 

GTD also can sometimes work for me, but its effectiveness diminishes over time.  Instead, I seem to have to keep fooling myself by rotating in different anti-procrastination approaches once the current one stops being effective.  Currently, I'm using MyLifeOrganized to track my tasks and generate a prioritized list of next actions a la GTD.  I have MyLifeOrganized installed on a memory stick so that I can I have it available wherever I am (as long as I have computer access).  This has been working ok for the past week or so, but we'll see if its effectively atrophies away to nil before the trial period for MyLifeOrganized runs out...

Well, I think that's enough meta-procrastination for today.  Back to work...


Wow, that's me

I just glanced at this post, and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I'm going to try to get that book from my library (or buy it on line if they don't have access to it). With me this is a process of getting control of things. Something which REALLY helped me was told to me at one of my 12 Step meetings: "Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?" When I get into procrastinating with customers that translates: "F-you, you can't tell me what to do, so I'm going to take even longer". Taken to the extreme resentment, it's sort of like "I'll show you, I'll take poison..." Thanks for the book info!

rebellious procrastination

"Rebellious procrastination" is better known as "Demand Resistance", and the book that deals with this most directly is referenced in the article about Demand Resistance - "Too Perfect". I'd suggest that one - it blew my mind.

Very interesting

I totally relate to the "rebellious" idea. I'm not a confrontational, angry, argumentative person with an authority problem when it comes to dealing with people -- but I think many times my procrastination is a form of rebellion. I relate to that "F- you" feeling. Yet who am I talking to? Clearly this must be directed at some internalized authority.

I'm not sure what is meant by "personal power," though. Could you define that a bit, and give an example of "positive ways to experience" it?



what is "personal power"?

When I read the passage about rebellious procrastination, I asked myself the same question - what is personal power, anyway? To me, it's the ability to CHOOSE, the FREEDOM to choose. When I'm in the grip of compulsion - whether it's a compulsion to procrastinate or anything else - I have no ability to choose.

So rebellious procrastination, which is self-sabotaging in the extreme (since it's the things that I most need to do that I don't do) is the ultimate in powerlessness. I'm THINKING "F-you, I'll do what I please" and feeling some power in that, but really I'm demonstrating NO power by acting against my own self-interest and being unable to make a different choice.

I don't know if this makes any sense to you or if it's what the author intended when she talked about rebellious procrastination, but it's what came to my mind when I thought about it. When I think about power in terms of choice, it helps me not to procrastinate.

If you have some other thoughts about what personal power means, I'd be interested to hear them.

I don't think it's necessarily rebellion

Sometimes I've felt that I don't ~deserve~ to do the nice thing, or have felt guilty because 'to do me good it must feel bad'. That's not the same as rebellion, although I agree that rebellion could be another factor.

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with me, it's pure rebellion

When I read Emmett's description of "rebellious procrastination", it resonated with me more than anything else I've read - fear or success, fear of failure, etc. I know there are other elements - nothing is that simple - but for me, rebelliousness plays a big role. I just don't like doing anything I HAVE to do! I have a little authority problem. }:)

Rebellion et al

When I first started reading about procrastination many years ago I wanted to figure out what sort I had so I could tackle it. When I found out I had ~all~ of them I was so disheartened it was years before I could face coming back to doing anything about it! So I have rebellion in there too.

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At last

I did not think another soul such as myself existed. After 7 years of gainful employment, I think tomorrow I will be fired. It finally caught up with me. I do not know why I procrastinate, but I have been led to pray about it recently. I also had a sitaution where I could have tried to lie about the situation, but God led me to tell the truth. Tomorrow morning at 8 am, I may be fired or sometime this week. I admitted to a backlog of data entry that hurt our budget. I had no choice but to tell the truth. I came in this weekend, and am almost caught up. I am a recovering alcoholic, sober for over one year. I seem to have gained so much, yet cannot do what I need to do. I completely identify with this post. Every word is true for me. I am really scared, but committed to change. If I get fired, I deserve it, but what will I do? Thank you for letting me vent, and sharing your situation.

you will be OK

I'm new and just reading through these posts. It seems time has passed and no word on the firing, Marsha. It's OK to tell us. This may not sound helpful now, but you WILL survive.

I was once canned from TWO part-time jobs within a month of each other for procrastinating: One for not meeting deadlines as a stringer at a newspaper and the other for not showing up on time because I was always running late on the newspaper deadline. It was unbelievably awful. It was my rent, my pride. I spent two years recovering, but save yourself the self-beating! Data entry is horrifying, mind-numbing drudgery! And, in most offices I've worked, managers treat people very passive-aggressively. You and I are too sensitive for this -- otherwise we would not be trying to escape by drinking or procrastinating.

I went to a temp agency and almost immediately got a job and, while it wasn't a great job, I survived. Since then, I've worked four years as a daily reporter with a deadline problem and now work for a weekly -- and STILL I procrastinate, something I eventually came to see as comparable to alcoholism (and, wow, here's a site where people are discussing this!) but am only just now admitting and dealing with.

The motto of my life is 'you can't fail if you don't give up.' It's sort of the opposite of the Tony Robbins' rah-rah advice, but it's true. If you were fired or disciplined, I hope this defeat did not lead to a relapse, Marsha. But don't give up! Please let us know -- remember: a shame that is shared loses its power to control you.

Marsha - any news?

How did it go at work yesterday Marsha - I've been thinking about you.

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Oh, this is me all over...

Hi MosheFH,

I wish I'd seen your post before so you wouldn't feel so out there with this thought. I haven't visited this site in awhile because (as a contractor) I'm suddenly fresh out of paying, daily, routine work and am faced with the challenge everyday of trying to find out what's next in my life. Really, I wake up and have to decide, out of the whole universe of possibilities, which thing am I going to do? And why?

If that thought causes you to hyperventilate or go randomly search Google for six hours, then you and I really do have the same affliction.

Honestly, I really relate to your talk about the abject negatation of productive activity that you can accomplish, and I think, weirdly, that it IS a sort of accomplishment. One has to really be able to "present well" like you say... and that takes a certain skill, and a certain awareness of others and what they need. It's very strange. I've discussed it with others, but no one can really conceive of what it's really like. I have lost so many days.

Trying to understand this urge to live whole days that are empty of accomplishing tasks has been on my mind for over two years, though, like you, I've behaved this way my whole life. I even went through a period of collecting quotes and meditations on the sin of Sloth! It did sort of help me. At any rate, I have thought about that a lot. About what Sin is, and how it may be possible to overcome it with a spiritual discipline.

That said, I absolutely know that this is how I think of it on really bad days, as utter and complete failure and emptiness. But there are some days when I'm easier on myself, and I realize that I am managing to stay afloat somehow, that I must be doing things with some degree of proficiency, and that there is something to be said for meditating on action and taking the path of least resistance. It's not a popular style, doesn't get you the big bucks, but it's possible to contribute to society and survive that way.

I'm an expert at circling tasks. At vaguely planning them, spinning terrific ideas. I also manage, when not doing the things that I really ought to do, to do somethings which, though extracurricular, are kind of cool and make me happy. I'm not actively destructive or a pain in anyone's side, in fact, I tend to cultivate disappearing rather than putting myself out there. Though I am totally capable of holding the floor in a project meeting. So weird.

I guess I really am conflicted about how I see it. I don't want to let myself off the hook, but it doesn't help to be constantly berating myself. At the moment, I've been trying to make progress on three major projects, and I don't have faith I'll finish any of them with the skill and greatness I can imagine. I'm hanging onto the fact that I wrote 16 sentences toward my goals today. I know how pathetic that really is. I think I have to really try to flip back and forth into seeing the big picture and researching and strategizing, and seeing the task and focusing and digging in.

Anyway, you've got an ally here. And perhaps we'll meet in a chat room sometime.

Gnothi Seauton ~ Know Thyself

Good to see you Gwen!

Gwen, your 16 lines is ~not~ pathetic when you feel like that. When you're meeting that much resistance anything you get done towards your goal is a huge accomplishment.

I had a very procrastinatory day yesterday. It used to be my whole life, now it's just odd days, so I'm not allowing my negative self-talk get the better of me - this really ~is~ progress. And I managed to get something out of it, because I figured if I was going to spend the day surfing I might as well surf for ideas about dealing with procrastination and follow some of them up. For most of the day I was giving myself a hard time about how little I did, but by the end of the day I'd actually achieved everything on my list for the day (kicking and screaming, but I did it). At first I had no sense of accomplishment - how could that be? I'd achieved everything I'd set out to do? I realised I was automatically 'raising the bar' as Neil Fiore talks about in The Now Habit. I was expecting ~more~ of myself than I'd planned for, and wasn't satisfied with just doing the minimum I'd set out to do. Once I realised that, and attempted a bit of 'Thought Stopping' and replaced it with more positive talk, I felt so much better, and woke early this morning looking forward to the day and keen to get on. It's now 8.53 am, and I've done a 'Fantasy Journal' - I'll have to post about that when I have some more time (I've just put it on my 'Someday' list), finished a homework assignment and got it Emailed off, and I'm feeling really inspired and ready to face the day! The 'goof off' aspects of yesterday really gave me an opportunity to gather information and reflect - the more I see how positive an experience it was, the less I beat myself up, the less drained I feel.

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Normy's right, Gwen

16 sentences toward your goals is 16 sentences farther along than I am. :)

Like Normy, I also have good days and bad days. Sometimes I have a string of bad days in a row, and sometimes it's just one.

Changing yourself to reduce procrastination is a one-step-at-a-time. After you take a first step, you eventually have to take another. Yes, you will sometimes face setbacks, but that's where the "persistent" part of "persistent starting" comes in.

Start small, but start... and keep starting whenever you can. Finishing will take care of itself.


Persistant Starting. Nice.

Thanks, folks. This group is great! The phrase "persistent starting" is really resonating with me. It is so much about acknowledging the power of your "will." Starting, like a racer on the blocks, is an energetic moment. Good to visualize that image when I have to vacuum the cat hair, or wash the dishes! Or even write the other 16 sentences!

Just to keep it with this thread, I had an insight about this comment:

I realised I was automatically 'raising the bar' as Neil Fiore talks about in The Now Habit. I was expecting ~more~ of myself than I'd planned for, and wasn't satisfied with just doing the minimum I'd set out to do.

I read somewhere (a New Yorker article, I think) about self-perception and how it contributes to success (in the case of the article, it was athletic performance). There was research done on why girls often stop in their tracks when they're studying math and science, and thus, why they don't as frequently excel in those subjects. The research showed that girls internalize that they don't have the aptitude boys do, so a good grade will only be awarded to her if whe works really hard. They have a tendency to follow this pattern: they work hard at Algebra and are relieved to get a good grade. Maybe the next year, they'll work even harder. Perhaps they get a good grade. But eventually they hit a place when they think they can't possibly work any harder, so they drop out in despair.

I wonder if that feeling of "raising the bar" for ourselves, even when we've accomplished something, is related to our self perception. Perhaps us procrastinators have internalized that strange "don't want to be a member of a club that wants me as a member..." feeling, so that when we perform decently -- hitting goals, accomplishing tasks-- we immediately think that if WE could do that, it must not have been very hard.

Wow. That's food for thought.

Gnothi Seauton ~ Know Thyself

Devaluing our own work

"...we immediately think that if WE could do that, it must not have been very hard."

I still have this problem, and it leads me to devalue pretty much all my accomplishments. Without some sort of acknowledgement and reward when something does get done, it's hard to reinforce the habit of doing.

I'm finishing a big project today, and I actually wrote a note to remind myself that I should acknowledge I did well -- and that I should celebrate.


a postscript

Now a couple of days later, I see that 13 people have read what I posted but I guess it doesn't ring a bell as a familiar process with anyone.

Ah well, I'll keep looking. After getting essentially blank stares from psychiatrists, and the sympathetic but non-relating reactions at a couple of 12 step meetings, it's getting kind of hard to find anyone who understands who might be of any help.

Moshe in Potomac, Maryland :? :-?


Hi Moshe,

I've been checking in each day but I didn't see your post until today, otherwise I'd have replied sooner.

I, too, procrastinate on things I enjoy, and have talked about this topic in previous posts. I think in my case it's a case of changing direction or momentum - I will continue to do the thing I'm doing now, even if I don't enjoy it, rather than change to something I do enjoy. There is also an element of self-sabotage which I have also identified I have an issue with.

I'm not sure about the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists where you are, but here in the UK the sort of issue you describe would be the territory of a psychologist who deals with the content of what people are thinking and feeling, whereas a psychiatrist deals more with the chemistry, so I'm not surprised they said they hadn't heard of it - it's not in their field. Even amongst psychologists few seem to be well versed in the psychology of procrastination or chronic lateness (which is sometimes related).

Have a look round this website and try some of the techniques here. Refer to the books/resources that are mentioned. It's a long haul, but if you are ready to tackle it, it can be done.



The following is a non-professional personal opinion, but I think you might appreciate my advice.

To me it sounds as if you have the intelligence and analytical skill to apply it when you need it, but for whatever reason you only become truly enthused when it comes down to the wire. Such as when the Boss walks in the door and asks about the progress of your project. I had a similiar problem for a time when I came out of a short depression (family related) and had trouble applying myself to indepedent activity. My Phsychiatrist ended up perscribing Wellbutrin which gave me increased focus. Also I felt more enthusiastic about the work itself and found it easier to push aside the competing interests and alternate things I would like to be doing. It was still hard however after awhile it became a habit and I'm now at a point where with the help of these forums and personal work I can lessen my procrastination without medication.

Essentially I believe I was dealing with a form of attention defecit, and you may be to. So take my experience in mind, perhaps you'll find your situation is completely different. Either way I agree with the others that visiting a Phsychiatrist would be a worthy endevour.

See a psychologist

(Now I've had the vanishing-post thing happen...)

I agree with Normy -- psychiatrists are the brain-chemistry guys who can prescribe drugs, and psychologists are the behavior-modification people who help you change the way you think.

If you look around for psychologists or therapists, you'll probably find people who will have more ideas about what causes your problem and what you might do about it.