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.

Triggers for procrastination

Here is the vicious cycle which I have found myself in:

  1. In procrastination mode. When I'm procrastinating, I feel constantly in a low mood. I tend to stay in this low mood until something drastic happens - I get inspired by reading an article or just feel really motivated to change.
  2. I go through a good period of being happy and productive. I start to think that I've finally changed.
  3. All of a sudden, I start procrastinating again. And once this happens, no matter what I try, I can't seem to get back into that happy and productive mode again.

I've identified that the reason for step 3 is personal triggers or actions which makes you feel like procrastinating again.

A personal example.

Two weeks ago, I got inspired and started to be productive again. I thought I was making really good progress towards full time change. I started to work on my to do lists without any anxiousness or feeling of avoidance. I felt really productive and most importantly, I felt happy with myself. This lasted for about a week.

Then one day, I felt really tired. I had been working hard all week so I decided to have a day of rest, watching movies. But for some reason, whilst watching my movies, I started to feel really guilty and worryingly anxious. It felt like I had this nagging feeling that I should be doing something else; something more productive.

Then it hit me. The feeling I was experiencing is EXACTLY the same feeling that I always get when I'm procrastinating on something.

The weird thing is, I didn't have anything to procrastinate on! Usually, I procrastinate heavily on Uni work, which then permeates into my social and home life. But I've finished university and I had no other major projects or things to do. I felt so confused - I felt like I was avoiding something, but I couldn't figure out what that something was!

It is crucial to note that even though I wasn't technically procrastinating on a definitive thing like university work, it was still hugely detrimental to my life. The mere fact that it brought upon anxiousness and a constant low mood, normally associated with procrastination, made me: start to avoid friends again; stop working on my to do lists; start binge eating on unhealthy foods again; start having a really short temper again; and I couldn't get to sleep, let alone have a good night sleep.

So why did I suddenly start to feel that way?

Well I think the key fact is this:

for me, when I used to procrastinate on uni work, one of the things I would do was watch movies in my bedroom all day long (sometimes throughout the night into the morning). I think that the act of watching movies, particularly in my bedroom where I'm in isolation, has become a sort of subconcious trigger which activates all the feelings I get when I procrastinate: anxiousness, feeling of avoidance, low mood etc.

This explains why I felt like I was procrastinating, even though I wasn't. My brain must've been thinking I was procrastinating because of the trigger of watching movies.

Other triggers and a potential solution

Since then, I've identified other triggers that bring upon the exact same feelings to me: when I play snooker, when I eat unhealthy food, when I have to do university coursework, when friends are ahead with their coursework, when my long distance girlfriend has to return home. These are just the ones that I've found so far. I'm sure if I look deeper, there would be a lot more and less obvious triggers.

There is still the problem of what to do once you've identified those triggers - even though I identified that watching movies was one of my triggers, I still couldn't stop myself from procrastinating chronically for the next 2 weeks or so. My idea is that maybe there is some way that we could identify all of our own triggers, and then somehow turn them around to be good, healthy triggers instead.
Conversely, perhaps we could identify all the good triggers; the inspirational things that brings us to step 2, and somehow use that to help us overcome our chronic procrastination.

p.s. I've tried to put this in the best wording I can - I struggle with my limited vocabulary and bad grammar. I just hope that my overall idea is projected clearly enough...

Triggers and awareness

Awareness of your own triggers can be very useful, because you can then choose to do things that trigger productivity.

You may also be having some trouble because you are establishing boundaries between work and recreation that your subconscious mind isn't used to yet.  As you mention, you were watching TV with nothing to do, but your emotional state was the same as if you were watching TV to avoid work.  For whatever reason, you still felt the guilt you have associated with watching TV, even when there is no reason to feel guilty.  (Perhaps it's time to rearrange your TV-watching environment to help break free from the guilt?)

One problem I sometimes have is that now I do not feel guilty when I do the things I used to do to procrastinate -- so now I sometimes procrastinate without guilt and anxiety... which doesn't lead to improved productivity.  :)


Not feeling guilt for procrastination

I know how you feel. I started to not feel guilty whilst procrastinating towards the end of my degree. But now that I think about it, I can kind of see why I started to not feel guilt.

When I conciously procrastinate, i.e. when I KNOW I'm procrastinating and I know I shouldn't be, it feels like there is this intense tug-of-war inside me. One side, little steven #1, is pulling me, saying "You know you shouldn't be doing this, get back to work! You're gonna fail your (fill in the blank)! Don't be so lazy! Come on man, you know you're better than this. etc"
The other side, little steven #2 is pulling me the other direction, counter saying "Don't do it! Its scary the other side. You haven't got enough time. Its hard. You're not good enough. What's the point anyway? Its already too late. Keep running. This is easy, you don't have to feel scared if you keep doing this...etc"

I feel split in two. I think this why my breathing pattern changes when I procrastinate. On the outside I might be as silent and appparently calm as the wind, but on the inside there is a war. My subconcious is battling against itself; i feel uncomfortable, i feel guilty.

Which leads me to my point. By embracing one of the sides, in this case by choosing little steven#2, I guess I've stopped the war. I start to feel whole again rather than split. I stop feeling guilty. And although in my head, logically, I know that it is not the right decision in the long term, emotionally I feel more stable and oddly satisfied.

I KNOW EAXCTLY what you mean

I KNOW EAXCTLY what you mean about the war inside. you descirbed perfectly, how on the outside, while your procrastinating, you seem so calm and peaceful- like when im procrastinating on the internet i look like a zombie- but on the inside there is a loud, chaotic battle going on.

We are all committees

We all have groups of those voices inside us, don't we?  "We've got this project to work on."  "I don't want to work on that project -- let's go surf the web instead."  "I don't want to surf the web, let's listen to some music."  "Don't we have errands to run?  Let's get up and move around."  "Um, guys, the boss is expecting this project to be done when he gets back."  "Yeah, but that's next week -- web surfing pays off now."  "We've been putting off this errand for weeks..."

Sometimes it's hard to get all of those internal personalities pulling in the same direction, but we can move mountains when everyone pulls together.  "Okay, we can work on the project, but there'd better be some web surfing afterward!"


I hear you about triggers

Steven, your words are perfect. You are a good writer. I think it's cool that you found your way to that insight. It's cognitive behavioral in a way: create the same environments around you and evoke the same feelings. I have noticed that when I have unfinished business that I'm procrastinating on I start subconciously hyperventilating a bit. Now it's to the point that if I notice myself hyperventilating, I have to stop and ask myself what it is I SHOULD be doing rather than what I AM doing. Like the poster below, I can get into a state where I am so paralyzed I don't even have the gumption to use my tools, look at my calendar, my list, or really SEE the things that I should be doing. In terms of triggers, I have also noticed lately (because I have really made a TON of progress on this thing in the last couple years), that sometimes a trigger for procrastination can be completely unrelated to the task or to work. Just an unresolved ball of emotion from some personal thing that is making me feel low self esteem might set me into the state. Once I work through it, get some support, or otherwise put my heart back together, I feel ready to face the task and it's there before me and not nearly as intimidating. Gnothi Seauton ~ Know Thyself

To all people who struggle to write, like me

Thank you Gwen. Its emotionally encouraging to read that my writing skills are improving, especially from such an eloquent writer as you. I was given a leaflet recently about perfectionsim, which noted that Writing is an "Area prone to perfectionism". Here is what the leaflet said:

"Writing can pose big problems for people who are worried about making mistakes. You might not want to get started on a piece of work because the standard you have set for yourself seems impossible to achive. Alternatively, you might not want to expose yourself to criticism from others or to take a risk of achieving less than a perfect result. Perfectionism in this area can lead to procrastination, constant re-writing or writers' block."

I was suprised to read this in a perfectionism leaflet, as I never related my poor writing skills to perfectionism before. But it's true. I constantly re-write - sometimes it feels like I constantly write one line and then erase two. The leaflet talks in the first line about making mistakes. I'm worried that I am not skilled enough to communicate in words what I'm thinking or feeling inside. More importantly, I'm constantly worried that people will not understand the emotions or ideas that I'm trying to project. This is why initially, I used to sometimes take 2 hours to write a single post on here; by constantly re-writing, trying to write the perfect words structured in the perfect way.

But I'm slowly improving. I've tried to encourage myself to not be so vain about the structure of sentences and how I sound. I'm trying to not look back at the sentences I've written previously and just carry on writing what's on the top of my head. Its helped enormously - I've reduced the time I spend posting by (what feels like) half.

That's why I think posting on this forum is so beneficial to us procrastinators as it can help tackle perfectionism. I encourage all of you who's reading this post but not yet registered or made that first post, to just do it. It doesn't matter what you write, or how you write it. I think I speak for the majority when I say that we would love to hear from you and we'd like to help in any way that we can.

Addicted to Procrastination

Undecided ... After skimming through the post it seems that I might fall into that category but I tend not to be as successful at times as others who end up time binging just to get by or even excel.

For me it does get worse when I get ill or in low spirits.

I mean each semester I just cram like hell or wait until the last few days to do an assignment. Even still atm I have only three weeks left to do a test, assignment and final exam from one course and 2 tests plus final for another! Yet, I have done jack all this weekend.

I think I'm just addicted to procrastination since I can bring myself to do anything right away and when I do after 15 min I'm getting distracted by something else. Even after joining this forum it took me a while to think of going through the site that day.:P