Chronic Procrastination is NOT a Time Management Problem!
Not a Laughing Matter!
The jokes about procrastination infuriate me. This is not a funny problem - not if you are suffering from true, chronic procrastination. Lawyers have been disbarred due to procrastination. Small business owners have lost their businesses due to procrastination. People's lives fall apart and are destroyed due to procrastination. This is not a funny problem.
The blindness of the psychological community in not recognizing procrastination as an addictive disorder also infuriates me. Every book or article I've ever read about procrastination talks about getting to the "underlying reason" why you procrastinate so you can solve the problem. Knowing why you're procrastinating on a particular task can be helpful, but it's not the whole solution - not by a long shot. That's like saying an alcoholic can stop drinking if he can only discover what's really bothering him. An alcoholic drinks because he has an addictive personality and alcohol is his drug of choice. A procrastinator procrastinates because he (or she) has an addictive personality and procrastination is his or her "drug" of choice.
Addiction and compulsion are about escaping the present moment - not being present in your life, not experiencing the reality of your life. People procrastinate as a way to not be present in their lives because they have addictive personalities, and this is the particular form their addiction takes.
Misguided Advice from "Experts"
Until very recently, there was almost no research at all on procrastination in the psychological community. Now there is some research, but mostly unhelpful personality correlates, and laundry lists of the hidden "reasons". More recently, a few researchers have noticed that procrastination is a "marker" for alcohol and drug abuse - that procrastinators are much more likely to also abuse drugs and alcohol. But the uninsightful explanation given for this correlation is that procrastinators are using drugs and alcohol to deal with the pain of their procrastination.
How can these researchers be so blind and dense?!?! They stare right at the data and somehow miss the obvious. Procrastinators are more likely to use drugs and alcohol because they have addictive personalities, and if you have an addictive personality, you are vulnerable to using anything and everything addictively. Addiction is not related to specific substances or behaviors - addicts freely switch between them. Alcoholics become compulsive eaters and/or love addicts when they get sober, heroin addicts get off heroin by becoming alcoholics, etc.
Who Am I, Anyway?
I am a chronic procrastinator (with graduate training in psychology) who has also had to deal with a variety of other addictive problems. I've been clean and sober for nearly a decade, and I've resolved addictive problems with food and relationships as well. I know what addiction feels like. Procrastination feels like addiction, and it's the very hardest addiction I've ever had to deal with. It's harder to stop procrastinating than it is to quit drinking, drugging, smoking, compulsive eating, and romantically obsessing all together.
I started this Web site and this fellowship because there is nothing out there that provides what I need. I'm sick, sick, sick of the jokes and the stupid, useless explanations of psychologists. 12-step programs work for addiction, and if there was an effective fellowship for procrastination, it would work for that, too.
Although there was a fledgling fellowship in NYC for a while (Latecomers and Procrastinators Anonymous, or LA), it seems to have died away and since there was no formal organization there is no one to contact. And anyway, I didn't find it helpful because it made a common mistake that people make in trying to help procrastinators - it gave advice on time management.
Note: Procrastinators do not have a problem with time management. They have a problem with compulsive avoidance.
If you give a procrastinator a new time management tool, he will just play with the new time management tool as a way to procrastinate. The problem is not a lack of time management skills - or not mainly a lack of time management skills. Procrastination is a form of addictive escapism that must be dealt with directly or there will be no recovery.
Recovery from procrastination (aka compulsive task avoidance) cannot be achieved by abstaining from your current favorite procrastination activity, because you'll just switch to something else (just as cutting out certain foods doesn't resolve compulsive eating problems). Recovery from procrastination means doing what you say you're going to do, when you say you're going to do it.
If you look down the article list, you'll find the signs of compulsive procrastination, and the tools for recovery that I and other compulsive procrastinators have found useful. These come from the P.A. meeting materials, which can be found on this site here.
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Procrastination as Addiction - the Unintended Reinforcement
I'm here (newly registered today) because I think I can say with some certainty that last night I was the VERY last person in my well-populated county to get hardcopy tax filings postmarked on time. I can say that because I am in the habit of mailing the things Certified. So there I was at Midnight on the tail of one other hapless soul, in the parking lot of the main Post Office for the county, flinging around postage and certified mail forms. I think the supervisor wanted to kill me, but I got the precious "on time" postmark. Naturally, one of my filings was an Extension form.
This is just the most recent example. I could write a very long post with more examples of being "just in time" and the occasional "just missed." It's hurting me personally and professionally and it's hurting the people I love and work with.
So why do it? I could backtrack and look at the events that lead to the big final rush - not just the sitting on my hands part but also the wasted efforts once I start; getting sidetracked and/or trying to do too many other things at the same time; misallocated effort perfecting one part of the job while neglecting others. All leading up to the final awful decision that I can't do it all and I have * just enough * time to get it in before I'm officially late. With taxes, that would mean paying a penalty. With work it often means missing winning a contract.
But another view is not what leads up to it but why do I draw the line so late? Everyone routinely makes decisions as to when they need to finish something on a deadline - why draw it to (literally) the last minute? I'm not a psychologist, but I have one thought. I once read an excerpt written by a compulsive gambler who said that the payoff was not in winning but the thrill of the act itself - watching the dice roll or the roulette wheel spin. There is a similar article I've seen on the web - this one a couple of hundred years old - by a famous procrastinator who wrote a whole essay on procrastination, allegedly while a courier waited, just in time to meet the publication deadline for that very article. In both cases it seems that part of what reinforces the last minute behavior is the thrill of pushing the limits of what can be done with the alloted time.
I don't have an answer for this but I suspect that addressing this unhealthy reinforcement and finding a way to reinforce more reasonable time setting is one part of the solution.
In the meantime I have to go. I have an appointment and if I don't leave right now I'll be late. No kidding...
hi. i'm new here and already, i'm feeling so much better! it's good to know that i am not alone in this. i belong to another recovery group (aa) and have been sober for 7 years now. so many things in my life has improved but the unmanageabilities caused by my procratination is catching up with me and i'm really, really scared. unfortunately, i don't really have people here to share it with. my sponsor does her best but she's some kind of superwoman and can't relate to what i'm going through.
right now i'm so afraid because my business is suffering. my employees are getting demotivated because i hardly show up for work. i keep delegating but it's not the same. i wake up every morning with the intention of showing up but things just keep popping up or i lose myself in a daydream until, it feels useless to get up, change and leave the house.
i don't know what else to say except that i'm glad this site is here. right now i'm so afraid of losing all that i've worked for and the trust that investors have shown simply because of my procrastinating and not showing up for work.
hi diamondfire49, im now new to this site and already i feel someone else understands, what a relief. this is a safe place to spiel. i have spoken about this to heaps of people but they dont understand (and they are in recovery). in fact they look at me as though i am wingeing about nothing.
i get to work late all the time and in my head im making excuses about not liking my bosses etc (they are both workplace bullies) but i use that as an excuse to roll up late every single day. Im late to staff meetings, late to get home, get to work at 10am and work all day (procrastinating) and come home at 11pm. Incredibly disorganised in my head from the minute i wake in the morning. it has gotten progressively worse.
im talking to the right people. thanks
The Adrenaline Rush
I know taht the 'thrill' used to be part of it for me when I was at school. I found school work to be very undemanding and no challenge, so I introduced challenge by seeing how late I could leave it before starting and still get it in on time (I always did at school - later, as things really ~did~ become more challenging, that technique backfired on me). I don't know why just trying to get it done as quickly as I could didn't motivate me - maybe I just didn't think of that. Anyway, that's where I think the habit of procrastination may have started for me.
Now, I think that's probably the lowest factor on my list of motivations to procrastinate - I actually don't like the feeling anymore - rather than 'thrill' I experience those feelings as 'anxiety', and this is probably why I've made a conscious effort to address procrastion - I don't like being anxious!
P.S. Why do we procrastinators come here to post just before appointments? I've not got one right now, but I did last time I posted on this thread, and I notice you did too pyrotecher. I wonder if it's because of an increasing consciousness about when we're procrastinating? I guess that's got to be a good thing, because then it means we're on the road to being able to change the habit.
Posting before appointments
Are you guys showing off? :)
"Look, I have other things I should be doing, but I'm procrastinating by writing about procrastinating!" ;)
(Hey, I'm here too...)
What am I doing, again?!
At another site, I heard about this radio feature, "Procrastination Nation" broadcast on NPR last week.
Much of it was interesting, but I found myself really put off by some of the casual bantering that one of the pundit/ psychologist/experts was doing. I thought it was interesting that I felt that way--defensive. Hmmm.
I think you are right on when you emphasize that chronic procrastination's not a laughing matter. Especially so as one gets older. I feel like I made it through my 20s on charm and smarts, but as I get into my 40s, I can no longer afford this behavior. It's really dangerous to me and I resent the attitude that I should just get over it. For awhile, I tried classifying myself as lazy, but a therapist I went to compassionately said, "I don't see you as lazy, I see you as tortured." Since then, I have tried to be very careful about how much I allow myself to add punishment over and above the consequences of bad behavior.
I've also tried to realize that, to a certain extent, time you spend worrying about "why" you can't accomplish something is, sometimes, in itself, a form of procrastination. But I don't want to stop there. Mainly because something has to be done about it.
A friend of mine has a programming book (!) that has something interesting to say about this. We read the passage together a lot, especially when I'm flailing about work. I may post it. I like it and respond to it because it's written by someone who is smart and who get things done, and yet it recognizes obstacles that he has had and that he knows people have and offers some practical advice. I like it because it's not from a self-help book, it's from a programming book. For some reason that takes the pressure off. I'll be curious to see what you all think of it.
Gnothi Seauton ~ Know Thyself
I agree wholeheartedly about playing with the time management tools as a way of procrastinating. So many people assume I have a problem with time management, and I don't think I do (though it's hard to prove when I'm chronically late). Anyway, must go - I've got an appointment. I want to see if I can get there early!
OH lordy... I tried to post
OH lordy... I tried to post earlier but even this website is procrastinating. I was getting this message every time i hit reply.
The connection has timed out
The server at www.procrastinators-anonymous.org is taking too long to respond.
So there you go!
I am one of three procrastinators in a family of four. None of us drink smoke etc.
My procrastination in my younger years was directly related to "I wont be able to do a good job" Now my problems are related to finances. I put off paying the bills because I do not have the money to pay them. Its spreading into anything to do with finances or paper work. Because I don't have money, I am not dating. Because I am not dating I don't keep up on my house work. Because I don't do my house work I cant find my bills. Circular problem..
The stakes are higher these days. You don't pay your bills, the worst case scenario is jail.
Could procrastination be related to OCD? I feel like that is becoming a problem for me. If you look up the definition of Generalized Anxiety, my picture is right there.
I cant tell you how much time I spend at the beginning of the year looking for the perfect calendar, day runner and milage book.
I am much better getting things done when push comes to shove. I do feel more alive when that adrenaline hits. I am good at what I do. I am happiest when working. Its the other stuff.
Procrastination, perfectionism, and oversimplifying
Do you see other examples of perfectionism in your life? One thing perfectionists are prone to is oversimplifying -- either something is right or it's wrong, and there's no gray area in between.
Are you doing some of the same things? You don't have money to pay all the bills, so you pay none of them?
Do you see how it can be the same thing that used to drive your procrastination? You worry that you won't be able to do a good job with your finances, so you push it aside and spend your time doing something else?
You're right that anxiety is a big part of procrastination. Perfectionism, and perhaps OCD, can add to that anxiety and make the problem even worse.
Do a partial job -- pay one bill, or get in touch with the companies you owe money to and see what other payment plans you can make. There are options between paying all your bills and letting them all slide.
That "partial job" may turn out to be the first step out of a lot of problems.
I want to work on the project that appears to be going well or is interesting at the moment and ignore the one that starts looking ugly. And the longer I ignore the ugly one the uglier it gets until I get sufficient external pressure and have to pull an all - nighter.
Also, all day I go through these micro-cycles of productivity where through shear self guilt I force myself to do something. But within a few minutes I am being distracted by something else, and jump around aimlessly to websites, other to dos, or anything else. An hour later I am again forcing myself to buckle down again.
It gets so bad that I don't want to go to bed because I don't want to face another morning further behind.
I don't have the problem so much with paying bills because I have it set up to pay everything automatically. Which I recommend to everyone.
BTDT! Here are some things I found helpful. And I don't know if you need to be online for your job, but if not go offline whilst you're working. And ~definitely~ set a specified time for checking your Emails (either a time, or to coincide with an event, e.g. 'for half and hour after lunch' which might be a different time each day). If you've got a pop up that tells you when new mail has arrived switch it off.
Hi there! You're in familiar territory here, we are all like that :)
Checking-in or bookending has been successful for a few of us, why don't you give it a try? Check in for a few days and see if your focus improves. It worked for me, and I'm just like you ;)
Thanks I will try these.
I just need to become more disciplined. It is easier if someone just gives me a kick in the behind every five minutes.