Read This Blog Post on Procrastination (So You Can Avoid Doing The Thing You Need To Do)

Man Procrastinating on Sidewalk

Does your pattern of procrastination get you frustrated, angry or hopeless? Do you self-criticize and judge yourself for not being more effective at getting dreaded tasks done? What if the tasks aren’t even that dreadful and you’re STILL not doing it? So often, people assume procrastination is a character flaw, something they do . . . that they “shouldn’t” do. Or maybe . . . doing something that they “shouldn’t” do, because they’re avoiding the thing that they “should” be doing.

Procrastination As Emotional Soother

I’m here to give you a new perspective on what it means to procrastinate. What if procrastination meant you were actually having an emotional experience and the act of procrastinating was soothing that emotion? I realize many of you will balk at that, because we don’t think procrastination as something that makes us feel better. We often agonize over it. However, it’s like many things we do in life. It makes us feel better in the short run. We watch a fun TV show. Doing laundry has never felt so good. The dog needs brushing. Anything and everything can fill that task of avoidance. While avoidance is not effective for us long-term, it sure does feel better right now.

Sometimes, we avoid making the phone call, because we’ve worked ourselves up with the story of how it’s going to go. . . what the other person is going to say, think and feel about us. Or let’s say the class paper is not getting written because it feels too overwhelming and we play out a scary scenario of failing or the teacher rolling their eyes at us and our ideas. Of course, making progress is the only way it’s going to get done and we KNOW that, but it’s not enough. It doesn’t help us do it, until we have to.

What Can Help Our Procrastination Then?

According to my own personal experience, working with my clients and other knowledgeable sources such as Harvard medical school psychologist, Susan David, Ph.D., I have come to understand procrastination as a coping skill for emotions.

And just knowing that, means we can turn the tables a bit. What are we having a reaction to? What emotion are we feeling? So, let’s say we feel bored of the topic we have to write about or we feel overwhelmed with all the of the things that are on our to-do list. It’s possible our emotion isn’t even related to the task at hand. We need to pay attention to what’s happening right now for us. Be curious about it.

The next step is to remember our values. If you haven’t done a values clarification exercise, it’s a popular strategy in Motivational Interviewing and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It can help you narrow your focus onto your top 1-5 values. Just bite size enough to not be overwhelming. When we know what our absolute top values are in life (at this point in life) we can use that to our advantage.

Ask Yourself

  • What are my top 3 values? Look those over.
    • Remember, values are ideals, not goals. They’re inspirational, not something that can actually be achieved.
  • Does this avoided task align with my top values? (If it doesn’t, there’s a clue!)
    • Maybe you need to re-evaluate whether this task is actually important or against your values.
    • If the avoided task does line up with your top values, ask yourself:
      • As a person, what do I want to be about?
      • Will my future self thank me for getting this task off my list?
      • How would it feel to commit to the values that are most important to me, the values I want to represent and be about, by doing this task?

Procrastination Example

For the sake of an example, let’s say I enjoy writing. However, that doesn’t mean that I always feel up for it. Let’s say I agreed and committed to writing an article for someone, yet I’m struggling to make it happen. Really, I’m not struggling in the writing process itself, as much as I am to even sit myself down and start. I spend a minute or two trying to assess what I’m feeling. Okay, I’m feeling regret to the commitment and I’m seeing an old pattern of saying “yes” too much. Good information for me to be aware of . . .

Now, it’s values time. Let’s say, some of my top values are self-expression or communication or responsibility. When I sit with just one of those ideas for a minute. . . and feel the importance of that ideal to me as a person, it really shifts my attitude. It shifts how I’m perceiving this task. I want to live this value. It helps to see that writing this article is one small way to do that. I am now feeling at least able to sit down and get started. I may need to check-in with my values a few more times before the task is done. That’s okay.

Hopefully, something else that will come out of this, is that I’ll give more pause before saying yes so quickly again. Not only am I helping myself in the moment to manage the task and my emotional experience, but knowing what emotion was impacting me initially also clarifies some bigger patterns that may need some work.

Values Override The Relaxing Tunes of Procrastination

When we reconnect with our absolute top values, it feels good. Our values can be inspirational. They are motivational. They help us remember what’s important. Our values are positive things that we want to represent. When we think of them, we feel connected to what makes life important to us. To feel like we connect to our values and then to have action items that demonstrate our values, can actually be soothing, reassuring. . . dare I say a way to cope with life’s difficulties?

If you’d like to explore what your values are in a specific structured way and implement this strategy against the procrastination allure, give me a call. Let’s meet to help get you on track with what is important to you.


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Karin Lawson

2312 Wilton Drive, Suite 22
Wilton Manors, FL 33305