13 Ways to Recover from the Pain and Suffering Caused by Procrastination

13 Ways to Recover from the Pain and Suffering Caused by ProcrastinationAlthough I still Procrastinate, I’d like to think I have successfully managed to lessen the pain and suffering I used to go through during my days of Procrastinating-all-of-the-time.  As I read through my Twitter feed, I can get my hands on many lists of ways to stop Procrastinating and to be more efficient.  What I’ve noticed is an absence of material on the really ugly underbelly of Procrastination where people lose their sense of ability, spirit, and creativity.

Here’s my effort to remedy the situation.  The following is a list of thoughts about what pains us and how to cope more effectively:

  1. Be patient with yourself.  If you are impatiently upset with yourself for Procrastinating, you will likely remain in that mode.
  2. Allow yourself to co-exist with those around you.  Stop isolating yourself.
  3. Gradually pay the fines, return the things you borrowed, and make good on your words.  One step at a time you’ll build back your freedom from Procrastination.
  4. Stop being tormented by the clock and clock time.  If it takes you longer to do your work than it does Johnny, so what?  Johnny’s got other problems, don’t you worry.  Do your own work and see it to the finish.
  5. Stop tabulating and calculating how much time you have wasted.  Essentially, stop beating your head against the wall.
  6. Stop obsessively thinking about how other people are disappointed with you, worried about you, or angry with you.  You’ll be able to think better if you do.
  7. Accept your shortcomings, but also be open to feeling your capacities as you clear out old areas you’ve been Procrastinating on.
  8. Eliminate everything non-essential in your life.  Gradually get rid of clutter, stress, unnecessary commitments and obligations.
  9. Start moving.  Breathe fresh air every day.  Walk.  Stretch.  Change your scenery.
  10. Start talking.  Admit to your mistakes, then orient yourself towards your future.
  11. Announce (if even to yourself) the first bit of work you plan on getting done.  I might just call this the “Bit List.”  That itty bit becomes the focus.  Makes everything literally more doable.
  12. Start fresh.  It’s okay to call tomorrow a beginning, because in so many ways, it is.
  13. Understand that you’ve been ailing with the enormous burden of chronic Procrastination.  Treat yourself kindly as you make healthier movements going forward.

Now that I’ve written this, I’m noticing how the pain and suffering I meant to address directly is not quite covered in the list of tips above.  I believe the pain and suffering is alleviated only when the Procrastination cycle is broken, when we are able to take steps forward in whatever direction we choose.

There is a type of pain inherent in working – that’s why it’s called “work.”  Strip your work process down to the barest bones so that you are left to face only that bit of the pain of working.  It’s much more manageable and tolerable than the other types of pain we can inflict on ourselves.  You know the kinds.  You invented some of them.

Use your ingenuity to take bolder risks with your work.  Instead of being consumed by fears of failure and of others’ criticisms, use that energy to say something bigger, better, and crazier.  Make your statement now, if only for the sole purpose of getting on with the rest of your life.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Insights?  Revelations?

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    What Kind of Guarantee Do You Need?

    rainbowOne of the ways I have mostly managed to overcome my Procrastination is to understand there are no guarantees for how things turn out.  In working with many different types of Procrastinators, I’ve noticed a not-so-subtle theme — Procrastinators control, delay, and manage their behavior in order to make sure the outcome they have is perfect.

    What is perfect?  Well, that varies from person to person of course.  Perfect could mean:

    • it’s packed with every possible piece of information known to man
    • it’s a shining example of the author’s true worth as a human being
    • it’s a product that, once completed, is not subject to any criticism or review
    • it’s imbued with magical powers to prevent future disappointments

    Well now, no wonder we can’t get those got-to-be-perfect projects done.  I know I tend to write a lot on the topic of perfectionism, but I do feel it may be at the top of the list of the “Most Brutal Patterns of Thinking Procrastinators Need to Recover from Before Moving Forward.” (#it’sjustamadeuplist)

    So, about that recovery you are seeking.  Please take a moment to ask yourself:

    “What version of perfect am I secretly (or unconsciously) waiting for via my Procrastination?”

    When we seek a sure-fire technique of doing our work, we end up in negotiation with that part of us that actually can get things done.  Instead of enabling ourselves to progress, all of a sudden we are locked in debilitating debates with ourselves:

    • “I will not feel comfortable finishing this until I know I’ve read everything I can.”
    • “I know I won’t hand this in until I’m sure it’s better than what my colleagues are doing.”
    • “I will not feel good about my work because I don’t see my own value.”
    • “I will not let other people read this because they will think I don’t know what I’m doing.”

    The immense pressure these types of self-statements has on our work cannot be understated.  Whenever we attach extra meaning to our work we strangle it and bring it closer to non-existence.  It’s as if we are waiting for our guarantee to be given to us before we allow ourselves to move forward.  We may desire promises that our work may actually get us:

    • respect
    • approval
    • recognition
    • responsibility
    • authority
    • acceptance
    • a free pass in life (make sure to let me know how to get one of these if you happen to know)

    Although these promises may be immensely appealing, by attaching these desires to our work, we also attach the possibility that the work will not happen.  

    Procrastinators are famous for short-circuiting projects to prevent them from being evaluated and seen in the light of day.  Don’t be a famous Procrastinator.  That’s my job.

    Do your work.  Just your work and the rest will follow.  You cannot control these processes from the room you are hiding out in.  Let people see you.  You will be okay.

    Hope you have a wonderful week.  Remember you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook for more reflections, links, and tips on taking Procrastination down.

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      Step of the Day: Partner with Someone

      Partner with SomeoneOne of my personal specialties is pretending I don’t have real problems with Procrastination.  One of my oldest tricks in getting people to believe this and in actually getting some work done is partnering with a friend or colleague (or total stranger) in order to get stuff done.

      Step of the Day: Partner with Someone

      The tremendous variety of benefits of finding other people to work with include:

      • reducing your own fear
      • sharing the actual workload
      • learning new writing and working techniques from your partner
      • being more inclined to meet your deadline
      • getting support for the work
      • being able to brainstorm together for higher-quality ideas
      • doing the work in a faster amount of time

      I think we often mistakenly believe our work is ours and ours alone. It’s as if once we receive an assignment, we feel we have to hole up somewhere without social contact until we’re done.  We worry if we ask for a partner to help us do the work, somehow our work will be considered less than good, and that would of course be disastrous #tongueincheek.

      If you are still hemming and hawing, here’s a kickstarter list of areas in your life in which you might benefit from finding a partner:

      • decluttering
      • studying
      • redecorating
      • exercising
      • writing
      • project planning
      • doing chores
      • envisioning a new book

      Try to see where you might find a way to ease your work burden today, by finding someone to help you make it through to the end of your project, task, or assignment.


      • great authors have great editors
      • great therapists have great supervisors
      • great singers have great coaches
      • great athletes have great trainers
      • great people have dogs #justsaying

      Some of my own best work has been through collaboration with others.  Some of my best friendships have been forged in the fire of hard work.  Some of the work partnerships I have gotten into have enabled me to triple my productivity.  Don’t be shy about it and don’t delay — find a partner today!

      If there are areas you would like more help with, please feel free to let me know by commenting here.

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        Are You Worried about Fitting In?

        Maya Angelou Amazing QuoteRecently I’ve come to think Procrastinators may be overly conscious about fitting in.  For example, we may be more likely to think…

        Is it good enough?

        rather than

        Does it stand out?

        We may be more likely to worry…

        Does it sound right?

        instead of asking

        Have I said what I meant to?

        The desire to fit in or to conform may be a natural, instinctual need we work to fulfill. Marketing, ads, and anyone in the business of convincing you to do something (even your parents, ahem), play to your “pain points” (this is an actual term in marketing circles). They remind you you ache to conform and then you feel the pressing need to buy or to do something to feel like those you’re seeking to be like.  This is relevant for Procrastinators who are often caught in a limbo, in-between state of functioning, caught in a cycle questioning the worthiness of their work or of what they are producing.

        Will I fit in once I let go of my work or WILL I BE REJECTED?

        We may not be aware of our fear of interpersonal rejection.  We just thought the grammar wasn’t checked closely enough, right??

        I invite you to take a closer look at your motivations for staying stuck.  What is really happening when you Procrastinate?

        Are you having trouble with your actual work or your fear?

        Are there people you may be worried about satisfying or impressing?  Is impressing others more important to you than doing your best work?

        Are you changing your work in ways you don’t like in order to minimize your fears?

        Try to shift your mindset to one where you occupy a truly open workspace where your work is received for what it is, without critique or comparison to others’ work.  It might feel like mental contortion for a while, but trust me, you’ll get there.  When you do, evaluate — How do I feel about releasing my work now?

        Join me as I try to be a bit weird on Facebook.  One of my ideas for 2015 was to explore what the Facebook Universe has to offer a blog like Procrastination Coach.  I’d be very pleased if you decided to “Like” my Facebook page and follow along.

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          Some of the Best Advice I’ve Ever Received

          a title here

          Happy New Year Everyone.  As you may have guessed by the image above, I’ve fallen a bit behind on my own self-imposed blogging schedule, just to prove to you I know what I’m talking about when it comes to Procrastination.

          Though it may be a bit late to send you a gift, I didn’t want you to miss out on the messages contained in this post, as they are some of the best gifts I have ever received.

          Great Piece of Advice #1:

          When you can help someone, help someone.  

          Whatever roles we play, whether they be in our families, schools, jobs, or communities, we may unwittingly play by the unspoken rules of those roles.  In my training to be a psychologist, I was trained to maintain a level of neutrality with regard to my patients, meaning I should do my best to not let my personal, subjective feelings interfere with my interactions with my patients.

          In trying my best to maintain proper neutrality with regard to my patients, I may have missed some good opportunities to be of direct help to them.  I think my “role” prevented me from being fully thoughtful and creative when working with patients.  Fortunately for me, a very wise supervisor advised me, “When you can be helpful, do that.”  It was simple, beautiful advice, and just the right advice for the patient that supervisor was advising me on.

          That one piece of advice has since been a core part of how I look at my interactions with others both at work and outside of work.  In many ways, it underlies my blogging efforts as well.

          Great Piece of Advice #2:

          You should be able to feel all of your feelings.

          Fortunately for me, it was one of my very first supervisors who shared this advice with me. Hearing and learning this advice was like having a whole world open up, as I had come to the psychology profession without much of a direct clue as to how my own feelings operated.  To be granted permission, in a way, to play with all of the feelings I possessed at that time, was transformative.

          I have since learned when you are open to the full range of your personal experience, you are inevitably better equipped to handle your own experiences.  Without awareness of our feelings and without a sense of being permitted to experience and to communicate our feelings, we are relegated to acting and feeling in a more limited, constricted way.

          Evaluate what feelings you might be unable to process in your own life.  What makes you clam up?  What makes you nervous?  What can’t you find the words to say?  If you’re curious about ways in which to expand your own emotional repetoire, please consider finding a therapist or coach to assist you in your journey.

          Great Piece of Advice #3:

          Don’t wait for others to show their love for you before showing your love for them.

          This piece of advice which came from a beloved mentor, seems to me now, like a neat combination of the first two Great Pieces of Advice.  We needn’t stop the natural flow and engagement of our feelings in order to prove something, whether it be our status, our position, our coolness or our calmness.  Let your love flow.

          What does this advice session have to do with Procrastination?

          Nothing directly, I would say.  I just know I didn’t want to wait any longer to share it with you.  I wish you the best of luck in grabbing what this New Year has to offer you and in enjoying its many riches.

          Any advice gifts you’d like to share with me?  I’d love to hear them.  

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            Accept Your Losses

            Accept your losssesMany, many years ago, I made an unwise decision about where to put my money.  I don’t recall the exact details of where I spent that money, but I’ll never remember what my friend said to me when I was thinking about my next money move.  He said, “Remember the Chinese proverb, ‘Don’t chase bad money with good money.’”  It took me a few minutes to absorb the meaning of the proverb, but then I knew it was genius.  It takes a good deal of personal discipline and wisdom to realize you are in a losing game and then to withdraw your resources and energy from it.

            Since it’s the end of the year, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what losses you might be involved in right now.  Perhaps you:

            • are frustrated that your involvement with an organization is draining your energy
            • are upset you agreed to loan some money to your sibling when you are in danger of not meeting your own financial obligations
            • are stressed because you ordered a high-priced piece of furniture based on a buying impulse and now feel you have to “match” the piece with others just like it
            • are contracted to work with a counselor, tutor, mentor, trainer, or clinician, but you are dissatisfied with how your interactions have gone so far

            Since it’s the end of the year, be kind to yourself.  Heck, be kind to yourself because you should always be kind to yourself.  Take a clear look at the annoying, money-draining, time-wasting engagements you might be involved in and figure a way out.  You could:

            • simplify your schedule and note what can be cut from it
            • resolve to put a hold on all non-essential spending until your finances stabilize
            • return that piece of high-priced furniture
            • cancel your contracts, subscriptions, or memberships that aren’t serving your needs well
            • do a quick spreadsheet of your monthly budget to remind yourself to take care of all money drains and leaks

            If you are having trouble knowing how to identify what you are losing time, energy, and money on, I have a trick for you: identify those activities you would not want other people to know you were involved in.  When our choices veer towards the unwise, we become upset and anxious.  Oftentimes unknowingly, we also become more secretive about our activities because we sense others would disapprove or disagree with our actions.  Once we go underground with these activities, then we feel even more locked in to the unwise conditions.

            It’s okay to be unwise.  We all make mistakes and have regrets.  Accept the losses you have.  Fix them and move forward, knowing that you can protect yourself from further losses.  Doing so would be a great way to end this year.

            What fixes can you make in your life?  What important areas have I forgotten to address? Please feel free to share your thoughts by commenting here.

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              Techniques to Try: Take a Pause

              temp_collage_1418245867.968150This may seem ironic, but I do believe Procrastinators are terrible at taking breaks and resting.  Just awful.  While others may believe Procrastinators are blowing things off or just chillin’, Procrastinators are being incredibly busy doing some of the following things:

              • worrying
              • planning
              • hiding
              • deciding
              • dreading
              • despairing
              • ruminating
              • praying
              • bargaining with themselves
              • bargaining with the universe

              Not only are Procrastinators busy in this way, they also tend to lose sight of the fact that this process of “working on things” has enveloped their entire day.  All in the name of productivity.

              The Argument for Learning How to Pause

              Although we may think the time we use during a break is a “waste,” it is anything but.  We need to pause in order to have clarity, in order to be creative, in order to know when we are done and totally not done.  When we don’t pause, we become submerged in 24-hour dramas.  It’s like binge TV watching without the fun or interesting finales.  Just boring drama.  Snore.

              Very often, when I am meeting a new patient or their parents for the first time and the core problem is seen as Procrastination, I recommend the patient take a pause before delving into their work again.  When we have difficulty functioning, especially when we are suffering with Procrastination, we also tend to forbid ourselves from taking any sort of break.  Then the punitive cycle really takes hold.  In comes self-criticism, isolation, and then the sound of self-esteem being slowly crushed (#beingdramatic).  When patients begin to allow themselves to enter a break period, their stress level goes down. Although the assignments still need to get done, there is no longer a feeling of never-ending crisis to go with the assignment.

              How to Take a Break

              I can tell someone is a chronic Procrastinator if they have no idea how to take a break.  When patients ask for guidance, I am glad to help because this is the fun part.  Almost any activity can be considered a break to a Procrastinator, as long as the right attitude that a break is needed is there.  A break just needs to be a period away from the stress of having to perform, of having to be “on.”

              You can try these ideas:

              • calling a friend (and not talking about work)
              • daydreaming about a new activity or adventure
              • light meditation where all you do is let your thoughts wander, but you allow yourself to breathe deeply
              • turning off your phone or your notifications so you can have some peace for 15 minutes
              • moving away from the space in which you work to take a walk outside
              • drinking some of your favorite tea

              When we learn to take breaks, we are essentially teaching ourselves to respect time, to respect ourselves, and to know how to begin and to end.  If we continuously chase productivity, we will never feel the relief of reaching the end.  Worse than that, we will shortchange ourselves from the possibilities of all those new beginnings ahead.

              As always, I wish you the best of luck in your efforts to move away from Procrastination.  If you have a problem knowing how to take a pause, or if you have ingenious ways of tricking Procrastinators into taking a break, please share your thoughts by replying to this post.

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                What Other People Don’t Understand about Procrastinators

                temp_collage_1415559490.130300There’s a whole bunch of things I don’t understand about people who do not Procrastinate.  I don’t understand how they can break through their anxiety every time.  I don’t know how they can keep to their own plans every time.  I don’t know how they must feel when they are successful at accomplishing their work time after time after time.

                I do believe there are many things non-Procrastinators do not understand about us Procrastinators.  In this past year alone, I have met two men who were so “on it” they looked at me with disbelief when I tried to explain my area of expertise and fascination – Procrastination.  I really felt in those moments of meeting these men that there was no way those two men would ever understand me.  I was just a different species of being, it seemed.  Come to think of it, I met a woman earlier this year, also a Chinese-American psychologist, who also gave me the sense that I was from some different universe.

                Well, I’m here to speak for us Procrastinators, people who may just be misunderstood by a lot of other Earthlings.

                Here’s a list of a few items I think other people don’t understand about Procrastinators:

                1. We are motivated.  This fact seems to be lost on people who don’t Procrastinate. They associate lack of productivity with lack of motivation, which would be, in most cases, a big mistake.
                2. We are concerned with what other people think.  Many Procrastinators get their start in Procrastination because they feel an overwhelming need to satisfy the perceived expectations others have of them.  The stress of having to perform perfectly causes the Procrastinator to freeze up and to fail to produce anything well. Ironically, these same well-meaning Procrastinators are seen by non-Procrastinators as uncaring or even oblivious to the needs of others.
                3. We are fearful of upsetting or disappointing others.  Please see item #2.
                4. We have suffered, including when we have been misunderstood by others. Chronic Procrastinators tend not only to be behind in their work, but also to be spent emotionally from feeling worthless and hopeless.  Although the chronic Procrastinator may appear to be doing well from the outside, on the inside there is a more complicated story.  Procrastinators accumulate emotional wounds and injuries as they remain trapped in cycles of inaction and bad feelings.  Much of the emotional damage is wrought by the Procrastinators themselves, sadly.
                5. We are not performing to our potential, but we are longing to do so.  Despite being misunderstood and despite having missed many opportunities, Procrastinators strive for something better for themselves.  The paradox with Procrastinators is we hang on and don’t truly give up, even when nothing seems to be going our way.

                Writing this kind of post is important to me, because I have spent so many years helping clients recover from these different kinds and levels of misunderstandings from other people and from themselves.  I do not believe Procrastination is an easily-resolvable affliction, as it involves the individual’s ego, skill set, social environment, and emotional life, and the clean up of very big messes.

                If you are a non-Procrastinator, please consider lending the next Procrastinator you meet a sympathetic ear or some friendly encouragement.  If you are a Procrastinator, take comfort in the reality that we are all built in very special ways, special even when not acknowledged or recognized by others.  Take the time to work through the layers of meaning behind your own Procrastination.  The time spent doing this type of exploration will always be well worth it.

                Please feel free to share any stories you might have about feeling misunderstood as a Procrastinator by posting a reply here.  

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                  Rediscover Fun and the Feeling of Being Free

                  Procrastinators are real drags. We complain. We mope. We are heavy in spirit.

                  We have lost the pleasure of having fun because we feel like we are behind time. As if time is running ahead of us. That is certainly not a fun feeling.

                  Others around us don’t really know how to have fun with us. We don’t have the time. We don’t make the time. We can never find the time. Seeing others be carefree and be carefree often and as they plan to gets our goat. Makes us complain that much harder. Makes us feel the depth of our stress that much more.

                  I’m planning on making this post short today because it’s Halloween, and I think there’s no reason not to have fun on Halloween. I think it is a holiday designed purely for fun. As long as you’re not terribly afraid of ghouls and goblins and carved-out pumpkin heads that is. I hope you find some time today to carve out some fun for yourself.

                  Here are some of the important reasons why re-learning how to have fun is important in recovering from a lifestyle dominated by Procrastination:

                  1. Going through your days without a sense of balance between work and fun is well…imbalanced. Our bodies, souls, and minds need the ebb and flow that happens when we shift back and forth between work and play.

                  2. Our hyper-seriousness during the worst periods of our Procrastination is unnecessary. We are simply wasting large chunks of time obsessing and perfecting, ruminating and delaying. More fun can be had.

                  3. One sure-fire way to show ourselves that we are “good enough” in the world is to allow ourselves the joy that others are allowed. When we keep ourselves away from certain categories of life experiences, like having fun, we become successful only at dampening our own spirit.

                  4. Procrastinators tend to be bound by restraint and caution. We are afraid to let this project go. We are too stressed out to make that phone call. When we are having fun, we experience directly the forces which oppose restraint and caution — the feelings of freedom and of being carefree. Again, it’s important to re-learn those feelings to break the grip of Procrastination.

                  Give yourself a break from the stress monster outfit you have on and go find a funnier costume for tonight. Take care of yourself and have a very fun Halloween.


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                    Technique to Try: Put One Thing First


                    USE UP (8)


                    That Anonymous person does it every time.

                    I very recently have become swamped with matters, both big and small, that I have to take care of.  Typically when I get into this type of swamp territory, I start to feel a haze of confusion.  What do I do?  How much energy to I spend?  Will I get anything done?  Will I have enough time?  Do I care?

                    Deeper into swamp territory, I start to get irritable, frustrated, insecure, and upset that things aren’t magically going my way all of a sudden.

                    Fortunately for me, I recently found a solution to swamp land.  Over a recent long weekend, I listened to the audiobook Essentialism by Greg McKeown.  Essentialism is full of helpful reflections on how we use our time, how we make our decisions, and how we choose to lead our own lives.  One of McKeown’s consistent messages is we have a duty to honor our brief time in this world by resisting the temptation to remain in situations just because.  He encourages readers to make the hard decisions about what to focus on, even when there is a cacophony of competing demands and requests.

                    I highly recommend you read (or listen to) Essentialism.  It’s the kind of book that will be useful to all Procrastinators.  I could not help but decline an invitation I had received a few weeks earlier after listening to the message in Essentialism.  Although in my heart I would have loved to have accepted the invitation, nothing else about me pointed towards saying “yes.”  I basically knew I was not going to end up going, but absorbing the message of doing what is essential, helped me to get the looming invitation off my plate. {If you are interested in picking up a copy of Essentialism, click on the book image below (affiliate link).}

                    Now, back to my personal swamp land.  I am getting better, gradually, at learning to define what I need to do first when I have a long list of things to do.  This has been a big life project for me, as I am not known for my whiz-bang prioritization skills.  I tend to lunge at everything all at the same time, rather than to pick a target.  Setting a priority, just one, uno, priority, has been helpful in getting things done and sharpening my own work process.  I have to be more honest with myself when I’m reviewing my options.  And if you don’t know this already, I feel honesty is essential to real recovery from chronic Procrastination. (Did you hear the whiz-bang?)

                    Okay.  Now it’s time for you to take today and determine what your one priority is.  Remember — uno.  Then spend the rest of the day orienting yourself towards getting that priority done and eliminating those things that might slow you down or get in your way in reaching your goal.  Do as Anonymous does and have time for the things you put first.

                    Please share your success stories here.  I’d love to hear from you.  Remember to also follow me on Twitter @ChristineLiPhD for more good words on all things Procrastination.

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