PROCRASTINATION Workshop

Yaniv Phillips, Ph.D. Counseling and Psychological Services

I. What do people do when they procrastinate?
What is your style of procrastination?
 I surf the net  I raid the refrigerator.  I read books.  I start calling up my friends.  I work on something that’s less important.

What is your style of procrastination? (cont.)
 I become obsessed with cleaning my

desk.  I go out jogging.  I sit and stare.  I keep doing research.  I watch the TV.

What is your style of procrastination? (cont.)
 I read the newspaper.  I go to sleep.  I go shopping.  I check and write e-mails.  I listen to music.

What excuses do you use when you procrastinate?
 I’m

too tired right now. I’ll take a rest and then I’ll feel more like doing it.  I don’t have enough time to do it all right now, so there’s no point in starting.  I’ve got plenty of time to do it later.  I’ve got to organize my desk first.  It’s too nice a day to spend on this.

Excuses (cont.)
 I don’t have the proper equipment.  I’ve been working so hard—I deserve a

break!  It might not be good enough.  If I wait, I can do a really first-class job.  I’ll wait until I’m inspired.

Excuses (cont.)
 I need to exercise first.  I need to keep up with what’s going on in

the world, so I’d better read the newspaper.  It’s too late in the week to start.  Why mail it Friday? No one will look at it until Monday anyway.

Excuses (cont.)
 If I wait long enough, they’ll forget about it.  I’ll call later when the rates go down.  Why bother to ask?

The answer will be

“no” anyway.  I’ve done the worst part of it: the final step will be a breeze.  Two hundred years from now, will this really matter?

The Cycle of Procrastination
 1. “I’ll start early this time.”  2.

“I’ve got to start soon.”  3. “What if I don’t start?”
• a. “I should have started sooner.” • b. “I’m doing everything but…” (at least I’m getting something done)

The Cycle of Procrastination (cont.)
3. (cont.) • c. “I cannot allow myself to enjoy anything.” • d. “I hope no one finds out.”

4. “There is still time.” 5. “There is something wrong with me.”

The Cycle of Procrastination (cont.)
 6.

Final choice: To do or Not to do
Path 1 Not to do c.I can’t do this. d.Why bother? Path 2 To do a. I can’t wait any longer b. “This isn’t so bad, why didn’t I start earlier?”
c. Just get it done: all night cramming.

The Cycle of Procrastination (cont.)

7.“I’ll never procrastinate again!”

What are your assumptions about yourself?
 What is your procrastination code?  I must be perfect.  Everything I do should go easily and

without effort.  It’s safer to do nothing than to take a risk and fail.  I should have no limitations.  If it’s not done right, it’s not worth doing at all.

What is your procrastination code? (cont.)
 I must avoid being challenged.  If I do

well this time, I must always do well.  Following someone else’s rules means I’m giving in and I’m not in control.  I can’t afford to let go of anything or anyone.  If I expose my real self, people won’t like me.

II. Procrastination is tricky because it usually involves:
 Hidden maneuvers--such as when you do

too much research because you’re avoiding the writing--so it might be hard to recognize that there is procrastination happening.

 A vicious cycle- avoiding the task leads to

guilt, fear of consequences and stress and the wish to avoid facing these unpleasant feelings makes you walk away from the task.

Addressing Procrastination
2-part approach:  A. Recognizing all the parts of your procrastination persona—see the hidden maneuvers so they can be addressed. This part focuses on behavior, and strategies to change it.

Addressing Procrastination (cont.)
 B.

Begin to understand underlying causes, which feed each person’s own vicious cycle. Without some focus on these root causes, the behavioral strategies will not have long-lasting success.

III. Why do you procrastinate? (Root causes)
 

Fear of Failure 1. If I really try to write this, I/they will finally see I am not as promising/ special/brilliant as my parents/professors/ home town always thought I was. 2. I cannot live up to my brother’s/father’s brilliance/success. 3. I will disappoint my uneducated parents who worked so hard to help me get here.

Why do you procrastinate? (Root causes) (cont.)
OR Fear of success

1. I feel guilty surpassing my mother/father. 2. I always had it easy and my sibling struggled. If I get this s/he will really feel shame/left out.

3. In my family, the males were the successful ones, so if I (female) get there I leave my mother and sisters behind. 4. I’ll lose friends/ will become a workaholic/ will lose my independence/ will become too predictable/ will become dull. 5. I would have to make a lot of difficult decisions on my own.

IV. Strategies: a. Work to identify underlying fears.
1. Do you procrastinate on matters in which you are supposed to excel or in which you have little experience? 2. Are you aware of particular anxieties about the things you postpone?

Identify underlying fears (cont.)
3. What would happen if you stopped procrastinating? How would you then deal with situations and other people differently? 4. What if you do your best and you do not excel? 5. What are the dangers of your improving and succeeding?

What is your procrastination code?
        

I must be perfect. Everything I do should go easily and without effort. It’s safer to do nothing than to take a risk and fail. I should have no limitations. If it’s not done right, it’s not worth doing at all. I must avoid being challenged. If I do well this time, I must always do well. Following someone else’s rules means I’m giving in and I’m not in control. I can’t afford to let go of anything or anyone. If I expose my real self, people won’t like me.

What is your style of procrastination?
I surf the net I raid the refrigerator. I read books. I start calling up my friends. I work on something that’s less important. I become obsessed with cleaning my desk. I go out jogging. I sit and stare. I keep doing research. I watch the TV. I read the newspaper. I go to sleep. I go shopping. I check and write e-mails

What excuses do you use when you procrastinate?
                  

I’m too tired right now. I’ll take a rest and then I’ll feel more like doing it. I don’t have enough time to do it all right now, so there’s no point in starting. I’ve got plenty of time to do it later. I’ve got to organize my desk first. It’s too nice a day to spend on this. I don’t have the proper equipment. I’ve been working so hard—I deserve a break! It might not be good enough. If I wait, I can do a really first-class job. I’ll wait until I’m inspired. I need to exercise first. I need to keep up with what’s going on in the world, so I’d better read the newspaper. It’s too late in the week to start. Why mail it Friday? No one will look at it until Monday anyway. If I wait long enough, they’ll forget about it. I’ll call later when the rates go down. Why bother to ask? The answer will be “no” anyway. I’ve done the worst part of it: the final step will be a breeze. Two hundred years from now, will this really matter?

Time management—project planning and follow through
 A.

Plan your daily schedule—Write down everything you will do on that day. Make sure to estimate the length of time you will engage in each activity and write when you will start it and when you will end it.

Tuesday’s schedule
                   

Planned schedule 7am 8 9 10 11 12pm 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12am 1

                   

Actual schedule 7am 8 9 10 11 12pm 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12am 1

Time management—project planning and follow through (Cont.)

B. Write down what you actually did. Again, try to be as specific in detailing all your actual activities as you can, especially the length of time you actually engaged in each one of them. C. Compare your plan with what you actually did. What did you over- or under- estimate in your anticipated schedule, as compare with how long things actually took you?

5. To make change, you need to:
a. Go slowly and gradually. b. Communicate with others c. Expect setbacks. Progress takes time.

d. Pay attention to your resistances—it can teach you something important about yourself.

Setting and Achieving goals
 a.

Set a concrete, specific and observable goal.  b. Select only one behavioral goal--and only one-- for the next 2 weeks.  c. Small steps. Break down your goal to mini-goals.
 

d. e.

Take a photo of your progress. Stick to a Time Limit you set for your goal.

Following through with your project
     

a. Watch for your excuses. b. Self-Monitor your Thinking—One step at a Time. c. Don’t Abandon the Project– Get Past the First Part. d. Reward Yourself for progress e. Be flexible about your goal f. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done.

Time Management Strategies Estimate time correctly and realistically.
 a.

Practice telling time-- the schedule exercise should help with this goal.  b. Anticipate interruptions.  c. Don’t spread yourself too thin  d. Identify your prime time—admit you have limits.  e. Enjoy your free time and plan for it.

Self-esteem and its relationship to procrastination
 Self-worth = Ability = performance  “If I perform

well, that means I have a lot of ability, so I feel good about myself.”  Performance is so central to your selfesteem.

Self-esteem and its relationship to procrastination (Cont.)
 Self-worth = Ability =/=

(Procrastination) Performance.  By procrastinating, you can continue to believe that your ability is greater than your performance indicates.

Who are the people who have influenced you?
 Who among them represent your models

for success?  What about them made you think of them as being successful?  How did they treat you? How did they treat themselves?

who are the people who have influenced you? (Cont.)
 Who among them are your models for

failure?
  Write a list of your models; write down

your ideas about them and how you think they’ve affected you and your procrastination.

The role of your family in shaping who you are
 What were your family expectations from

you and what were their messages to you?  What are your current expectations of yourself?  See whether some of these early assumptions and expectations of you became part of your inner “parental” voices.

The role of your family in shaping who you are (cont.)
 can you separate your family attitudes

toward you from your own expectations of yourself?  Can you take your family attitudes as only one point of view out of many?  How important to you are their expectations from you?

5 primary familial themes
 1. The pressuring theme
 The “nothing you did is good enough”

attitude or the “everything you did was extraordinary” attitude.  Procrastination is used to avoid any risk of failure.

5 primary familial themes (cont.)
 2. The Doubting theme

 

In contrast to the pressure to achieve, this family expresses uncertainty in your ability to accomplish much. The “you don’t have what it takes to succeed” attitude. a. Procrastination is used to confirm these doubts or b. Proving the family wrong and becoming a perfectionist. Procrastination is used to protect against your own doubts in yourself, especially fearing the “horrible” truth: that you can’t do it.

5 primary familial themes (cont.)
 

 

3. The Controlling Theme The controlling parents are invested in their child’s successes but they often ignore the child’s own wishes. Independence is discouraged procrastination is used as a passive form to gain some control and power over your life. procrastination is used to express defiance against other people’ attempt to control them.

5 primary familial themes (cont.)
  

4. The Clinging Theme Family encourages dependency and parents are experienced as a lifeline to their child survival. The child becomes a “parentified child,” and is expected to take care of her parents’ physical and emotional needs. A. Procrastination is used to protect against feeling separate, more independent or different from one’s family. B. Procrastination is used to prevent feeling close to other people.

5 primary familial themes (cont.)

5. The Distancing Theme
No development of emotional closeness between family members; little interest in sharing inner thoughts, emotions and experiences with each other. Children feel that they are a burden, an intrusion, and that their needs are unwanted or intolerable. A. Procrastination is used to avoid seeking help from others. B. Pressure to be Perfect leads to perfectionism. Procrastination is used to protect against increasing fear of whether you can actually reach the targets you’ve set.

 

In all the 5 familial themes

    

The child is not treated as a multi-dimensional person, and certain human qualities are ignored or undervalued. A child may come to believe that he will be loved if: I am the perfect child (pressuring); I don’t threaten you with my success (doubting); I follow your rules (controlling); I take care of you (clinging); I don’t demand too much from you (distancing).

In all the 5 familial themes (cont.)
 As an adult, she may say to herself: I can

only feel good about myself If:  I can be perfect;  I don’t stand out too much;  I don’t let anyone push me around;  I am attached to someone else;  I’m separate from everyone.

The Secret Battle for Autonomy
 Many people procrastinate because they

want to feel they are in control of things. They use procrastination to fight a battle for independence and autonomy.  Their self-worth is defined by Not doing the task. Their ability refers to how well they are able to resist control or restriction of their autonomy.

The Secret Battle for Autonomy (cont.)

Self-worth = Ability (to be autonomous and defy control) = Performance (on my terms via procrastination) It is difficult to change because it is not only a battle for control but also a battle for self-worth and self-respect. In your procrastination, can you find an element of “not wanting to follow the rules” or “why should I do it my advisor’s or teacher’s way?”

Uncovering the secret agenda
 The procrastinator is powered by a secret

agenda.  It is important to work to uncover this agenda in yourself, since, as we know, it ultimately destroys, rather than builds, success.