Frequently Asked Questions
Isn’t procrastination just a fancy word for laziness?
No, in my opinion it isn’t. While I was conducting research for my book I noticed that a lot of people who consider themselves lazy are quite content with themselves. They know what tasks they’ve put off and they also know that they’ll get around to those tasks when they’re good and ready, even if that means a last-minute crunch.
However, people who are procrastinators drive themselves mad yet have a difficult time explaining their behavior of putting important things off—even when they know they’re actively engaged in it. In addition, because procrastinators tend to put off a wide variety of tasks for as long as they possibly can, they have a hard time keeping track of all they’ve put off, and, as a consequence, they miss out on a lot of opportunities.
Why do some people fall so deeply into habitual procrastination?
If we allow ourselves to get into a regular routine of avoiding those tasks we perceive as being unpleasant or unappealing, we may find ourselves slipping into habitual procrastination; a condition where we feel like we’ve lost our confidence and faith in our ability to handle our personal responsibilities. That, in turn, may cause us to want to shy even further from our tasks, which often progresses into a downward spiral of sadness and misery.
For example, let’s say you find household cleaning a terrible drag and you allow your place go without a spruce-up for awhile. Pretty soon, your place is a mess. One day you think to yourself, “I can’t invite people over with the place looking like this!” However, instead of deciding to take action by cleaning, you suppose that for now it might be best to simply not invite visitors over for awhile. This works to a point because now that you aren’t having guests over, it feels like you no longer have much need to spend your free time tidying your place. Of course, as time passes, your place grows even messier and without guests to visit, you wind up feeling alone and alienated. In the end, you feel even less like an adult because pretty soon just about anything that requires effort seems too difficult to deal with. As you can see, habitual procrastination can grow into a very debilitating habit and if you’re trapped in it, you can find it quite difficult to free yourself from its clenches.
How bad can depression that comes from habitual procrastination become?
Coming from my own experience, I believe that procrastination can develop into such a bad habit that in some individuals it can lead to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, low self-esteem, depression, and ultimately, severe despair. If you feel desperately hopeless or feel like hurting yourself, call 911 or go immediately to your nearest emergency room.
Are there any support groups that deal with procrastination or depression?
There are many support groups and organizations whose goal is to help people who suffer with both of these conditions. You may find that some groups meet in-person, while others communicate in dedicated Internet chat rooms, or in discussion groups via e-mail. You can find a list of links to many of these groups on my website by visiting my links page. If you would like to have your organization listed or you would like to recommend an organization, please send me an e-mail via our contact page.
Can a person be a habitual procrastinator without becoming depressed?
Yes, although it’s somewhat rare. I have met a few individuals who said they procrastinated on purpose and enjoyed it because it made them feel less tied down to their obligations, however, that was only two people out of the hundreds I’ve spoken to about procrastination.
Whenever I try to deal with the things I’ve put off for a long while, I feel like I’m going to have a panic attack. What’s wrong with me?
As long as there isn’t a medical cause for your panic attacks, (which you should have your doctor investigate), then it’s likely that you’re having them because you were never taught a calm and rational way of sizing up and approaching your tasks. Instead, you try to tackle all of your projects at once, as if your life depended on everything getting done 100% perfect on the first attempt.
When you start to take on more than you can comfortably handle at any given time, your mind sends panic signals to your body that are extremely distressing. That’s nature’s fight or flight response advising you to flee your uncomfortable situation. The only thing is, you’re not in an unsafe situation; instead, your mind has become conditioned to its belief that it can’t deal with some tasks, especially those it anticipates may be complicated or tedious.
What you need is a better way of dealing with your tasks, a calm and consistent technique that will work for you. I suggest that you look into The J.O.T. Method™, which is addressed in Answer # 9.
My problem with habitual procrastination has gotten to the point where I’m always late paying my bills, even though I have enough in my checking account to pay them. Is there any hope for me?
Of course there’s hope, that’s why you’re visiting this website—because you’re looking for a better way of handling your tasks in a more timely and responsible manner. While you’ve fallen into the bad habit of paying your bills late, all you need is to learn a new way of living that you can adopt as second nature—one that works for you. In essence, you need to replace your negative ways, with newer, more positive practices, such as my technique for overcoming habitual procrastination, The J.O.T. Method™.
I’ve discussed my procrastination problems with my therapist. He says that he’s trying to find “my payoff,” but all I seem to get from the sessions are the same feelings of frustration and agony that I get when I find myself struggling over dealing with a task. So, what’s my therapist talking about, and why do I continue procrastinating when I know that it’s making me feel terrible?
While there are some therapists who are outstanding individuals in their field, there are others who can only recite what they were taught while they were in training. One of the methods that some therapists are taught is to try to find what reward or payoff their client receives for their negative behavior. We could say that the payoff for someone’s procrastination is temporarily feeling rid one’s obligations. However, becoming aware of that payoff does little to solve the problem because it does nothing to change the sufferer’s behavior; especially if their procrastination problem has become habitual, long term, or ingrained. I believe that what you may need is a technique for overcoming procrastination that’s easy to learn and easy to practice. I’d like to suggest that you consider using the technique I developed, The J.O.T. Method™.
I’ve seen “The J.O.T. Method™” mentioned on this website. What is it and how does it work?
The J.O.T. Method™ is a technique I developed to solve my problem with habitual procrastination. It came about incidentally while I was looking for a way of overcoming some other difficulties I had; namely, problems with severe depression and anxiety.
Following the advice a friend once lent, I began keeping track of my moods in a feelings journal in the hope of finding the cause of my low moods. Over time, as its pages grew, I began to notice reminders that I had written in the journal as side notes. These were reminders of tasks I needed to take care of, like bills that needed paying and telephone calls I needed to make. As more time passed, I observed that I never seemed to get around to dealing with any of those reminders, and whenever I saw them again I’d experience a tremendous flood of anxiety and self-admonition. It hardly mattered what any of the tasks actually involved, it just seemed to be my nervous system’s way of telling me that I needed to avoid dealing with them.
At the same time, I also noticed that whenever I had free time that I could devote to those reminders, I would become terribly overwhelmed with anxiety. This was partially because of the large number of tasks I had put off, but also because many of them were tasks that I considered too complex or too boring to deal with. In addition, my mind kept a long list of failed attempts at “do”-ing, so I didn’t have a clue about how to logically go about dealing with my tasks; nor did I possess much in the way of self-confidence. All I knew was that whenever I had free time to deal with my tasks, I would feel completely overwhelmed, and I’d do almost else anything to escape them. At times like those I’d often spend hours channel surfing or taking long naps, (or “snooze cruises,” as I called them), or I would overeat.
What I didn’t understand was that I was seeing all of my undone tasks as one huge pile, when in reality they were individual tasks. While it was true that some of my tasks were complicated or boring, what I failed to realize was that I had never learned how to comfortably break large tasks down into smaller and easier to deal with components. Nor did I know how to do a reasonable amount of work on one day, and then pick it up again the next day. Since I didn’t know how to effectively deal with my tasks, I always attempted to get all of my work done non-stop in one grand try; a method that was unrealistic at best. Unfortunately for me, it was the only method I knew. Looking back on how I was back then, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that I felt overwhelmed by my tasks, or that I tried to avoid them whenever possible.
Over time, I used my feelings journal to teach myself a reliable way, or method, to confidently deal with my tasks. I used that method to train myself to stop looking at all the things I’d put off, and instead, to effectively deal with just one task. Through trial and error, I got to the point where my method worked so well, I decided to share it with other habitual procrastinators. I’m happy to report that my technique has helped many people. Being proud of my accomplishment that teaches habitual procrastinators how to deal with Just One Task, I decided to give my technique a snazzy name; I call it “The J.O.T. Method™.”
The J.O.T. Method™ is a simple technique that trains your mind to stop looking at the mountain of tasks you haven’t yet dealt with. Instead, it teaches you how to comfortably focus your attention on dealing with just one task at a time without worrying that you aren’t being productive enough, or second guessing yourself about which task you should deal with. While The J.O.T. Method™ is easy to learn and easy to use, it would take more space than appropriate in this FAQ to describe exactly how it works, but believe me, it works!
Is there anything else that you’ve found helpful for combating depression?
Yes, like a lot of people, I’ve found exercise to be very good at combating depression because it helps keep my moods stable and it’s something good that only I can do for myself. Of course, you should consult with your medical doctor before starting any exercise regimen.
It seems like whenever I’ve had a productive day, although I might have gotten a bunch of things done, when I look back on it, it’s only then that I realize it was “everything” except what I was supposed to have dealt with. Then, I feel like a child that’s been disobedient. The only thing is, I’m an adult—at least, on the outside. My dad always used to say all I ever needed to do was to “buckle down.” Is there a name for what I put myself through?
In my book, I refer to this practice as: “floating.” By “floating,” I mean that the procrastinator acts without a plan. Usually, what happens is the procrastinator starts off by dealing with his easiest tasks first, however, he never graduates to his more complicated ones. Even if his undone taxes await him on the kitchen table, he will suddenly discover there’s dust underneath the refrigerator that he’s never noticed before. Of course, he finds it a lot easier to disconnect his fridge, move it, and to give that space a good cleaning than to calmly sit down and deal with his taxes.
A lot of people who engage in floating are averse to giving in to sitting down to fill out governmental forms with their imposed deadlines; like “Tax Day” in the US. In a way, it’s like refusing to be told what to do, and perhaps that’s why you feel a bit like a disobedient child; which may be why memories of your dad were stirred up in your mind. As you conquer your habitual procrastination, the next step is learning to prioritize your actions by successfully dealing with the most important and timely matters first. In that way, you will utilize your time more productively than when you merely floated through life.
Whatever may have happened in your past, you can adopt new habits to replace your old and unproductive ways. Just as every sunrise hearkens a new day, you can arise to better tomorrows, so long as you have the courage to change.
My girlfriend and I have an agreement: on weekends I do the grocery shopping and she’s supposed to take care of the household cleaning. But she doesn’t do her part. Instead, I get one excuse after another. What’s wrong with this picture, and what can I do about it?
When someone who doesn’t regularly procrastinate is in a close relationship with a habitual procrastinator the non-procrastinator may feel frustrated by the behavior of their significant other. You need to communicate with your girlfriend the feelings you’ve been experiencing; however, you must also ascertain whether the commitment she’s agreed to is fair. Is the amount of time you spend shopping for groceries equal to the time she spends cleaning? Is the amount of energy that she expends cleaning the same as the amount that you expend while shopping?
There could also be more complicated reasons for your girlfriend’s procrastination. Sometimes when a person in a relationship procrastinates, it’s because they privately worry that if they complete their task, they might be asked to take on other duties; especially if they find their task unappealing. Or, she may have grown dependent on you to take care of the tasks she’d rather not deal with. If that’s the case, then she needs to understand the other side of the coin: that her behavior causes you to experience feelings of resentment and discontent. If you find that whenever you try to talk with her about this situation, everything seems to break down into an argument or miscommunication, then it might be helpful to seek the help of an experienced relationship counselor.
You can learn more about this topic by reading: The Habitual Procrastinator and His/Her Significant Other, which appears in Chapter Fourteen: The Procrastinator’s Relationships with Significant Others, in my book: How Many Procrastinators Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?: Take Control of Your Life and Defeat Immobilizing Depression!
My co-worker “the procrastinator,” doesn’t pull his share of the load, so I wind up having to stay late doing his work, and I’m not even being paid to do it! Is there anything that I can do about this situation?
It’s obvious that you’re in a difficult situation. You can’t continue in this way because it’s not fair to you. Nor is it fair to the organization you’re working for because it’s paying your co-worker for an honest day’s work. So, not only are you being cheated out of your own time off, but your employer is being cheated too. Assuming that you’ve already tried to bring this to your co-worker’s attention, probably the best thing you can do is to speak privately with your supervisor and ask that he or she take the matter up with your co-worker.
If your problem with procrastination or somebody else’s problem with it is affecting your peace of mind at work, you may wish to read: The Procrastinator in the Workplace, which is part of Chapter Fourteen: The Procrastinator’s Relationships with Significant Others, in my book: How Many Procrastinators Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?: Take Control of Your Life and Defeat Immobilizing Depression!
How can I help my procrastinating young child?
One of the leading causes of procrastination among adults is the frustration that comes from never having learned how to deal with one’s tasks in a calm and logical manner. Children are no different than adults in this respect. While your child’s tasks are obviously different than yours, he still needs to learn how to effectively deal with his tasks. If he never acquires this vital life skill, he will be prone to growing into an adult procrastinator, forever one step behind in meeting life’s challenges. You don’t want to foster a situation where your child stays reliant upon you, always waiting for, or even expecting that Mommy or Daddy will be there to pick up after him.
If you are concerned that your child is falling into the habit of procrastination, one of the best things you can do is to teach him to slowly develop his level of patience. There’s a saying in my book that I repeat many times within its pages: “Patience is the enemy of procrastination.” You can teach your child to develop his level of patience by sitting down with him and demonstrating that a task can be methodically worked through until its completion.
The world we live in is filled with electronic gadgets and distractions of all types. If your child’s procrastination involves difficulty studying, it may be because he finds it hard to read in silence. If that’s the case with your child, the following may prove helpful: First, shut off all sources of distraction. Then, have your child read one line silently and then ask him to explain its meaning to you. Continue in that manner with your child relating to you what he or she believes the author is trying to communicate to the reader. If you have a different view on what’s been read then tell him that, and show your child that different people can view the same passages in different ways. This will show your child that you’re not asking him to do something you’re unwilling to do yourself. Be sure to point out to your child that he is able to work in silence, and is also capable of critically thinking about, and retaining, what he’s read. You’ll not only be giving your child important new skills, you’ll also be increasing the amount of quality time that you spend with him. By doing so, your child will feel important and loved, and you’ll have an opportunity to get to know the person that your child is growing into.
This information was taken from: Procrastination and the Grade School Student, which is part of Chapter Fifteen: Helping the Procrastinating Student, in my book: How Many Procrastinators Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?: Take Control of Your Life and Defeat Immobilizing Depression! Chapter Fifteen also addresses procrastination solutions for teenagers, college students, and the adult returning student.
My son is in his freshman year at college. In high school he was a solid “A” student, but his first college semester’s grades weren’t all that great. I spoke with him on the telephone and I think it sounds as if he’s been distracted a bit by campus life. What can I do to help him to concentrate on his studies?
The difference between high school and college is like the difference between night and day because of the new experiences, freedoms, and responsibilities that college brings. These changes can cause some students to feel overwhelmed or stressed, and, in turn, they may resort to procrastination as a negative coping measure. You may want to suggest to your son that he:
- Seek the counsel of student advisors that he can gain practical advice from, such as how to better manage his time;
- Join study groups, because he’ll share study time with fellow classmates and have an opportunity to exchange ideas with them; and
- Eat well, get adequate rest, and exercise in order to stay fit and defeat stress. Of course, your son should consult with his doctor before starting any exercise program.
This information was taken from: What Can a College Student Do to Avoid Falling Into Procrastination?, which appears in Chapter Fifteen: Helping the Procrastinating Student, in my book: How Many Procrastinators Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?: Take Control of Your Life and Defeat Immobilizing Depression!
If I can answer any questions that you have about procrastination or concerning the relationship between procrastination and depression feel free to send me an e-mail via this website’s contact page. I’ll be happy to hear from you.