I make a daily practice of procrastination.
I put off tasks I don’t want to do. I lie in bed and sleep until the last minute before I have to get up.
Recently, I was reading through old journals and discovered that I had some of the same goals five and six years ago that I still have today. Unmet goals. Goals I haven’t made much, if any, headway on.
There are things that I should do and want to do that would help my depression and my obsessive-compulsive disorder, things like exercising, getting on a regular sleep schedule, eating a healthier diet, doing more exposures, working more on my writing, getting more involved in my community.
I nap a lot. I usually take a long nap on Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes I come home from work during the week and take a nap before dinner. I tell myself I’m tired.
But in reality, most of the time I am avoiding doing things, including moving towards goals that would not only help my depression and my OCD but also give me confidence and satisfaction.
I am so frustrated with myself.
What is procrastination?
There is a chapter called “Break a Procrastination-Depression Connection” in The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step by Step Program, second edition, by William J. Knaus, Ed.D. He says the following about procrastination:
“Procrastination can be a simple default reaction. You feel uncomfortable about an activity, so you avoid it. More often, procrastination is a complex process that coexists with distress conditions, such as anxiety and depression. You put off dealing with what you fear. You believe you are disabled by your mood. Uncertainty can trigger the discomfort-dodging feature of procrastination. If you view yourself as overwhelmed and unable to perform, you are likely to delay taking corrective actions. As a reaction to anxieties, a negative mood, uncertainty, and other unpleasant conditions, you do something different or nothing at all” (p. 58).
So what is a person to do?
Knaus gives lots of good advice. Cognitive changes are one way to address procrastination. You can change your perspective, he says: “To break this procrastination-depression connection, look for weak points in the connection. For example, if you have the energy to think depressing thoughts, you have the energy to think proactive thoughts, such as ‘I can slowly work my way up from under this malaise’” (p. 60).
He advocates taking actions that are “definable, purposeful, measurable, and achievable” (p. 60).
One way to do this is to use the procrastination flip technique, which is the process of doing the opposite of what procrastination thinking wants you to do.
For example, if you are putting off exercising, something you know could help your depression, you push yourself to go for a walk.
Emotive changes can be used to combat procrastination, too. “A combination of normal discomfort-dodging and depression can be like a double whammy. It will help if you accept that this combination goes with the territory. You are then more likely to feel tolerant of discomfort and more willing to allow yourself to start” (p. 61).
That connects with what my therapist told me about accepting my anxiety and the feelings it causes.
Thirdly, behavioral changes can be used against procrastination. Recognizing the diversions you take to avoid doing what is more important can help in coming up with an action plan. For example, an action plan to help you move beyond mindless diversions may be to do one small productive activity every day for five minutes at a set time.
Taking action is a key component of Knaus’ techniques. Taking action, even small actions, whether or not you feel like it, can help to fight procrastination.
So there are things I can do about my procrastination besides just complain about it and feel bad about it.
I can work to recognize the thoughts that lead to procrastination and talk back to the thoughts. I can accept that my depression and anxiety may make my procrastinating ways worse. I can take small actions every day to combat the problem.
I’m working on it.
Do you procrastinate? How do you get past it? Please share your ideas!