THE THERAPY ROOM: Procrastination

Posted on 21 February 2019 by LeslieM

Procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones. We all procrastinate to some degree. There are only 24 hours in a day to accomplish all we need to and some tasks are more of a burden than others. If you want to manage your life with less stress and more time for the things you want to do, then it is time to get a better handle on procrastination.

I have a patient we will call Sam for confidentiality purposes. Sam is a husband, a father and an accountant who works 60 plus hours a week. He told me that he came to therapy because he cannot stop procrastinating about his need to diet and exercise.

Psychotherapy allowed Sam to face some tough realities. He realized that his top priority was his work and career. This was above spending time with his family and attending to his overall health. Sam said that all that had to change. He also told me he had 30 pounds to lose and avoided facing this fact by procrastinating about it for years.

I am pleased to report, that within a short period of time, Sam began using some of the following therapeutic strategies to address his procrastination (You can too!):

Acknowledge that you are procrastinating:

The initial step involved in any behavioral change is to become aware of behavioral patterns. One must admit they are stalling rather than moving forward on a desired task or action.

Admit reasons for procrastination:

If you are disorganized: Break down tasks into manageable small steps and develop to-do lists and schedules.

If you fear failure: We learn from our mistakes just as much as we do from our successes. Take note of self-sabotaging thoughts and replace with more optimistic and realistic thoughts.

If you think a task or action is unpleasant or undesirable: Use the 10 minute rule. You can do anything for 10 minutes. If you procrastinate about riding a stationary bicycle, do it for 10 minutes and, once you get yourself moving, you will most likely do more minutes.

If you are a perfectionist: Most daily tasks do not require perfection. Learning to accept good enough may take practice, but it is something that can be accomplished.

If you are physically and/or emotionally drained: See your healthcare provider for a thorough check- up. I discuss self-care with patients and recommend various ways for each individual to do things that increase daily relaxation and joy.

If you need to develop better decision-making skills: Focus on asking for more support. Learning how to have more patience as well as being more assertive can help.

Psychotherapy has helped Sam use strategies to reduce his procrastinating behaviors. Use of time management skills allow Sam to plan more quality time with his wife and children. He is making better food choices and has started a weight training and exercise program.

Today, Sam is 20 pounds lighter and determined to lose 10 more pounds to reach his weight loss goal. Procrastination is no longer in Sam’s way. He is moving forward. Change is always possible!

Dr. Julia Breur is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private clinical psychotherapy practice in Boca Raton. For more information, visit www.drjuliabreur.com .

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