Sometimes procrastinating keeps you in charge of situations, but it won’t be to your advantage for long.
George came to see me for therapy because he wanted to know why he’s a procrastinator.
I started by asking in what areas he procrastinates. He smiled and said, “In most areas.”
George procrastinates at work; he doesn’t turn in reports on time. He doesn’t fill out his expense reports. Once the company he was working for withheld his paycheck until he got all his cases up-to-date.
George procrastinates at home; he promises to do chores and then puts them off, and waits until the last minute to pay the bills.
I asked George if he had any idea why he procrastinates.
He said, “I always have. When I was in grade school, my mother had to push me to do my homework. In high school it was the same. I always waited until the last minute.”
I asked George if he saw how procrastinating might be serving him?
He thought one advantage was the rush he got when he was up against it and absolutely had to get something done.
“Any other advantages?” I wondered.
He couldn’t think of any.
I pointed out a few:
• When George procrastinates and someone else is waiting for him to do something, he has their attention. This attention may come in the form of nagging and nudging, but it’s attention.
• He has control since others often can’t complete their work until he does the task he’s putting off.
• He can play good guy/bad guy which adds to the drama of his life. When he doesn’t do something he knows he needs to do, he takes the bad guy role. When he performs the task, he becomes the good guy.
• He can get out of doing undesirable tasks.
• He fears failure. If he puts a task off, he doesn’t really have to test his ability to succeed.
I could go on listing the whys of procrastinating, I told George, but hunting for the whys can be another form of procrastinating.
Instead, I suggested we make a list of things George is currently putting off, look at them as problems to be tackled, and do some problem solving.
Concerning his incomplete reports, George decided to get to work a half-hour earlier each morning and do all necessary paperwork before he allows himself to have his second cup of coffee or return any telephone calls, two things he enjoys doing.
With regard to paying the bills at home, George decided to let his wife take over the job. She has wanted to pay the bills because then the bills would get paid on time, but George has always assumed he should be the one to pay them.
Concerning cleaning out the garage and removing the leaves from the gutters, George agreed to hire someone within the next week. He promised not to put off the hiring. In fact, he said, “It would be a pleasure to farm these chores out.”
Concerning starting an exercise program, George decided to bag the idea until next year, at which time he’ll reevaluate.
I suggested that instead of thinking of himself as a procrastinator, he look at the task he’s putting off as a problem that needs to be solved. He should then figure out two or three ways of tackling it.
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