Procrastination – Postpone action
When a client decides to postpone action
I have seen many clients with procrastination problems. Of course all of us will have had times when we have procrastinated about doing something, but when clients seek help for this it’s usually when this is occurring far too frequently and is having a really detrimental effect on a person’s quality of life. With procrastination problems a person will find themselves in an endless cycle of analysis which results in a lack of useful action. In many ways procrastination is the polar opposite of impulsiveness where there can be a lack of thinking that makes for a clear way forward.
Like many behavioural problems once a person engages in this kind of activity it can become self-perpetuating where procrastination leads to even more procrastination. Often this can result in the delay of making important decisions which creates all kinds of problems for the procrastinator. One memorable example was a client who couldn’t bring herself to deal with her mail on a daily and weekly basis. She had literally carrier bags of unopened mail in her house. This meant that bills were not being paid; services were sometimes cut off among other problems. The key question in dealing with such procrastination issues is not to ask the question “why” but rather “how” is she creating this problem behaviour. I noticed from reading her clients notes that she had only experienced this problem in recent years and in recent times it had got much worse.
Resolving Procrastination Issues
Every behavioural problem is the result of how a person thinks and feels. In this instance she would look at the mail that arrived on a daily basis and think to herself “What if that’s bad news” She thought this to herself in an anxious tone of voice, then experienced the feeling of anxiety and then decided to delay opening the mail. Now she saw the mounting piles of mail and thought “That could be a lot of bad news just waiting to reveal itself” I asked her if she was the regular recipient of bad news and she confirmed that this was not the case. The procrastinating was created by her feeling of anxiety when she thought about the situation in this particular way. This is important because often clients analyzing the behaviour do little to change the feeling process.
Yes it’s important to find out what has been going on in these situations, but only to gather relevant information to then change the thinking and feeling process. By changing the way she thought about this particular issue, we very quickly succeeded in changing how she felt and what she then did. By the second session she had organized all her mail and discovered that not only was there no bad news but one letter contained some news about a friend she had not heard from for many years.