Everyone procrastinates; it is a natural response to ambivalence.
One part of yourself wants to do something, or believes that it should be done. At the same time another part of you is worried about the consequences of doing what you want to do or is more interested in doing something else with your time and energy.
A lot of energy can be expended in this tug-of-war, further draining your resources. The net result is paralysis. You put off any action until later.
Sometimes later means the last possible moment before reaping the consequences of waiting. That is why the Post Office stays open late on April 15th.
At other times, later means never, and a constant inner voice telling you how bad (selfish, dumb, lazy, etc.) you are for not doing what you know you should do. When this inner voice becomes too uncomfortable, you may finally start a project in a half-hearted way, and run out of steam before it is complete, and the procrastination gridlock begins again.
If you want to complete something, but feel stuck, try these steps. It‘s best to go through them with at least one trusted friend.
1. Each of you list several things you are procrastinating about.
2. Take turns telling each other “I don=t want to ….“ Complete the sentence with the procrastinated project. “I don‘t want to clean my closets.“
3. Respond to each “I don‘t want to…“ statement with “It‘s OK to feel that way.“ (This isn‘t permission to not do an important activity, it is permission to know how you feel, and honor those feelings.)
4. Think about why you do not want to do the activities and share the reason with your friend. This is a critical step.
Often you will discover that you are procrastinating about a task that is on someone else‘s priority list. Another frequent reason you may procrastinate is that you want to do something that is very complex and they don‘t know how to get started. You may feel discouraged because you wish for support and encouragement and think they should be able to be tough and do something alone.
By the time this step is complete, you may have developed a plan to get the help you need to do the job.
5. Take turns describing the consequences of not doing each activity.
6. Decide which tasks you will do, and which you will discard because they really don‘t fit for you now.
7. Make a realistic commitment to your friend about when you will complete each activity you decide to do.
8. Support each other with phone calls or meetings, or get outside support to keep your commitment.
A more complete description of this exercise appears in my book An Action Plan For Your Inner Child: Parenting Each Other.
Is this you? “I don’t need therapy, but I could use some advice about…”