A 12-step for procrastinators

July 2, 2015

time to relaxIf you’re like me, you never really relax, because you’re always feeling guilty about what you should be doing and are not doing.

My name is Carol and I suffer from procrastination.

Remember that feeling on Sunday night before school or work began again on Monday?  Yeah, that one.  I am so aware that I still have it more often than I’d like to and it’s not associated with a day of the week. It’s almost always floating in the background.

Oh wait, you think it’s because I’m too busy? No. Well, maybe I am: busy worrying about what I’m not doing.

Part of it is that I am a huge procrastinator.  Case in point: I’ve known for a year that my passport is expiring in August. My husband reminded me weekly about renewing it. It was on my To-Do list for months. And I didn’t do it ’til push came to shove and Viking wanted the number so we could finalize our booking for next spring’s cruise to Portugal. Oh, I got the new passport photo done. I just didn’t finalize the application and send it in.  It was easy to put it off because we weren’t going to leave the country soon.

It’s a little thing, but it was like a program running in the background of my brain. It took a lot of RAM, too.

I know that dumping those little, nagging tasks by actually getting them done, would help me relax.

Now, you’re going to tell me to make a list, set a timer or some other method you use successfully to be more organized and productive, and I’m going to tell you that I know every single one of them. And none of them work if you don’t do them. Because there’s nothing that motivates us off the couch, away from social media, to turn off Netflix or to check off our To Do list except our own desire to get things done.

More than ever, though, I’ve become aware of the weight of my To Do list and am finding ways to make some progress on those little nagging tasks that bog down my ability to relax. Can you really relax when you know you haven’t done… you name it?

Have you been in this position? Or are you someone who is inexorably organized? Is there a 12-step for people like me?

I’m looking for your thoughts on this. Thank you!



25 comments on “A 12-step for procrastinators
  1. Amy says:

    Oh boy, I could have written this one! This is me, Carol. I am a big time procrastinator and list maker. I’ve been trying to use a schedule now, but it’s failing miserably. Each week I schedule out plenty of time for everything, and then ignore it! Well, I do things I HAVE to do, but those little things that are nagging at me just do not get done. They are on today’s list, though, and I am determined to knock off a few of them. You’ve inspired me, Carol, thank you! I will be interested to read others’ suggestions as I need them too. Have a great day, Carol, and good luck!

  2. Sometimes I wonder if procrastinating is in our DNA? It seems to be a common thread for so many of us. First thing in the morning, if I do that one thing I’m not looking forward to, it’s over… out of the way, done! Just do it. Now, if I only followed my own suggestion.

  3. Jenifer says:

    I just finished a comprehensive book on procrastination, because I too am one.
    The author had many theories. Apparently a prevalent one is fear of failure. If you don’t start someting, you can’t finish. Which means you can not be judged on your performance.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I just finished reading a comprehensive book on this, because I too am a procrastinator.
    One theory he discussed is that we procrastinate because a fear of failure. If we don’t begin a project, we can’t finish it. Therefore we can’t be judged on our perfomance/

  5. Carla says:

    As crazy as it sounds my life changed when I realized the power of structured procrastination.yes I’m a procrastinator but there is a method to my madness 🙂

  6. This is a great post! How many times have I thought about this!

    I hope reading this isn’t procrastinating.

  7. Rajashree says:

    We put off things only when we are sure that it can wait. Our subconscious mind always keeps a count of what and when is the right time to take up that task. And we, being responsible individuals tend to push our limits by the gentle reminders, what we term as Procrastinating.

  8. Carol Graham says:

    I am married to the world’s biggest procrastinator (wrote posts about it) and I am the total opposite. I am organized to the max (wrote a book about that!) and am rarely stressed as a result. My father taught me a great secret which I use every single day of my life and it has never failed me. I run my life on it. It takes about 30 days to implement the habit but can change your life. It even goes a step beyond not putting things off — it also means you have to do it correctly.

  9. Ha! I can always find things I prefer doing to the things I am supposed to do. At some point, you have to just accept yourself for who you are. Embrace it, girlfriend, it isn’t going to change.

  10. I am a master procrastinator as well so I am familiar with all the tricks of the trade. I admire and dream of being a Type A who just gets right in there and starts checking things off her list. Alas, however, at 51, I have finally come to terms with accepting that this is the way I operate. Sometimes I work better under pressure. When I really feel sick to my stomach about something I force myself to just do one thing. Sometimes I end up finishing the task/project and sometimes I just do that one thing. Either way, I feel a lot better.

    Whether it’s DNA, a habit we can change if we want to or just part of our charm, we have to accept ourselves, flaws and all. That takes time too. And maybe some days the timer works, some days the fear in our belly motivates us and some days we just need to finish watching that marathon on Bravo TV. It’s all good. Procrastinators unite. I’m okay..you’re okay. LOL. Thanks for sharing.

  11. I’d join that group, but I’m such a big procrastinator that I’d get through only like 6 steps before forgetting to do the rest. That’s just how I roll! – Jerusha, TheDisneyChef.com

  12. Barbara says:

    Biggest tips I have are to do the hardest stuff first thing in the morning and to try the ten minute rule. You tell yourself you only have to work on something for ten minutes. Often, that’s enough to get you going and you work longer.

  13. Shonda says:

    Procrastination has never quite bitten. Fortunately one of my biggest strengths is maximizing my time. Something I notice from those who procrastinate around me is the fact they get over-whelmed trying to consume everything at once. Ultimately they end up shutting down. Take your to-do list, figure out the couple of things you NEED to get done. Do those things. Only then, do you return to your list to see what else you can achieve that day. Morsels, not chunks. Good luck.

  14. Haralee says:

    Here is what works for me. I am a list maker but I honestly feel once it goes on the list it is off my mind and I don’t worry about the task again until I address it. The satisfaction of crossing things off the list gives me pleasure. It is like now I can play. I usually start with the most time consuming or hardest task on my list first thing in the morning.

  15. I am not a procrastinator, HOWEVER, I am finding that I’m starting, as I get older, to l-e-a-n that way and I don’t know why? Maybe because I’m not in such a rush anymore? HOWEVER (again) I do LUV the feeling of empowerment I get when I accomplish a list of tasks, so I’m going to be hyper-aware of the rush I get, and make gettin’ it done! a priority. I hope you can too.

  16. Finally, FINALLY I realized I had to stop waiting to “feel like” doing what I was supposed to, (especially writing which is as hard to start as it is to stop) and MAKE myself take one tiny step. Usually, it jump starts my to-do list but I know it takes more than that for some.

    For me though, I’m more apt to get stuff done if my goal isn’t to write a chapter (too big) but just open the file and look at it (tiny step), and hopefully not stop there to make a cat toy.

  17. Hi Carol! I’m happy to say that I’m NOT a procastinator…but I think I was born that way. I prefer to get things done early just so I don’t have to think, fret or ponder them at the last minute. For example, our passports don’t expire until next April but because we are traveling in December I have ALREADY renewed both Thom and mine. Of course, if it was left to Thom, it would have been like you. 🙂 We actually balance each other out on many things so that’s helpful. I hope your husband is opposite and does the same for you sometimes? Other than that I have no advice. ~Kathy

  18. You always seem so go-go-go and accomplished to me! Hard to believe you could feel guilty about not getting enough done! I thought such feelings were only for slugs like myself.

  19. K. Lee Banks says:

    Yes, you have described me and my life of 50+ years! I am a serial procrastinator — between that and clutter here, there, and everywhere, my life is never quite settled or balanced. But before 2015 ends, I’m really striving to make some significant changes!

  20. Mary says:

    You are so speaking to me! The stress of how long my list is, is driving me mad. I’m going to tackle that list…tomorrow.

  21. Estelle says:

    You read my mind today! The post that I put up was delayed for a month because I had to edit 45 minutes of video down to under 15 minutes and it was overwhelming me. Finally, I gritted my teeth spent the hours needed for the task and did it. I feel so much better, now!!

  22. The book Eat that frog by Brian Tracy has a big game changer for me. I still procrastinate from time to time, but as a whole I’m big on getting my goals written down and getting on with it now. I find if I have my goals for the year, month, week and day written down, I know exactly what I’m doing and just do it.

  23. Oh man, me too. I am a major procrastinator. I was so hoping things would change when I got older. That sounds like a form of procrastination… haha

  24. My name is Donna and I am a procrastinator. Did you narrow down at least a few tips? I am glad that I love plants and animals. I cannot procrastinate with live things…they will die. So at least I am good at that. I write lists…that helps. But I am a procrastinator. However I make up for it by being a lot of fun at a party. We all have our strengths

  25. Never have truer words been spoken. The world just takes to much damn work. I’ve been doing it so long I think my program is on 8-track! Plus if your like me your hubby is a consummate list maker. At the DMV the first day of the mon the to get his license renewed instead of those of us standing in line for 6 hours on the 31st (probably when its a 30 day month) like us normal people!

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