Procrastination is more than just being lazy or inability to follow through, its about self control problems and a belief that there is one ideal way to approach a problem or task.
If you are looking to work towards overcoming these habits the first place to start is by UNDERSTANDING your mental rules and automatic thoughts that overlay your behavior and then DECIDING FIRMLY to do something about it.
Dr. Albin: I use bio-feedback and meditation to help reduce stress and performance anxiety directly. Then I work on the cognitive patterns that are part of the procrastination trap — the “I’ll start when I’m ready” self-talk, or “it’s hopeless now”, or whatever it is.
For some helpful tips listen to the interview I gave on the Procrastination Special Show that broadcasted live on Sept 21, 2009 on the Tom on Leadership Blog Radio Show.
Or if you don’t have the time to listen to the 15 minute interview 🙂 then take a few minutes to look over the main take away points as Tom so nicely summed them up.
Procrastinators struggle with self-control behaviors. It often consists of:
* Self Defeating Thoughts, that lead to
* Anxiety, that triggers
* Avoidance Behaviors, which feed
* Self Defeating Thoughts, etc.
Often my clients don’t realize that performance comes from two things — Ability and Motivation. They focus on Ability, and when performance lags, they see it as reflecting on Ability, which saps their confidence.
Once they undermine their own self-confidence, they continue to lose Motivation. This self-perpetuates.
Another way to describe this is, once you feel high levels of anxiety, your body wants to reduce that and reduce the stress hormones associated with it. One way to get a very small and temporary reduction in the stress is to make an empty promise. The empty promise then kicks real work further into the future and guarantees a return to even higher levels of anxiety. Then the brain wants that small reduction even more, and you’re even more strongly tempted to make the empty promise.
There are five main themes that follow procrastinators:
–Over-estimating how much time is left
-Under-estimating how much time the task takes
-Later I’ll feel better (fooling themselves about future motivation levels)
-Later I’ll feel “right” (belief that emotion must be congruent with the task)
-Perfectionists (belief that everything must be perfect before they can start)
I work with the client to identify the pattern then they work to find different patterns that can combat the dysfunctional pattern. This involves challenging their beliefs and giving them multiple alternative self-talk options and behavior targets.
One of my clients who complains that she gets lost in mundane activity such as internet surfing now has the assignment of starting each new task at the quarter-hour mark. If she finishes one task at 9:07, she has to start the next one at 9:15. This gives the client practice at time estimating (an opportunity to challenge her cognitive distortion of underestimating time) and lets her exercise her self-control against impulsiveness.
By working on a system where the person chooses from a menu of options and is partially aware of her self-control problems can help alleviate the behavior pattern. Activating one’s choice and helping one adapt better to situations as they change rather than fall rigidly into black and white patterns of behaviors can have a positive impact on productivity and motivation and reduce procrastination behaviors.
Self-control can definitely be strengthened. You have to want to!!! Many folks believe that “one day” they will suddenly achieve self-control without work.
I (Dr. Albin) counter this by looking to their mission and vision for themselves. Who do they want to be? What sort of aspirations do they have? This provides the impetus for additional change.
I (Dr. Albin) believe very strongly in working outside your comfort zone, so you always grow and change and lead an every greater and richer and more fulfilling life.
For more information:
Listen to entire broadcast that featured 3 other experts including:
Dr. Toni Galardi, Ph.D. of LifeQuake Enterprises
DeAnna Radaj of Bante Design LLC
Rita Emmett of Emmett Enterprises, Inc.
Dr. Jayme Albin, MA, Ph.D www.AsktheCognitiveBehaviorTherapist.com
Or read more of the expert advice on comments here on
For more information on consulting, coaching or clinical psychological services in New York or Los Angeles please contact DrJayme@askthecbt.com or 212-631-1133.
Dr. Albin works with groups and individuals providing cognitive behavior therapy and biofeedback.