Dear Therapist: Procrastination Exhaustion

Procrastination Exhaustion – It’s Real!

Dear Therapist:

I am the worst procrastinator. Ever since I can remember, I have always put off whatever I need to do. It could be anything from work projects to school papers to getting my errands run on any given day. Help! By the time my back is up against a wall and I have to get it done, I am exhausted from all the energy I put in to not having ever started in the first place. Not good. Is this hopeless or are there any ways I can mitigate my procrastination?

Wow! I hear you! I feel you! Procrastination is a bugaboo that hounds many people. Some will say this is actually how they work best, i.e. putting things off until the last minute and then being forced to get it done (and done well) in a limited period of time.

However, if it is causing you to feel exhausted so that when you have to get to the grocery store because there is no food left in the house or the paper is due tomorrow or your big work presentation is here, then it’s not an effective way to actually work and get things done. Rather, it sounds anxiety-provoking, exhausting, and overall stressful.

However, if you have been doing this for most of your life, this is not going to be an easy habit to break. So, my first tip is to go slow with this and be gentle with yourself as you work to undertake your tasks over the course of time rather than at the last minute.

Second, it is a mental trick, but one that is helpful. Back up any due date by a couple of days to a full week. If you hear that a due date is Wednesday the 10th, in your mind and in your calendars, make the due date Wednesday the 3rd. When you play this time trick, you will be left with anywhere from a few days to a whole week to get the project/paper completed without procrastinating through the actual due date.

Third, in terms of errands, make a “to do” list for any given day and stick with it. Need to pick up the shirt at the dry cleaners today for an event tomorrow? Add it to the “to do” list and get it done – so you can cross it off. Never underestimate the utter gleeful feeling of marking off an item on a list like this. If you think it will be impossible, do you have a partner, friend, roommate who is good at getting tasks done like this and would be willing to help you out? Then delegate and ask if the person can help you out. Perhaps you can offer one of your strengths to them to return the favor.

Procrastination is never fun when it leads to anxiety and exhaustion. Finding solutions to help you out of this loop is key, but remember it will take time. One last thing you may want to ask yourself — how did it all begin with anyway? Thinking about the baseline issue of how it started may also help you gain more of an understanding of yourself as you seek to change the behavior.

Here’s to completing things on time every time without stress, anxiety or exhaustion!