Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

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Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

Procrastination – a Tough Habit to Break

I Was Going to Join The Procrastinators Anonymous Group, But I Didn’t Get Around To It.

“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”

~ Mark Twain

Does procrastination prevent you from doing your best or even finishing something?

Procrastination is a ploy we use to put off doing things we just don’t wanna’ do. Why do we do that? We know perfectly well that in the end it makes us feel bad, guilty, angry at ourselves, though at first there might be some short-term relief. Phew. I’ll start it tomorrow – and right now I’ll catch up on that mini-series I’ve missed, or do the easy project instead, take a nap, or have lunch with my friend.

It’s irrational. It makes no sense, we know it doesn’t, we know we’ll regret it when the deadline is upon us, yet we do it anyway. And ironically, being aware of all of this is why when we procrastinate, we feel even worse.

An article in the New York Times by Charlotte Lieberman, in March of this year, lays out many of the reasons we do this to ourselves, and ways to get past it, citing the authors of many research studies to illuminate the ideas. The link to the article, is at the bottom of this post.

Other than the immediate relief of not having to do something by putting it off, it also occurs to me that it gives us a built-in excuse for the result being not as good as it could have been. We can always say, Well, if I’d had more time, or if I’d started earlier, I would have gotten a better grade on that paper, (or kudos from the boss for doing that impossible spreadsheet, or for cleaning the bathroom or… fill in the blank) and let ourselves off the hook for a less than stellar outcome.

But it’s still a little insidious how the bad result affects how we feel about ourselves. It lowers self-esteem, adds to anxiety, and compounds the self-doubt, self-blame, and becoming an endless loop that spirals ever downward.

Some of the ammunition Ms. Lieberman suggests we arm ourselves with to combat the war on procrastination includes being nice to yourself – get a little self-compassion going and leave the blame behind, not waiting until you’re “in the mood” to get started (as Nike says, just do it), making it harder to do the things we’d rather do instead (delete some of those game apps, make your password a nuisance to have to enter your phone, get rid of at least some of your social media accounts), and reward yourself for completing a long-put-off task, taking pride in a job well done.

You can probably think of more things to add to this list, and if you’re curious to read the entire article, here’s the link:

If you are determined to break the habit but are still having trouble after trying everything, maybe you should get some help from a professional.  Therapy can surely help.


3 comments on “Procrastination – a Tough Habit to Break”

  1. This makes a lot of sense to me! It certainly makes me angry with myself when I leave things to the last minute, and then have to be anxious and rush through it, leading to a job badly done. I will take these suggestions seriously, especially putting a timer on my phone.

  2. This hits home. Procrastination is a challenge for me and your discussion makes a lot of sense. As a former journalist, I was accustomed to meeting deadlines and was good at it. But with bigger, longer-term projects, procrastination rears its ugly head and does cause the emotions you describe — anxiety, self-blame, self-doubt, etc. It’s always been a challenge I expected I could handle without therapy, but you put the issue in a context that tells me seeing a therapist might be a good idea.

  3. A trick I have learned, especially when faced with a large, multi-faceted project that seems overwhelming, is to break it up into pieces, make a list of those pieces, and then put them into a calendar (Tuesday, I’ll work on Part One, Wednesday, Part Two, etc.) This also works if I feel as though I have a million things to do: the truth is, you can only do one thing at a time, even if you think you are multi-tasking. Listing the specific things I plan to accomplish, assigning them specific days for being worked on — and then checking them off when I’ve done them — makes me feel less overwhelmed, and I’m much more likely to actually get everything finished!


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