Procrastination is one of those habits that brings dozens of people to therapy with me. Procrastinators are dogged by their behaviour, because they are self-aware enough to know that although they are getting by, they could be performing so much better. They wonder how much more they could have achieved and be achieving in their lives if they did not put off until the future what they could in reality do right now. In my experience as a therapist, procrastinators are usually highly capable, intelligent and charming people who know they are under-performing. The reason they leave things until the last minute is because nine times out of then they can. Running a procrastination racket can go on for certain people for years, either until third parties get fed up and the procrastinator ceases to 'get away with it' anymore; or, more likely, because the procrastinator's own guilt or frustration about constant under-performance, lack of real achievement, and squandering his or her life builds to such an extent that it is no longer a viable option.
Case Study: X was an employee of one of the 'big four' professional services firms who came to me in order to sort out his chronic procrastination. At work he had managed to 'get away with it' for many years, just about meeting deadlines by the skin of his teeth. This was a trick he had learnt at school, where 'tedious' tasks such as revision or homework were put off until the last minute. In his career, he would leave things until the eleventh hour, having squandered the bulk of his time texting friends, watching videos on YouTube or researching his next holiday to book. When panic set in, usually the night before a deadline, he would pull a caffeine-fuelled all-nighter. This would impact upon his sleep and energy levels over the next couple of days, and as a result he would delay even more tasks as he was so exhausted. It became a viscious cycle. With mounting deadlines and compounded exhaustion, X described his work life as 'like wrestling with a bear'. Finally, his luck ran out when, overcome with exhaustion and rushing to meet a deadline, he delivered a sloppy piece of work to a client. It contained a mistake so basic and of such fundamental importance that action was taken against him. It was at this point that he sought therapy with me. We worked together for 12 sessions in order to:
- Increase motivation to start tasks at the earliest possible moment
- Build the ability to willingly do what he must do rather than what he enjoys doing (at work)
- Learn Mindfulness techniques to promote a sense of balance
- Practice cognitive rehearsal of consistent delivery and performance of tasks at work
- Modify at an unconscious and conscious level the 'I can get away with it' belief
- Learn and practise time management techniques
- Establish a relapse prevention strategy
The most common six types of procrastinator I encounter in my therapy practices at Waterloo and Covent Garden are:
- The Perfectionist Procrastinator (tends to put off starting tasks due to a fear of not doing them in the 'right way')
- The Dreamer Procrastinator (tends to think of him/herself as a special person, for whom hard work and toil is unecessary as fate will somehow intervene to rescue them)
- The Worrier Procrastinator (tends to be indecisive and fails to commit to specific decisions previously made about tasks)
- The Defier Procrastinator (tends to use procrastination as a way of challenging authority)
- The Crisis-Maker Procrastinator (tends to be easily bored and resist the 'dullness' of doing things rationally and methodically - likes to live 'on the edge')
- The Overdoer-Procrastinator (tends to assume so many different responsibilities and roles that they get easily distracted from specific tasks and confused about priorities)
All of the above types of procrastination can interfere with people's ability to live balanced lives and achieve their potential. They can all be addressed in therapy.
Length of therapy for Procrastination: 12 appointments of fifty minutes each.
Fee: £75 per fifty minute appointment. Reduced fee slots are £45 but limited and based on demonstrated financial need.
Location: Southwark (Waterloo) and Covent Garden.