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Addressing Procrastination
Instructor: Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC
Executive Director: AllCEUs Counseling CEUs and Specialty Certificates
Podcast Host: Counselor Toolbox, Happiness Isn’t Brain Surgery

~ Identify and learn how to address some of the most common causes including:
~ Fear of failure (and success)
~ Perfectionism
~ Being overwhelmed
~ Laziness/Lack of motivation
~ Boredom/aversion
~ Uncertainty about how or where to start
~ Identify techniques to overcome procrastination
~ Eliminate other more rewarding options
~ Do 15 and Apply Parkinson’s Law
~ Small Steps
~ Provide rewards
~ Shorten the daily to do list
~ Leverage peak energy times
~ Be accountable to someone
~ Premack the boring
~ Pay attention to temperament
~ Increase adversity tolerance/gratitude
~ Find (and eliminate) procrastination rewards

Cause: Fear of Failure (and Success)
~ Examples: Applying to college or for a job; going to counseling
~ Failure can be threatening
~ Society often frames failure in a negative light
~ Many young people have been so shielded from failure that they don’t have the skills to tolerate it. One and done.
~ Success can also be threatening because it “raises the bar”

Cause: Fear of Failure (and Success)
~ Interventions
~ Explore what failure means. Find quotes from successful people about failure.
~ Avoid overgeneralization and personalization about failure.
~ Maintain a cheering squad
~ Remember past successes
~ Use the challenging questions to explore your fears in each situation
~ Identify all of the other things in your life that make it worth living


Cause: Perfectionism
~ Examples: homework/ work projects, appearance
~ Perfectionism often accompanies fear of failure
~ Perfectionists often either never get started or never finish a task… so it can never be evaluated
~ Perfectionism takes an inordinate amount of time  overwhemed
~ Perfectionists are never satisfied and maintain self anger for any imperfections
~ Perfectionists may also have low self esteem and base their worth on what they do instead of who they are
Cause: Perfectionism
~ Interventions
~ Learn about the principles of diminishing returns
~ Practice purposeful action to improve life balance
~ Explore where the need to be perfect comes from
~ What does it mean if you are not perfect?
~ Where did you learn that you are only lovable if you are perfect? Do you believe this and hold your friends to this?
~ Enhance your self-esteem so you are not looking for external validation. Who are you vs. What you do

Cause: Being Overwhelmed
~ Examples: A huge project, Too much else going on
~ Large projects can be daunting
~ Poor time management may also contribute to people feeling overwhelmed.
~ Interventions
~ For large projects, break it into manageable sub-projects (Dissertation, Spring cleaning, Recovery)
~ If there is too much else going on and you can’t find the time to get started, evaluate your time management.
~ Eliminate, Prioritize, Delegate & Combine, Plan
~ Clear clutter in that area (Doesn’t = organization binge)
~ Be mindful and have a laser focus
Cause: Laziness/Low Motivation
~ Examples: Homework, house cleaning/bills, gym
~ Motivation is your get up and go
~ Low motivation (procrastination) is impacted by
~ Rewards for procrastinating
~ Competing activities
~ No consequences/accountability
~ Punishments for starting:
~ Activity isn’t rewarding
~ Distress (overwhelmed, fear of failure…)
Cause: Laziness/Low Motivation
~ Motivation can be increased by
~ Eliminating more rewarding options
~ Breaking projects into smaller tasks with rewards
~ Premack—Combining the unpleasant activity with something pleasant
~ Making it fun (social, gamify)
~ Creating consequences for lack of task completion

Cause: Uncertainty About How to Start
~ Examples: Recovery, Treatment Planning/Goal Setting, Applying for college
~ Sometimes the goal is:
~ Too big
~ Poorly defined
~ Other times you may not have or be able to generalize the skills.
~ Interventions:
~ Break goals down into Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Limited chunks
~ Seek guidance on how to begin from people who have done it.
~ Think of similar situations you have encountered
Additional Techniques
~ Do 15 and Apply Parkinson’s Law
~ Parkinson's law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion“
~ Create time limits for task completion (deadlines)
~ Then “do 15” to help you get started.
Additional Techniques
~ Shorten the daily to-do list
~ Sometimes you procrastinate because you have too many competing priorities
~ Good time management skills will help free up some energy. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull (unmotivated) boy.”
~ List
~ Eliminate things that don’t have to be done
~ Delegate
~ Prioritize
~ Combine and simplify
~ Plan


Additional Techniques
~ Leverage peak energy times
~ Are you a morning person?
~ When is your thinking clearest?
~ When is your energy highest?
~ How can you arrange your day to sync with your rhythms?
~ Know if you are better with short bursts or effort or sustained effort.
Additional Techniques
~ Be accountable to someone
~ Have a battle buddy—Misery loves company and is inspired by competition
~ Group therapy
~ Online support groups
~ Friends
~ Make plans with someone else that are conditional on you meeting your goals
~ Can only go out tonight if you finish…
Additional Techniques
~ Be accountable to someone
~ Have someone regularly check your progress
~ Homework that is reviewed vs. not reviewed
~ Weight Watchers vs. at home dieting
~ Blood pressure/cholesterol
Additional Techniques
~ Attend to temperament
~ Extroverts may procrastinate things which are solitary and/or don’t have an accountability/discussion element (autobiography, homework, housework)
~ Study at the library or coffee shop, do housework for a visitor, have homework reviewed
~ Introverts may procrastinate things which are social (mixers, holiday shopping)
~ Add rewards, get social support
~ iNtuitors may procrastinate things which are too detail oriented
~ Add rewards, Premack, chunk it
Additional Techniques
~ Attend to temperament
~ Sensors may procrastinate doing “meta-concepts” (collage of what happy means, finding a house)
~ Pursue it through specific questions
~ Perceivers always think there is plenty of time and tend to get things done at the last minute
~ Set deadlines
Additional Techniques
~ Increase adversity tolerance & gratitude
~ When you have to do something unpleasant, it helps to have distress tolerance skills to
~ Tolerate the unpleasantness
~ Quiet the negative internal critic and thoughts
~ Focus on
~ Commitment to the things that are going well in your life and make it rich and meaningful
~ Controlling the things you can and not wasting energy on struggling with things out of your control
~ Viewing this adversity as a challenge or character builder
Additional Techniques
~ Find and eliminate procrastination rewards including other, more rewarding options.
~ Face it there are always things we would rather be doing.
~ Intervention:
~ Make a list of your most common time drains / procrastination outlets (eating, television, organizing, napping, social media…)
~ Use those as rewards for task completion
Additional Techniques
~ Find and eliminate procrastination rewards including other, more rewarding options.
~ Face it there are always things we would rather be doing.
~ Intervention
~ Identify 3 things you usually procrastinate on
~ For each identify:
~ The reasons you procrastinate
~ The other things you end up doing instead (more rewarding)
~ Procrastination often indicates:
~ The effort seems to exceed the reward
~ The risk is not worth the reward
~ A sense of disempowerment
~ Lack of clarity and direction
~ Interventions revolve around
~ Increasing motivation (adding consequences for not doing it and rewards for doing it)
~ Improving self-efficacy (confidence)
~ Developing distress tolerance skills
~ Breaking the task down into manageable small steps