Do you find yourself procrastinating from time to time? It’s clear that procrastination is something we all experience. While a small amount of procrastination isn’t a significant issue, excessive procrastination, particularly concerning tasks of significance and importance, can become problematic.
Procrastination is Common
Procrastination is a widespread issue that’s often wrongly associated with laziness or poor time management. However, the truth is more complex.
Consider the case of a man in his mid-30s with a chemical engineering degree who couldn’t bring himself to apply for graduate school. He felt like he couldn’t “get it together.” Therapy revealed that he had an emotional barrier. Despite his parents supporting his decision to pursue further education, their lack of formal schooling led them to make disparaging remarks, like his father suggesting that his children thought they were smarter than him. The client realized that these comments sometimes triggered self-sabotage in his career aspirations.
Procrastinator or Simply Procrastinating
According to Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University, “Everyone procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator.” His research shows that up to 20% of adults worldwide are true procrastinators, consistently delaying tasks in ways that harm their daily lives and lead to feelings of shame or guilt.
Procrastination Becomes a Problem When It Impacts Our Best Interests
As William McCown, an expert in procrastination, explains, procrastination becomes problematic when it conflicts with our own desires. We all postpone things occasionally, but when we habitually delay tasks that are in our best interest to complete, it’s more than just a bad habit or lifestyle choice.
McCown has found that chronically procrastinating clients often seek counseling for various issues, including marital problems, depression, work performance, substance use, ADHD, and anxiety. Interestingly, younger generations are increasingly seeking counseling explicitly to address procrastination.
McCown points out that in the past, there was a significant stigma associated with procrastination, especially among Gen Xers and baby boomers. However, this changed during the Great Recession when people realized procrastination was detrimental to their careers—a luxury they could no longer afford.
Procrastination can be described as the act of delaying and deliberately or inadvertently avoiding the initiation or fulfillment of a task or decision-making process. Procrastination is more than just putting things off; it’s a complex behavior deeply rooted in our psychology. It involves avoiding tasks that must be accomplished, even when we know the detrimental effects on our lives and well-being.
Types of Procrastinators
Procrastinators come in various forms, including chronic procrastinators, who habitually delay tasks and situational procrastinators, who procrastinate in specific circumstances. Understanding these profiles can help tailor therapeutic approaches.
Factors Contributing to Procrastination
Procrastination can be driven by psychological factors such as fear, anxiety, and perfectionism. Environmental factors, like distractions and a lack of structure, also play a role. Recent research has even explored the genetic and neurological aspects of procrastination.
The Cognitive Aspect of Procrastination
Self-Doubt and Fear of Failure
One of the primary cognitive drivers of procrastination is the fear of not meeting one’s expectations or the expectations of others. This fear can lead to avoidance of tasks and delay in getting started.
Humans tend to favor immediate rewards over delayed rewards. Procrastinators often need help delaying gratification, making it challenging to commit to long-term goals.
Emotional Aspects of Procrastination
Procrastination is often accompanied by negative emotions such as anxiety, guilt, and frustration. These emotions can be powerful motivators for avoiding tasks that trigger them.
Procrastination offers temporary relief from discomfort by engaging in more pleasurable but less critical activities. This creates a cycle of short-term gratification at the expense of long-term goals.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Procrastination (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a psychotherapeutic approach combining mindfulness and behavioral therapy elements. Developed by Steven C. Hayes, ACT focuses on helping individuals accept their thoughts and feelings while committing to actions aligned with their values.
Core Principles of ACT
ACT emphasizes the importance of developing psychological Flexibility. This means being open to experiencing thoughts and emotions without judgment, which can be particularly helpful in dealing with procrastination.
ACT encourages individuals to identify their core values and use them as a compass for guiding their actions. This can provide a solid motivation to overcome procrastination and pursue meaningful goals.
Some ways that ACT has helped individuals reduce the effects of procrastination include mindfulness, self-compassion exercises, and cognitive restructuring techniques (i.e., cognitive defusion). These are all aspects a licensed counselor trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can teach.
Acceptance and commitment are two core processes of ACT that help individuals increase their ability to be present and maintain helpful behaviors. Being present is another core element of this mindfulness-based therapy that can help people accept all their feelings – pleasant or not – including their feelings surrounding procrastination.
Mindfulness involves being aware of one’s thoughts and feelings in the present moment without judging them. When individuals are mindful, they can better understand why they are procrastinating and what is causing them stress.
Managing Emotions with Therapy for Procrastination
Emerging research highlights a fascinating perspective: procrastination isn’t a matter of managing time but mastering your emotions. Julia Baum, a licensed mental health counselor based in Brooklyn, New York, wholeheartedly concurs. She firmly believes ineffective time management is merely a symptom of a deeper emotional struggle, not the root issue.
Another insightful LMHC practicing in bustling New York City, Nathaniel Cilley, further substantiates this notion. Chronic procrastination often serves as an indicator, signaling an unresolved emotional challenge lurking beneath the surface. Nathaniel emphasizes that our emotional triggers significantly impact our feelings, which, in turn, shape our behaviors. Astonishingly, many individuals fail to connect procrastination and underlying emotional complexities.
Procrastination Occurs for Many Reasons
People succumb to procrastination for many reasons, such as avoiding a daunting task, fearing failure, grappling with frustration, self-doubt, or anxiety. To navigate this intricate web of causes, Rachel Eddins, a licensed professional counselor and esteemed member of the American Counseling Association, stresses the importance of assessment. She underscores the fact that procrastination isn’t a one-size-fits-all dilemma—its origins are multifaceted, and understanding these nuances is the key to unlocking personal growth.
How Counselors Who Practice Acceptance Commitment Therapy at Empower Counseling Can Help
Therapists at Empower Counseling offer valuable assistance to clients who struggle with procrastination by first assessing the cause of our client’s procrastination. Next, we help by determining clear and concrete goals. For instance, rather than a vague goal like “meal planning,” we work together to establish a specific target, such as “planning four meals for dinner on Sunday afternoon.” In doing so, we engage the client in a collaborative process to identify the necessary steps: What typically unfolds on Sunday afternoons? What potential obstacles might arise? How can they allocate time on Sundays? What preparations should be made beforehand? Or, what actionable steps will lead to task completion? What obstacles have kept you from completing the task in the past? What can we do to make it easier to complete the task now?
Resistance to Setting Small Goals
In certain instances, especially with clients prone to perfectionism, there may be resistance to setting smaller objectives, as they may not view them as “good enough” or effective toward achieving their broader goals. At Empower Counseling we have a perfectionism screening we to help us determine if perfectionism is a root cause of procrastination, as well as, other issues. Our knowledgeable counselors will address any tendencies toward black-and-white thinking and how it relates to procrastination.
Find the Ideal Moments to Tackle Tasks
Furthermore, Empower Counseling’s therapists can guide clients in pinpointing the ideal moments to tackle tasks they’ve been putting off. For example, clients might assume they’ll handle an unpleasant task right after returning home. However, suppose the counselor recognizes that the client dislikes their job and may require some decompression time upon arrival home. In that case, they can highlight this fact and how it increases the chances of task avoidance.
Shifting the Client’s Perspective
Shifting the client’s perspective from what they won’t do to what they will do is another motivational approach. Our counselors, Savannah, Marti, and Kathryn, encourage clients to think proactively, such as planning to come home, have a glass of water, put on their tennis shoes, take a 10-minute walk, and then prepare dinner, rather than dwelling on what they won’t do, like refraining from sitting on the couch and watching television. With the use of ACT therapy, we guide our clients toward changing their mindsets from focusing on what they want to avoid, which feeds procrastination, to focusing on what they want to happen. Focusing on avoiding procrastination or its underlying emotional causes can inadvertently strengthen procrastination in the client’s mind.
Resolving Procrastination Requires Help
These strategies can assist clients in addressing the deeper emotional issues intertwined with their procrastination tendencies. McCown emphasizes that procrastination is unlikely to resolve itself on its own, and as Joe Ferrari eloquently puts it, “It’s not about time.” Often, deeper underlying factors are at play, and counselors play a crucial role in discerning whether it’s merely a habit or something more substantial.
Setting SMART Goals
ACT promotes setting Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals. These goals provide clarity and structure, making it easier to combat procrastination.
Commitment to Values-Based Actions
ACT encourages individuals to take actions that align with their values. Committing to such actions can reduce procrastination and increase motivation.
Applying ACT to Overcome Procrastination
Mindful Awareness: ACT encourages individuals to recognize their procrastination tendencies without self-judgment. This awareness is the first step in breaking the cycle.
Identifying Triggers: Recognizing the situations, emotions, and thoughts that trigger procrastination is essential. ACT helps individuals identify these triggers and understand their impact.
Defusing Negative Thoughts
Cognitive Defusion: In the ACT, cognitive defusion techniques are used to reduce the impact of negative and self-sabotaging thoughts. By learning to observe these thoughts without attachment, individuals can weaken their hold on their behavior.
Values-Driven Action: ACT teaches individuals to reconnect with their core values and use them as motivation to take action. When actions align with one’s values, they become more meaningful and fulfilling.
Setting Committed Goals: ACT helps individuals set specific, achievable goals that align with their values. These goals provide direction and purpose, reducing the urge to procrastinate.
Taking Small Steps: Procrastination can often be overwhelming when viewed as a whole. ACT encourages individuals to break tasks into smaller, manageable steps, making starting easier.
Self-Compassion: ACT promotes self-compassion, emphasizing that everyone makes mistakes and faces challenges. Individuals can reduce the negative emotions that contribute to procrastination by being kinder to themselves.
In ACT, therapists collaborate with clients to set goals and clarify values. This partnership empowers clients to take ownership of their progress.
Incorporating ACT Principles into Therapy for Procrastination
Individuals can incorporate ACT principles into their daily lives. Mindfulness exercises, values clarification, and defusion techniques can be practiced independently.
ACT as a Complementary Approach to Medication
For individuals with procrastination linked to anxiety or depression, ACT can complement medication-based treatments, focusing on holistic well-being.
How Empower Counseling Enhances ACT Therapy for Procrastination
Empower Counseling uses a specialized approach that integrates ACT therapy with empowerment problem-solving techniques. This holistic approach addresses procrastination at its core and empowers you to take control of your life.
Personalized Treatment: Therapy for Procrastination
Our counselors tailor ACT therapy to each individual’s unique needs and goals. This personalized approach ensures that individuals receive adequate support and strategies to combat procrastination.
Our counselors emphasize your strengths and resilience. Focusing on what you can do and achieve to boost your self-confidence and motivation to tackle procrastination.
Empower Counseling equips individuals with emotional regulation skills, helping them manage the negative emotions that often drive procrastination. This creates a more balanced and positive emotional state.
Accountability and Support: Therapy for Procrastination
Empower Counseling provides a supportive environment where individuals can be held accountable for their actions and progress. This support network can be a powerful motivator in overcoming procrastination.
Some individuals may find it beneficial to seek professional assistance in addressing procrastination and its consequences. If you’re struggling with procrastination and wish to learn how to overcome it, Empower Counseling can provide support. Our online and in-person counselors specialize in ACT therapy.
Together, we can work on acknowledging and managing all the emotions associated with your unique life circumstances while taking concrete steps to help you achieve your goals and lead a meaningful and fulfilling life abroad.
Empower Yourself and Overcome Procrastination in Therapy at Empower Counseling in Alabama.
At Empower Counseling, our team of counselors is dedicated to empowering you. We will provide guidance and support as you navigate your journey toward a purposeful, joyful, and connected life, focusing on actions that align with your values. Whether you need anxiety therapy, counseling for depression, treatment for trauma or PTSD, therapy for perfection, or therapy for a difficult life transition, Empower Counseling is here for you. We offer in-person individual counseling and online counseling for teens, college students, young adults, and professionals. No matter your stage of life, an investment in your own better future is the best investment you can make.
When you’re ready to take the next step, follow our simple process:
1. Reach out to Empower Counseling and schedule your initial appointment here.
2. Get acquainted with your therapist.
3. Embark on your journey towards personal growth and success.
Ready to begin your journey towards a life free from procrastination you desire? Contact us today.
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