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Procrastination

Question:

I’m writing you about a problem I have had for a long time, which has gotten even worse lately. I get so stressed about things I need to do, that I end up not doing anything. I am a college student, and not only do I have problems in school, but also in such minor tasks as sending my bills in. I always tell myself tomorrow I will wake up and get everything done at once, but something always ends up frustrating me. It is a very difficult task even to keep my apartment clean!!!

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Answer:

You are probably procrastinating – a common enough problem wherein people can’t get themselves to do the things they need to do usually because they get paralyzed with anxiety. Consider seeing a psychologist who can help you to work on overcoming your procrastination and lower your anxiety. There are also good books out there that can help you to overcome procrastination, for instance, The Now Habit by Neil Fiore, Ph.D., or Living Without Procrastination : How to Stop Postponing Your Life by M. Susan Roberts, Ph.D.

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p> You may also wish to see a medical doctor (just to rule out any ill-health that may be causing your distress – but I caution you against taking anti-anxiety medicines to cope with your problem. Medical doctors are like a mechanic with a hammer and no wrench sometimes. Even when you should be using a wrench (e.g., a behavioral intervention) to solve the problem they insist on hitting the nut (the anxiety) with a hammer (medicines). That is just how they are trained; they are by and large too proud to think about it differently. A medicine solution is wrong here (probably) because: 1) most anti-anxiety meds are addictive and expensive and make you dependent on the physician for more of them, 2)you don’t learn the coping procedures that can help you to manage your anxiety without needing meds.

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p> While procrastination is about anxiety, it is also often about being clueless about organizational and time management skills. It is helpful to learn how to break big projects into smaller parts that are more easily doable. It is also helpful to keep a daily to-do list of all the things you need to accomplish and to check them off as you do each one – large or small. It is a great feeling to check off even one small task on your list – it gives you courage to do another task and check it off too. FYI – I keep to-do lists myself so that I don’t get disorganized. I use a Handspring Visor (a handheld computer based on the Palm operating system) that has a great calendaring system and a to-do list function built into it for this purpose. You can also use a pad and a pencil for the same purpose.

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