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  • Steven Sutton, LCSW

Mapping Procrastination

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

Putting things off is a serious issue.

We all know how it feels to watch work that needs to be done pile up around us. We’re all familiar with the panic that sets in when we’ve reached the point where total failure is assured if we don’t roll up our sleeves right now! That moment when we’ve put it off as long as humanly possible before terrible consequences are inevitable. For some of us that’s the only time we get to work on things.

What many people know less about is how much procrastination harms our ability to relax, find joy in the pleasures of life, and experience our days as more than just a single monotone emotion of busy mind and body without the sweet things we remember from the past, but have somehow become alienated from in the present. Yes, procrastination does that to us. It robs us of our joy and makes it difficult to kick our feet up and truly experience earned leisure.

Think about it, how can you feel your leisure time is earned and really relax into it when you have a sense in the back of your consciousness that you’ve once again put off what’s important in your life? Chances are you can’t. Most likely you do what you think will be relaxing but you find it just doesn’t bring joy the same way you hoped it would. Although you might now know it, changing your relationship with procrastination can be the key to experiencing more joy and satisfaction in your life.

Procrastination is a complex foe. We’re not going to grow out of it with one simple idea or practice. We’ll start with one today but know that we’re just scratching the surface.

If you’re like most of us you need a better roadmap for understanding what procrastination is and how it functions in your life. John Gottman, one of the world's leading marriage researchers, suggests building a love map with your partner to endure over the long haul. I’d like to borrow the spirit of that idea to begin to map out ourselves. In the context of procrastination, I’d like to suggest we build a map of how things work in your life. Let’s name the roads you travel and the landmarks you pass when you put things off, defer the important things in your life, and make decisions that you told yourself you wouldn’t make again. Learning to recognize and name the parts of your personal process is a great way to gain some power over autopilot habits that seem to run even when you don’t want them to. It’s not the only part of the solution but it’s a great first step if you want to experience something new.

Try this:

What are the things in your life that you most procrastinate on?

What happens just before you procrastinate? What do you tell yourself?

What do you do when you’re procrastinating? What are your time wasters?

What happens after you procrastinate? Is there a story you tell yourself about what happened?

Does shame play a role in your process?

What do you think it means about you that you procrastinate?

What would you think of someone else who procrastinated like you do?

If you’re interested in going much deeper and growing out of the old patterns, consider signing up for Growing Out of Procrastination. You’ll get hilarious and compelling reading assignments, participate in a group of like minded people working towards the same goals you are, and have a chance to learn from other people’s experiences all while being coached by a professional and skilled facilitator — me!

Sign up for our e-course Growing Out of Procrastination.


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