Depressed and Procrastinating

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Reader’s Question

I am 30 years old on Tuesday, and the last 15 years of my life have been obliterated by procrastination. It has affected every single aspect of my life. It took me 6 years to finish a 3-year college degree because I couldn’t be bothered to attend classes or study. At school I didn’t study for exams or hand in work on time, I always made excuses, and it was a miracle I was allowed to graduate. I have been sacked from several jobs for poor performance, I always turned up late for work, and I spent too long surfing the web. I left my work till the last minute so it was rushed and very poor. My managers told me to improve my performance, but I couldn’t change my behavior. I am even engaged in this sort of behaviour in my current job, even though it took me months to find it. I am constantly stressed and worried that I will get sacked, but I don’t have the willpower to change.

It’s always my intention to do the work in a timely manner, and I even plan out my day — but I always end up ignoring my own plans and wasting my time. I even leave mail unopened for months and I sometimes don’t pay my rent on time because I cannot be bothered, even though I have the money to do so. I always think I will do it later, but I never do. I have purchased dozens of books on procrastination, but I have never read a single one. I always say to myself that I will, but it never happens.

Now I have reached 30 I have realized how much of my life I have wasted. What can I do to change? I feel so depressed and unhappy.

Psychologist’s Reply

You know, this question reminds me of this book I once bought on how to overcome procrastination, I just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. And although this may sound like a funny joke, it is actually a real issue in countless people’s lives. Sure it’s easier to put off until tomorrow what you could have done today, but after a while, the penalties for long term time-loitering get more and more dear. And although you insist that you simply do not have the willpower to change your ways in order to circumvent getting “canned” at work, I would suggest that you may be off the mark here. It just might be that you need a third party (other than your boss) to give you a little inspiration.

So let’s investigate a couple of possibilities for the reasons behind your putting-off behaviors. Many times, people get turned off to tackling tasks because they fear failure. Naturally, you can’t fail at something that you never attempted in the first place. But the failure inherent in not trying to get the job done can be just as damaging — if not more so, in certain cases.

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Also, another big feeder of the procrastination monster is the idea that one has to be in “the right mood” in order to get a task accomplished. It’s peculiar, but I know of many students who feel compelled to mop-n-glo the garage the day that a huge paper is due. I cannot tell you how many countless closets have not been organized in the past decade for lack of feeling the closet-make-over muse! You cannot wait for inspiration to come to you. You must command inspiration to appear — and that means now! If you still find yourself stuck, you may want to give this list of ‘symptoms’ to your physician; he or she may have an idea on how to go about treating this problem too. Good luck!

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