The clock talked loud.  I threw it away,

it scared me what it talked.

                ~Tillie Olsen


Having realized that I had not added a new entry into my blog since Father’s Day, I suddenly became inspired with the topic at hand.


I meet many people these days that are self-diagnosed as “procrastinators.” When I ask them WHY they procrastinate, some report 1) fear of not succeeding with the task they have to do (wanting to make sure that it will be completely successful first), or state 2) I have to be in the “right frame of mind” before I can start. Often we prolong what we have to do telling ourselves, “it’s just too much work and it SHOULDN’T BE!”


When you have to be sure it will be successful first, you likely result in you putting off your task because when will you really have that guarantee that it will be successful? You never will have that guarantee. Sure, get your thoughts together and make a plan, but don’t wait for complete certainty because that is surely a recipe for procrastination.

In regards to having to be in the right frame of mind before you may begin a task, if you wait until your frame of mind is right, you may miss the best time to act. Actually you may get into a better frame of mind once you START that task. When I wake up at 5:30 in the morning sure I am in the right frame of mind to hit snooze and go back to sleep for another hour, but once I work against my sleepy frame of mind and start exercising, my frmae of mind changes and I enjoy having engaged in what I had planned to do. I changed my frame of mind because as humans we have the power to do that. Isn’t that a beautiful thing!


With further exploration into procrastination, we tend to find that is not fear or anxiety as much as it is ANGER that is responsible for putting off the inevitable. Procrastination tends to come with such thoughts as:

“I should n’t have to work under these constraints!”

“It shouldn’t be so hard.”

“It’s awful to have to deal with it.”


There is often an unconscious or conscious anger that a “due date” for a task is put on us and we “don’t feel we should have to deal with it!” We often tell ourselves it’s awful and that we cannot tolerate addressing it at thistime….so we avoid, avoid, avoid. We surf the internet, clean out our old email, play video games, watch television, talk on the phone, text, go on facebook in rebellion against the restraints….and who is getting hurt by all this avoidance??…..US!  It is amazing to think we tell ourselves we shouldn’t have that constraint, it shouldn’t be so hard, we have to be in the right frame of mind  – when it is not helpful for us to do so (it’s actually hurtful).  When looking at these procrastination philosophies closer, these anti-time philosophies do not really make sense because though we don’t want a time-constraint put on us, it doesn’t logically follow that we  therefore shouldn’t have one.  Also, when thinking critically, there is no real evidence that though we wish to live without time-limits put on us, that we therefore shouldn’t have to meet any. Our society is built on time. We want to be paid on time. We want out loved ones to acknowledge our special occasions on time. Why should we be immune from it?


Part II: Lateness Procrastination

Are you one of the millions who show up late for appointments and meetings? Do you leave friends waiting for you to arrive at the movies after the show has begun? Do you arrive at parties as the other guests are leaving? This is the lateness procrastination pattern. Like a chameleon, it changes:

  • People caught in this last-minute procrastination pattern often act like their priority was to get “little things” out of the way before they depart. You may wash, shower, fix your hair, or tidy a room at the time you need to leave. You may sip a second cup of coffee rather than get ready. You may make that phone call to a long-winded friend. In these instances, you have lost sight of your priority, which is to get to where you are going on time.


  • You make some preparatory efforts to get organized so that you can leave on time. Then you underestimate the time it takes to put on your coat, go to the garage to get the automobile, and so forth. A perpetual optimist, you believe that you’ll make all the lights, and traffic will be light. You arrive fifteen minutes late, blaming traffic.


  • Some fall into this last-minute pattern when they don’t take time to organize themselves. The time comes to depart, and we find such persons rushing about looking for keys, packing, finishing last-minute work, and trying to find a copy of the report they just put down.


  • Suppose you hate to wait. You really don’t want to get to your destination early because you don’t think you will know what to do with yourself during the time between your arrival and the event. So you dilly-dally just long enough to make yourself late, usually so late that you feel embarrassed.


  • A lateness procrastination pattern can reflect a trace procrastination condition. This is a form of procrastination that once served a purpose. It exists, so to speak, because it has existed. You were, say, socially anxious five years ago. Diversionary delays once slowed your appearance at social situations and avoiding these situations provided a temporary relief. But this is no longer an issue. You even look forward to meeting with new people, as well as with old friends. You really do want to get to places on time or before time. You know the benefits and feel good when you reach your destination without rushing in breathlessly. But the lateness habit is now so well practiced that you retrace the old ways even when you want to adopt new ways.


Lateness procrastination is among the most frustrating procrastination styles. If you feel harried by a lateness-procrastination pattern, position yourself to change it. To set the stage for this choice, explore the sequence you follow when you are involved in this pattern. What happens first, second, and third? What is the typical result of the lateness procrastination habit? What can you do to break the cycle at each of the points in this process? For example, you can choose to ignore last minute tidying until after you return from your destination. You can plan to leave with time to spare so you can get to your destination fifteen minutes early. You may find that ignoring last minute distractions is more an advantage than a disadvantage. This progressive effort keeps you in focus on the priority of getting to places on time. This effort requires concentration, but it pays off in lessening the amount of time you feel frazzled, rushed, and embarrassed by being late again. An important reward for getting places on time is the control that comes from knowing you no longer fritter away time in busywork, and you can accurately estimate the time it takes to get to different places on time. Use the following exercise to get that reward, starting now.


Lateness Procrastination and You

1. What is your most pressing lateness procrastination challenge?


2. What do you typically do to avoid the challenge?


3. What do you tell yourself to justify the delay?


4. What actions will you take to follow through to meet the challenge?


In lateness-procrastination patterns, you engage in a flurry of busywork activities that probably don’t do much to allay tension. The result of these distractions is to produce a feeling of being rushed. Release from this pattern can feel liberating.

If you have any thoughts or questions about procrastination or anything else on my website- don’t put if off  (irony intended )-feel free to send me an email or give me a call.


Dr. Paul DePompo

Tel: 949.300.1952