Procrastination & other expressions of anxiety

Before I get into my diatribe, I have to share this joke:  I’ve been meaning to post about procrastination but never got around to it…

I’ve had a problem with procrastination all my life.  I remember as a child staying up late many nights doing homework that had to be turned in the next day.  But I’ve never understood why I procrastinate.  I’ve always felt powerless trying to overcome it.

Recently, my therapist and I have touched on my issues with procrastination while discussing other stuff.  Her comments have prompted me to dig a little deeper into why I procrastinate and it looks like the more detrimental episodes of procrastination result from anxiety and avoiding stuff that provokes anxiety.

That makes sense historically; I remember one term in college where I flunked one course where the final grade was determined by the term project and another class that I got a C because the final grade was split 50/50 between exams and homework.  I was so anxious about my homework that I couldn’t bring myself to go in the labs to work on it. My grades mystified my professors and teaching assistants.  My exam scores were so much higher than everyone else’s, they deformed the curve so much it couldn’t be used to assign grades across the class.  Given my exam grades, they couldn’t fathom how I could possibly earn only a C final grade for the course.  If I turned in virtually any homework, I ought to have a B and given that I could score so high on the exams, I couldn’t possibly be that wrong on the homework.  The problem was that I couldn’t get myself to do the homework – My anxiety made it impossible to face the labs where it’s done.

This is a very insidious kind of problem to have because if something provokes anxiety, procrastinating  about it will make the problem worse which will cause even more anxiety.   It’s a vicious circle that starts almost before you know it; certainly before you can head it off.

I’ve been trying to think of ways to help me derail the procrastination when it becomes a problem.  But I haven’t come up with anything that will work in spite of the anxiety that triggers the procrastination.  So I’ll explore ways to deflate my anxiety that might enable me to oversome the resulting procrastination.  It seems like the anxiety is a bigger nut to crack than procrastination.  But it seems that I can’t face the procrastination when I’m severely anxious.  So I need to defuse the anxiety so that I have a clear enough mind to handle the procrastination.

Solving this problem might also help my daughter that appears to have inherited my anxiety tendencies.  Her anxieties can completely overwhelm her so much that she can’t get out of bed. Now that I see my own anxieties inside me, I need to let her know that she’s not alone, it’s not her failing and she can find a way to be okay with it in the long run.