Procrastination Addiction

Ideealistin has been at it again, generating interesting blog topics that is. This time she posed the question below and I am going to do my best to come up with some kind of solution or at least opinion on the subject. Wish me luck.

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Question to all the procrastinators out there:
Do you have a trick that works? I manage to get myself to action with a fixed date (e. g. I painted my living room 3 days before christmas when overnight guests were going to sleep there so I just had to get it done – and it actually took surprisingly little time). But the thing with the date usually only works for the visible things and the things I have to do (okay, I would not have needed to paint the room for guests but I sure needed to finish it and put everything in its’ right place again). For all the things I want to do e. g. decluttering and organizing paperwork which seems to be my arch enemy and no matter how much I try to convince myself that it is not so hard to get these things straight I find myself procrastinating over and over again. And – but this is probably a totally different topic – how do I get myself to finish, to go all the way, once I was smart enough to get started and to maybe break the task down in single steps? Though I probably got through some steps okay and realized they were easy or at least not too hard, I remain convinced the horrible thing is still to come. (Wow, now I sound mental ;-) ) Any tipps and tricks on that are welcome!

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Well Ideealistin this is how I see it. This may sound a little crazy but I think the best way to combat chronic procrastination is to go cold turkey. Like alcoholism, the only way to give it up is to avoid the temptation altogether. We make a conscious choice every time we decide to avoid a situation we don’t want to deal with, no different to when an alcoholic chooses to drink rather than face his demons. We know the consequences because we have played this game many times over and yet we handle the situation the same way every time. There is no cure for this problem only sheer determination to behave differently will keep you on the wagon. So in light of the similarities to addiction I have come up with a twelve step plan to keep us on the straight and narrow.

The Twelve Steps of Procrastinators Anonymous

  1. Recognise you have a habit of putting things off.
  2. When you find yourself procrastinating stop and analyse the situation.
  3. Try to pin point the unpleasant element/s of the task you are avoiding that is/are paralysing your will to execute.
  4. Formulate a plan of attack in order to minimise the unpleasant elements of the task.
  5. Do not change your focus to another task to avoid the one you are procrastinating over.
  6. Just get started, once the ball is rolling it may gather enough momentum of its own to keep going.
  7. Continue to take personal inventory and when you know you have strayed, promptly admitted it and get back on track.
  8. Seek guidance from another responsible person who may be able to help keep you on task.
  9. Do not make excuses for your behavior.
  10. Understand that the resulting quality of a task will suffer if crammed into the last fraction of time before a deadline.
  11. Made a list of a tasks that have suffered due to you not having enough time left to give them the attention to detail they deserved.
  12. Also remember the tasks of the past that weren’t nearly as bad as you had built them up to be in your head.

Ignorance is not bliss ~ Ignoring tasks will not make them go away and they will play on your mind until they are done. So the sooner you deal with them the sooner you can enjoy the freedom of having them over and done with.

Today’s Declutter Item

These pieces of poster board were still hanging around after the end of the children’s school days. They came back from America with us four years ago. I sent them to the thrift shop, I am sure they could either sell them or use them for their own purposes.

Poster board

My Gratitude List

  • Something that made me laugh ~ My friend Liz and I flitting from one subject to another and forgetting the train of the conversations because we had so much to say after not seeing each other for a few weeks.
  • Something Awesome ~ Knowing I don’t have to cook at the end of a busy day because there are leftovers in the fridge.
  • Something to be grateful for ~ I got all my scrapbook sale items together and price for my sale day today.
  • Something that made me happy ~ Sitting outside in the sun while I had my lunch yesterday.
  • Something I found fascinating ~ That I always find that every peanut M&M packet has one stale nut and one exceptionally good tasting nut among all the other ordinarily delicious ones.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. I like that list for procrastinating. One other thing is to have an accountability partner. I try to find someone who I can barter with. She holds me accountable for whatever I’m procrastinating about and I hold her accountable for whatever it is she needs me to. It works great.

    • Hi Deb,
      that is the intension of Step 8. Seek guidance from another responsible person who may be able to help keep you on task.. I think we all need someone cheering us on or pointing out our mistakes depending on our need.

  2. Colleen – Great list. I find it very amusing that you brought posterboard from the United States back to Australia! The things we will do to hold on to our stuff – at least until we know better.

    • Hi Donna,
      maybe I would have been more selective about shipping stuff if I had been paying for the shipping. I plan on pretending I am next time.

  3. I like the parallels you have drawn here, Colleen – it is so easy to procrastinate because there is an immediate payoff in doing something more fun or easier. But in the long run it is harmful; not only do we not get things done so it’s all still waiting for us, but we also start to think badly of ourselves. I have been guilty of this and I’m still struggling with it, but I am trying to learn the tools to improve.

    “Just do it” (i. e., don’t keep waiting to “feel like” doing it) is the best tool I’ve learned so far 🙂

    • Hi Jo,
      “Just do it” I think may be the only tool.

    • My daughters and I read a book about a girl who trained to be a housekeeper in Vienna in the late 1800s. The housekeepers were such hard workers, and only 1 Sunday off per month. The sentence, “Work was work and how you felt could wait until after you were finished” has stuck with me.

      • Hi Cindy,
        that sounds like a good creed to work by. Lets face it how hard the work is directly affected by the attitude with which you approach it.

  4. Hi Colleen! You have written this post for me 😀 !!!! I am a founding memeber of “Procrastinanting Every Time” and it has given me loads of headaches ;-). Now I am joining you all here at “Procrastinators Anonymous” , so I can overcame my greatest vice. I have had tasks that had less than good results because of my habit of putting it off until I had almost no time. I do work better under pressure, but as I have decluttered I discovered that I work even better without pressure and with plenty of time to adjust. So your list came to strengthen my resolve. I have to admit that I am still procrastinating on getting the shelves of my wardrobe cleared. Never said I was perfect 😀 😀 😀 😀

    • hi Andréia,
      I think that wardrobe is the perfect task for you to prove to me you can concur procrastination. So get to it minha amega.

  5. And Colleen, by the way you are my accountable partner as step n.8 says: “Seek guidance from another responsible person who may be able to help keep you on task.” You were just glaring at me from the other side of the world but it got my office cleaned up real fast 😀 !!! So our responsible person doesn’t need to be at our house and, as i have discovered much to my delight (and anguish sometimes) not even in the same city, or country or continent… 😀 😀 :-D. They just have to be there for you. Thanks!!!

  6. Calico ginger

    You spurred me on to stop procrastinating about figuring out gravitar… but did it work?

    • Calico ginger

      Yes! I can clean that email box out properly now….

    • Hi Calico ginger,
      yes it did work. I only wish clicking on the gravitars would make them bigger so they can be seen better.

    • And once again, mine seems to have disappeared. This is frustrating to me. I prefer if things either work or do not work. But work sometimes, not sometimes… grrrr.

      • Hi Cindy,
        I have discovered your gravitar problem. The gravitar is linked to your email address and you aren’t always using the same address.

  7. just a little hint:

    Don’t read blog posts about Procrastination if you are procrastinating at the same time.

    (I should go back to work 😉

    • hi Sarah,
      is that a confession?

      • You got me. It is.

        But today I will reduce my todo list from 18 to 15 items. And there will be no lame excuse!
        (I read somewhere that an open announcement will help to achieve the goal. Let’s try it.)

        • Good luck Sarah I hope you get so enthused that you reduce that list to 10.

          • Almost. I reduced the list to 13. I always fight with the list.
            I have a lot of huge projects on it like writing my dissertation. (To break it in little steps doesn’t help. For every step I’ve done I have to write the next one on the list. And it doesn’t make sense to write a new list again and again. I’m working with percent now. eg. dissertation 10% done.)

            There are also things I can’t do because someone else must do something first. For example, I have to check if XY has transferred money before I do a job for him. And I can’t remove it from the list because every time I look, the money still missing.

            I’ve tried other systems but I haven’t found a good one yet.
            To reduce commitments is a bigger challenge for me than reducing clutter.

            • Hi Sarah,
              trust me Sarah, no ever runs out of things on their to-do list. My Children are almost 22 & 20 and I don’t have a job outside the home anymore and yet my to-do list is still endless. There are only so many hours in the day and it is up to us how we use them. Trying to achieve things where other people are involved can be very frustrating when they aren’t cooperating as you would like. We can only do our best and keep soldiering on.

              • You’re right.
                It’s always the same point where I am struggling. I was quite good in making two hours out of one until it nearly broke me. Then I started decluttering. It helped but not enough.
                First I had to learn that I have to declutter my perfectionism, my hobbies, my commitments, my demands…
                Or I should say I STILL have to…

                (Getting rid of material things was somehow a masking for the real problem.)

                But I must not speak so negative because I’m feeling much better since starting the way to an easy but happy live. Less worry about material AND not material things more space and time to enjoy life.

                And blogs like your blog are helping to improve.

                • Hi Sarah,
                  Expecting too much from yourself and giving too much of yourself can leave you emotionally bankrupt so I am glad you are slowly learning to take it easier on yourself. I am glad you are finding good advice in the blog world. Be good to yourself is my good advice to you.

  8. Hi Readers,
    had the car today and have been out and about all day decluttering. From 8:30 to 1pm spent travelling to and from and selling scrapbook supplies. Made $230 and lots of space. Came home had a quick lunch the went out again to deliver my decluttered trophies to the trophy shop and a load of stuff to the thrift shop. Had to do some grocery shopping while I was out and now it is 4:30. Having a quick cuppa to regain my sanity and then have to cook dinner. After dinner I will try to get to all your wonderful comments so sorry I haven’t responded yet.

    • Fantastic! Are you pleased with $230. That sounds like A LOT of scrapbook materials released onto the unsuspecting Australian population to me.

      • Hi Cindy,
        I am just happy to be rid of it. The ladies had their turn to buy, then the lady who had the sale for me and runs the craft group chose items for the craft group and then I donated nearly all that was left to the group. I didn’t bring much home. I will donate the paper that didn’t sell to the school up the street.

  9. Wow, just read your day report – no procrastination for you there, so I better take your advice serious! However I have such a good excuse to lay things off for a couple of days (invitation out of town/3 day trip). But I’ll sure return to this post and learn it by heart when I’m back.

    • Hi Ideealistin,
      I hadn’t actually planned to get to this so soon but since I had been thinking about a lot during that day I thought I may as well get it down while it was fresh in my head. I was tackling my most procrastinated about declutter task at the time so I had plenty of food for thought.

      Have a nice three day break and we expect you back fresh and ready to tackle next week’s mini missions.

  10. A colleague had „The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done“ lying around on his desk today … A sign? With three days out of town at my hands, I borrowed it right away.

  11. Wow, well done on the scrap book sales colleen!

    As for procrastinating – I am doing a creativity course at the mo, (based on the book The Artists Way) and one of this weeks tasks is to not use the internet for a week and see what you do with your time instead (hopefuly stop procrastination on the creative dreams).
    So it’s bye for now and see you in a week.

    • Good for you Katharine. The internet can take up a lot of precious minutes in a day. Enjoy your course, it sounds like fun.

  12. This post is so relevant to me. Yes, it’s true – there are similarities to addiction and I like your title ‘Twelve Steps to Procrastinators Anonymous.’ My procrastination gets me down and I’ve been thinking lately about it and wondering if there’s something wrong with me – other people seem to achieve more and I keep ‘putting off’ and suffering the consequences. Like Ideealism when I do get started I also leave things unfinished. Then when I come back to it, so much time has passed I’ve forgotten the information I require. Your twelve steps seem to make sense. I have no trouble recognising that I have a problem so I should be able to follow the remaining 11 steps! I’m a Procrastinator!

    • Hi Lena C, I am so glad this post was helpful to you. We all have a little procrastination in us, I know I do. It is such a futile pastime too because the result of doing nothing is the same as the feelings we have that make us avoid the task in the first place. The only difference is that if we face up to the first yucky feeling and just tackle the task it is then over and done with and we can be happy with ourselves. When we don’t do the task we continue to feel bad for a much longer length of time. Best to just get on with it.

      Quite often I feel that procrastination is a result of not feeling confident about ones ability to perform a certain task. Not knowing where to begin, what comes next and how to do the task efficiently. If you find you are avoiding the same sort of challenges over and over perhaps it is time to get a little tuition on this particular kind of task. Maybe even just google for advice and implement what you learn. Or perhaps even break the task down into more palatable bites. Incremental progress is better than no progress.

      Take decluttering a messy guest room for instance. Things have been piling up in there for ages to the point where you the floor is no longer visible and God only knows what is in the back of the cupboards. The whole task doesn’t have to be done at once. Just pledge to remove one thing a day. One thing is better than nothing right. Once a metre of space in the door way is visible the next metre seems doable then the next and the next. Before you know it you are pulling out ten, twenty things a day and feeling like a organisational expert. Learning as you go and getting better at it.

      However some things are just unpleasant no matter what and it is best just to get them behind you.