Procrastination and Mental Health
Procrastination can become a persistent, chronic, and debilitating problem for some people and can lead to significant psychosocial dysfunction. This is especially true for individuals who already have an established diagnostic psychiatric disorder including depression, a generalized anxiety disorder, a panic disorder, a perfectionist personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, or chemical dependency. Many people with psychiatric disorders have chronic low self esteem; they frequently feel worthless, helpless, and/or hopeless. They are also prone to excessive worry, panic, and catastrophization. No matter how maladaptive, for the mentally ill, procrastination becomes a coping skill that often brings a temporary relief from the perceived pressures in their lives.
While procrastination is considered a behavioral condition, people with underlying mental health disorders can be effectively treated with therapy and medication. Individuals who battle with chronic procrastination should be encouraged to see a trained therapist or psychiatrist to determine if mental illness is contributing to their procrastination.
Tips to Reduce Procrastination
You were not born a procrastinator; procrastination is a learned behavior. Yes, you can change your behavior, but it will take some effort; actually a lot of work if you are a chronic procrastinator. Buying yourself a day planner with no other interventions is about as effective as telling a depressed person to cheer up.
The Three Most Important Tips
Just get started. Don't waste any more time thinking about or planning the task. All that mental anguish just provides another avenue to avoid the work. Just do it, and do in now. Sure, you don't want to do it, and facing the task can bring on a slew of negative feelings. Get over it. You probably need a kick in the butt to get going. If there is no one to kick your hind side, do it yourself. No, you don't need to be in the mood to do this. There is no guarantee that you will be in the right mood in two hours or tomorrow. No, you are not more likely to be creative on Thursday than you are right now. Stop trying to make yourself feel better or more creative, just do the work.
Stop lying to yourself, be honest. If you are a procrastinator it's time to face it. No more self-deception. Rechecking your e-mail, watching your favorite television show, or any other excuse to postpone your work just doesn't cut it.
Rethink your time frame. If you think it will take an hour to do the project, leave two hours. Stop telling yourself you have two more days to do the work; something else will invariably come up if you keep postponing the task.
Ten Step by Step Instructions to Get You Started
- Make a list of everything you have to do.
- Prioritize that list.
- Eliminate tasks that you never plan to do. Be honest with yourself.
- Write a statement of intent to complete the tasks on the list.
- Set realistic goals, jot these down.
- Break it down into specific and meaningful tasks.
- Don't stop working on a task until it is complete.
- Turn off the radio, television, telephone. Only use your computer for the task at hand.
- Promise yourself a reward.
- Estimate the amount of time you think it will take you to complete the task, and then double it.
There are certainly professions where procrastination is more detrimental than in other careers. It is difficult to be a successful medical professional, accountant, broker, or lawyer if you are prone to procrastination. LEOs are no different. There are cases that need immediate response, timely evidence collection, and prompt reporting to file with the DA. Postponing even nuisance reports can backfire. There is always a chance that your memory will not recall all that you saw or heard three days ago. I haven't met too many deputies or officers who actually relish the idea of writing a long report, only to have it redlined by their supervisor. However, all reports need to be done efficiently and accurately. If you are one of those officers who frequently breaks from a dispatched paper call, to handle a trivial matter (hoping that someone else will offer up for the original call), STOP IT. No one appreciates a slug. Any procrastination in a law enforcement agency can negatively affect all other team members, including supervisors. There are some people you just don't want breathing down your neck.