“I’ve been meaning to come and see you for ages” Jackie* told me, “but…” “But life gets in the way?” I asked. “No, I just keep putting it off”. Which was exactly what Jackie wanted to see me about -procrastinating.
“What’s made me come now is that things have come to a head. It’s reached the point where I can’t ignore it any more. Do you think that you can help me?”
Procrastinating is a very common habit. Most of us at some point put something off until later. And it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes we need more time to do something else first, or to find something out.
But when procrastination starts to affect our lives for the worse, making it difficult or miserable, then it’s time to do something about it. And that’s the point Jackie had reached.
“I think I’ve always left things to the last minute, but I’ve realised lately how it’s affected my life over the years. All the way back from school, and revising and homework, through work, and even my personal life.”
“At work I’m getting into trouble because the work they’re giving me to do gets left right to the last minute, and then I have to rush to get it done. And then there’s not enough time to do it as well as I want to, or could have done.”
“And at home it’s costing me money I can’t afford. I didn’t book the girls’ holiday until the last minute and the flights and the accommodation had both gone up. But I was so embarrassed I couldn’t ask the others for the extra money, so I ended up paying for it myself. It’s getting worse and it needs to stop, but I’ve been like this all my life.”
There are some fairly common reasons for people procrastinating. It can be about status, especially when we’re worried that the work we have to do, or the people we have to speak to, are too ‘high-up’ for us. The opposite can apply as well though, and people can resist things that they think are ‘beneath’ them.
That brings us to the idea of anger, and procrastination at work can be a passive-aggressive habit. Equally though it can be a way of injecting motivation into the day by adding jeopardy or excitement into an otherwise uninteresting task.
What underpins all of these though is resistance – but that doesn’t mean that the resistance is about the specific task we’re procrastinating about. In that way it’s like a phobia. The fear that an event triggers – say a phobia of spiders – can be very different to the event itself – a car accident or a difficult flight.
That meant that we didn’t have to take Jackie back to find the cause of her resistance. We didn’t need to plough back over the years in school, or starting work. Instead we could deal with the resistance that Jackie felt now, and help her to see a different, more productive future.
Teaching her how to let go of that resistance was very straightforward, especially when we helped Jackie to experience the success of getting stuff done, and feeling on top of things for once. It wasn’t long before Jackie saw a real difference – not just in her behaviour but more importantly in the way she felt about herself.
“It’s like a weight has been lifted. All the guilt I felt doing things when there were other thing to be done has gone. I’d forgotten what it was to really enjoy myself for so long.”
*Jackie is happy to share their story, and their identity has been protected
If you found this look at hypnotherapy for procrastinating interesting then why not sign up for my monthly newsletter here with three stories every month on the quirky side of psychology and relationships.