I feel like I’m the worst procrastinator. Some days at work I put off tasks off for the longest time, and get caught up in mindlessly surfing the web. Then I wake up in the mornings stressed out, thinking about the things I haven’t done, but once I get to the office, the stress goes away, and again I’m wasting time.

Not every day is like this, but there are those more than occasional ruts. If something urgent comes along, I’ll do it lickety-split. It’s those things that people aren’t hounding me for, that aren’t urgent, and that involve some unpleasantness – whether in the activity itself or in association with unpleasant individuals – that I put off.

I don’t think I’m this way with my writing. Although I’ll go for long stretches without writing, there isn’t the same stress involved. And if I have a deadline, even if I wait till the last minute, I don’t have that same feeling of procrastination because I’ve gotten it done. For some reason, there’s not that feeling of dread.

When I was writing my novel in a month, there were times I felt like I was procrastinating but really I was just taking a break. Breaks are needed. And besides, I got in my word count.

In college I was horrible about waiting till the very last minute for papers, and since I was an English major, I had to write a shitload of them. Once – and my friend SB can attest to this – I waited till after midnight to begin a 25-page paper that was due that morning. All night I wandered in and out of SB’s room, and each time she’d say, increduously, “You still haven’t started it?”

I got an A, by the way.

There were times I’d try to start earlier, but then it still took me up till the last minute. I probably fussed over things too much, thought about it too much, and usually ended up doing worse. With last minute, you’ve no choice but to fly by the seat of your pants, and if you don’t do well, then you can attribute it to doing it at the last minute.

Again, I wasn’t that way with creative writing. Clearly I’m not that way with activities I enjoy.

According to Wikipedia, there are two types of procrastinators, the relaxed type and the tense-afraid type. I’m definitely the former, viewing my “responsibilities negatively and avoid[ing] them by directing energy into other tasks” (um, like this post). Also, the “procrastinator avoids situations that would cause displeasure, indulging instead in more enjoyable activities.”
The tense-afraid type is more of a perfectionist, which I’m definitely not, and “feels overwhelmed by pressure, unrealistic about time, uncertain about goals.” My roommate sophomore year was like this.

I like this website. It has a test you can take to see to what degree of a procrastinator you are, possible reasons behind your behavior, and how you can overcome it. I’m not as bad as I thought, a Moderate Procrastinator:

That is, when it comes to putting things off, you do so at times even though you know you shouldn’t. Likely, you are about average in conscientiousness and self-discipline. Probably, your work doesn’t consistently engage you or perhaps you are surrounded by a few easily available and more pleasant temptations. These temptations may initially seem rewarding, but in the longer-term, you possibly see a few of them as time-wasters. Though you likely still get your work done, you could probably do it sooner and experience less stress.

The tips offered are around goal setting, stimulus control, and routines. I know about goal setting and there’s not much I can do about stimulus control at work, but the suggestions on routines is helpful:

Things are much easier to do when we get into a habit of them, whether it is work, exercise, or errands. If you schedule some of those tasks you are presently procrastinating upon so that they occur on a regular schedule, they become easier. . . .Eventually, like brushing your teeth, it will likely become something you just do, not taking much effort at all. . . .Your routine gets stronger every time you follow it. It also gets weaker every time you don’t.

I’d never connected the routine of exercise – which I almost always do without thinking – to the routine of work. There are certain work tasks that I despise and consistently put off, and end up spending a full two or three days every few months completing them. I need to integrate them into a regular routine so that I’m working on them a few hours every week instead.

When I have tasks that I know will probably involve roadblocks, whether with a system or people, I put them off so that things that take a long time because of the roadblocks, end up taking even longer because I put them off. It’s horrible.

But once I start the task, I’ve no problem concentrating and keeping at it till it’s done. It’s just a matter of starting.

Guess I should get to it.


  1. hehe. i’m really good at putting things off if there are more fun things to do. like playing video games or web surfing!

    focus! daniel-san focus!

  2. yeah, like that “wordy” video game you posted about it. now i’m totally addicted!

  3. I have the same problem. I’m fine once I start doing something, but it takes me forever to start. Ultimately, I think that procrastination is an important part of the writing process. As long as you’re able to get something written, then it doesn’t really matter how much time you waste before you write.