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Breaking the Procrastination Doom Loop

We all procrastinate. I'm actually procrastinating as I write this. (Hello, pile of laundry!) And we all know the guilt that comes after putting things off. It's called the Procrastination Doom Loop. The Atlantic writes, "putting off an important task makes us feel anxious, guilty, and even ashamed... Anxiety, guilt, and shame make us less likely to have the emotional and cognitive energy to be productive. That makes us even less likely to begin the task, in the first place. Which makes us feel guilty. Which makes us less productive. And around we go."

Fortunately, there is a way to break the loop, but first we have to understand what procrastination is. "Productive people sometimes confuse the difference between reasonable delay and true procrastination. The former can be useful... The latter is, by definition, self-defeating," according to The Atlantic. I've been beating myself up lately for procrastinating on a GWD project that I've been wanting to start. But it suddenly hit me this morning - this isn't true procrastination. It's a "reasonable delay." I'll start the project when I have the resources and time to do it right.

Which brings me to another important issue: time. Some scientists suggest procrastination is less about time and more about emotion. Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, told Psychological Science that procrastination "really has nothing to do with time-management... To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”

(Hello again, pile of laundry. I really should fold all these clothes, but I don't feel like it.)

So, how do we break the Procrastination Doom Loop? With these 3 steps:


The Atlantic notes that some researchers "point out that people have a habit of managing goals and tasks in specific time categories—we plan activities by the day, expenses by the month, and resolutions by the year. This way of thinking can separate us from [our] future selves. When we say 'I’ll start that project next week,' or 'I’m starting my diet next month,' what we're really saying is 'I hope that after an arbitrary amount of time, I will be in a better mood to bind myself to this task.'


Give yourself a deadline and set a reminder to alert you when it's crunch time. You'll be much less likely to put off getting started.


Studies have shown that participants were more likely to begin and complete tasks when the work was presented as a game. I use games to get Trace to do his chores, and I even create small challenges within my own work to tap into my competitive side and keep myself motivated.

Click here for more on the Procrastination Doom Loop and how to break it.

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