Overcoming Procrastination - Lawyers Assistance Program of British

Presented by the Lawyers
Assistance Program
April 23rd 2010
Facilitated by Robert Bircher
• I believe the first step in overcoming
procrastination is understanding the
dynamics of your own relationship
with it
• Simply viewing it as a “bad habit to be
shunned and gotten rid of” usually
guarantees its perpetuity in your life-if
this worked almost no one would
• In fact having a negative view of your
procrastination may actually be part of
the syndrome
• There are intra-psychic (internal
thinking) and inter-psychic (involving
others) elements
• What is procrastinating? Most
people would define it as “not
doing what they should be doing
in a timely manner” or “putting
tasks off to the last possible
• Theoretically, it is not possible to
procrastinate since there are an
infinite number of things you
could be working on.
• You could be doing nothing,
something more important or
something less important.
• What do you procrastinate? Probably not
things you like to do.
• Also what is wrong with prioritizing? Is doing
nothing/taking it easy bad?
• If you procrastinate unimportant things to do
more important things is this actually a
• For some people, that have a clear purpose
and values in life procrastination is valuable
and necessary to achieve a goal-for example a
friend of mine dropped almost everything in
his life for several years to win a gold medal
at the Olympics
• For some people over-commitment is an issue
and they need to procrastinate more i.e. their
problem is lack of clarity of what is most
important in life
• For some the real problem is indecisivenessinability to make decisions
• For many it is faulty internal thinking
• For lawyers procrastination can be a huge
problem-and can result in damage to career,
reputation and clients. Paradoxically, it is
worse in lawyers that are busy and successfulthey have a lot more to put off!!
• There are simple reasons and deep
psychological reasons for it-it is learned
behavior which means you probably learned
it in your family of origin and can therefore
unlearn it
• Lets do the Understanding Procrastination
Discussion Questions exercise
Benefits of
• In one sense the explanation for
procrastination is the same for
everyone -the benefits of doing it
outweigh the disadvantages!
• Many people have trouble
understanding this –they see no
benefits, but in fact there are many-not
seeing them is a trick our mind plays
on us
• The benefits may be –I can avoid doing
something unpleasant or tedious or I
can avoid feeling upset or fearful
Benefits of
• I can do brainless or easy things
like watch TV, it's fun and very,
very safe to do nothing (how can
you fail at watching TV?)I can be
a prince or princess who is special
and doesn’t have to do hard work,
I get to be passive and helpless,
(maybe someone else will do it) I
don’t have to risk appearing
foolish, in fact I don’t have to take
any risk at all!
Procrastination Profile
• Everyone has a unique profile of what things
they tend to procrastinate and there is often a
theme running through them
• I procrastinate anything I judge to be tedious
or dislike-I hate math so income tax or
accounting is something I am guaranteed to
procrastinate-I never procrastinate things I
like –my dance or art classes for example
• Legal examples would be procrastinating files
where I don’t like the client or opposing
counsel or I am not likely to be paid in full
• What themes do you notice? ie You
procrastinate files where you are unlikely to
be paid
• Lets do My Procrastination Profile now
What am I
• We can divide our procrastinating into
“Big Time” or “Small Time”
• Small Time -refers to things that are a
minor factor in our lives (mowing the
lawn, cleaning the car etc.)-it won’t
really make much difference in your
life one way or the other
• Big Time-refers to things that if you
did them it would make a big
difference in your life (changing jobs,
getting in/out of a relationship, losing
weight/getting fit, moving etc)
• Lets complete the “What am I
Procrastinating” form now
Procrastination Test
• The Burns test will be helpful to
identify what cognitive distortions fuel
your procrastination-lets do it now!
• The most common causes are internal
cognitions that delay or justify
inaction-they are errors in thinking
• After the test read ‘Why People
Procrastinate?” in the areas where you
scored 3 or more-if you scored 5 or 6
your core belief here has cognitive
distortions in it
• After you do the test you will know the
areas you need to work on-everyone is
Cognitive Behavioral
Approaches to Procrastination
• Look at your scores on the
procrastination test-you need to work
on the areas where your score is a 4, 5
or 6 (otherwise work on the highest
• What these high scores mean is that
you have a belief system (or cluster of
thoughts and feelings) that creates
(manifests as) procrastination-until you
change your thinking the
procrastination is inevitable-beating up
on yourself will not change your
• How do you change your mind?basically through cognitive behavioral
CBT-and Procrastination
• Recognizing your cognitive distortions and
changing your mind is critical to ending
• WARNING-These old thought patterns
and will resist change vigorously!!
• Changing your story about any of these
reduces procrastination automaticallyExample-if I believe I must do something
then I will get in the mood for it- rather than
the other way around I have just multiplied
my chances of doing it many fold
• If you have done the procrastination test and
score a 5 or 6 in any of these-you will
probably only end your procrastination
when you change your mind set
• Your mind usually doesn’t like changing
cherished beliefs so EXPECT DELAYS!
Top 10 Cognitive Distortions
• Putting the cart before the horse another way of saying this is believing
you need to feel like it first or “I’m not
in the mood for it”-the problem is you
will never be in the mood to do boring
or unpleasant tasks.
• Motivation comes after action
• You must start doing something to
become motivated to do it-Action
begets Motivation!
• Do it then feel like it- is a better way
of thinking it
Mastery Model
• This is the belief that things are achieved
without frustration, self doubt and failure
• This is quitting even after the smallest setback
or problem
• If you expect problems, when they inevitably
happen you are not surprised
• The remedy is the belief that “nothing is as
easy as it looks-everything takes longer than
you think”-or Murphy's law- “if anything can
go wrong, it will go wrong-and at the worst
possible moment” and that’s OK
• See also #10 lack of desire if you are
climbing the ladder of success and it is up
against the wrong wall, procrastination is a
symptom not a problem
Fear of Failure
• People who procrastinate think they are
“lazy” or “irresponsible” - most lawyers are
the opposite-success is so important that
rather than risk failure you do nothing at all
• You can’t fail watching TV!!-which is why it
is such a great time waster
• If your self esteem is hooked to your
accomplishments when you fail at work you
fail as a person-the stakes are too high so you
avoid doing anything that might not work out
• Dancing lessons/A new job –better not try
that –I might look foolish-you may find
yourself unwilling to try new things due fear
of failure
• Probably the most insidious and
common cause of procrastination in
lawyers-we will devote more time to it
• The belief that that we should always
try and do things perfectly is a
common family value-especially in the
families of many lawyers-unfortunately
this belief has a very dark side to it
• It becomes manifested as “If I can’t do
this well (read perfectly) I won’t do it
at all" since few things turn out
perfectly it means a lot doesn’t get
done-since I can’t do it perfectly!
• One of the problems with
perfectionism is that the culture sees it
as a good, even a desirable thing-when
in fact it is actually an unhealthy
neurosis-addictive, habitual and
difficult to stop
• People believe it motivates them to
produce more or better and without this
many believe they would become
ineffective, lazy or useless
• See the materials on Perfectionism vs.
The Healthy Pursuit of Excellence –
one theme is that in pursuing
excellence you are motivated by desire
and enthusiasm rather than fear
Lack of Rewards
• If you believe nothing you ever do is
good enough, life becomes a joyless
treadmill. If you set yourself up so that
you “never make it” in your own eyes
there is little incentive to carry on
• Procrastinators are great at discounting
the value of what they do
• A feeling of excitement, reward and
satisfaction is a great motivating forceif you allow yourself to experience it!
• If you feel you can never do anything
good enough-why bother to try?
Should Statements
• I should do x,I ought to get going on
that. These types of statements will
make you guilty and resentful
• The guilt and resentment can actually
prevent you from doing it
• Better to use “I could” or “I choose to”
or “choose not to” or “It would be to
my advantage to” this avoids the
negativity and is in fact more accurate
• Who on earth says you “should’ clean
your desk? Do you actually want to?
Passive Aggressiveness
• This is about a fear of direct expression
of negative feelings. It is being
annoyed or angry with someone but
pushing it down, or not showing it
since you believe it is not nice to be
• The anger usually oozes out indirectlyyou “forget” to return a call, you show
up late or “forget the appointment”,
you “forget” to do something because
you are annoyed with the person. In
lawyers this shows up by delaying or
not answering calls of clients/lawyers
you don’t like-failing to answer a law
society letter-failing to file tax forms
• This is about saying yes when you
really meant to say no-a fear of saying
no to someone-like a client or superior
• You may believe you should meet
others expectations and base too much
of your self esteem on what others
think of you
• Poor boundaries, fear that by setting a
boundary people won’t like you-you
may be terrified of disapproval or
criticism so you say “yes I will help
you move on Saturday”-when Saturday
comes you look for excuses not to do it
Coercion Sensitivity
• You may procrastinate because
you feel pushed into doing
something you don’t want to do.
Your inner rebel becomes
• If this is the case the
procrastination is an indirect way
of expressing your annoyance
with the person who is nagging
Lack of Desire
• This may seem obvious but it is
very very subtle-it is the most
common cause of procrastinationyou simply don’t want to do what
you are putting off
• Rather than admit this you may
think “I am a lazy procrastinator”
rather than simply saying I don’t
want to do it.
• This is related to “should”
Lack of Desire
• It may be not a high priority, it may not
be wise to do it, it may be the wrong
path entirely, even though others may
think it is a great goal
• The reality may be your procrastination
may be a healthy response you need to
listen to
• Some lawyers have an attitude that “it
has to be hard to be good”-”if I am
miserable this is good because I am
suffering my way to greatness”
• Or “anything worthwhile requires hard
work and effort-fun isn’t part of it”
Lack of Desire
• The problem with these ideas is that it
shuts off/dismisses feedback from your
unconscious-you are climbing the
ladder of success but your ladder is up
against the wrong wall
• This the case with some lawyers who
are so determined to suffer they don’t
seek what they would love to do
• For these people a better mantra is “if
it ain’t easy its impossible” or “go with
the flow of life not against it” most
super successful people absolutely love
what they do and wouldn’t call it work
Lack of Desire
• It is very easy to have someone else's
idea of a life!! i.e. Mom, Dad, partner,
What the culture wants etc
• Laziness and lack of effort are very
rare with lawyers-most are
overachievers not underachievers-so
having your ladder up against the
wrong wall and suffering and working
very hard to achieve what you don’t
want is fairly uncommon
• Accordingly sometimes (maybe even
often) procrastination is the universe
telling you to stop and check to see if
this what you really want
The End of
OK folks this is it!-The magic Bullet!
• You end procrastinating not when you
do x-you end procrastination when you
make a real decision to do it or to not
do it (now or ever) or to delegate it
Your procrastination about x is over
when you make a real decision!!!
• Procrastination is actually just a logical
decision-if you are honest about the
benefits of it!!
What Works
• Procrastination is a choice, whether it is a
good or bad choice depends on how well you
understand your values or priorities and how
good a decision maker you are
• Beating yourself up, hoping your personality
will change, relying on will power or
believing you either do it or you are a failure,
hoping to cure your “bad habit” won’t work
• Knowing what you are likely to procrastinate
will work, realizing it is a choice and a
decision needs to be made will work,
removing cognitive distortions will work
(changing how you think about it) Realizing
you procrastinate very specific things will
work (themes) Realizing you don’t
procrastinate everything is helpful
The Benefits of
• Lets do a cost –benefit analysis of
something you are procrastinating
• There are many many benefits to
• It is easy, safe and effortless
• You can avoid anxiety, do something
more fun, avoid risks, avoid tedium
• There can be many hidden benefits as
revealed by the handout on Why Do
People Procrastinate?-revenge,
avoiding failure or mediocrity etc.
Procrastination is about
Making Choices
• Some people actually don’t have a
problem with procrastination they
actually are poor decision makersthe indecisiveness looks like
delaying doing the task
• This is so common we will do a
whole session on it
• Also if you are honest about the
costs/benefits to you-you can
change your mind and make a
different choice
Doing it
• If your decision is to do it and it is a
good decision -goal setting is helpful-it
doesn’t need to be complicated
• Step one is to clean up your cognitive
distortions (see “why people
procrastinate”)-if you are hooked in to
any of these you will automatically self
sabotage-No amount of goal setting or
time management will work unless this
has been done
• Step two-make a plan and set a goal
• A simple goal setting system is
SMART goal setting
SMART Goal Setting
• Small and Simple-steps need to be easygrandiosity is deadly here-the way to climb
Mount Everest is one step at a time
• Measurable-results should be tangible and
measurable by anyone-”I want to lose
weight” is not a goal it is a wish-I will lose 4
pounds by the end of January is a goal
• Achievable-Is this something that is going to
happen?-”I am going to run a marathon next
month starting from being out of shape” is
unrealistic and worse than useless since you
have just built in failure and will hurt yourself
with the failure
SMART Goal Setting
• Rational-is this consistent with your
life goals and purpose? Is it important?
(one friend of mine says that if it is not
going to mentioned in your obituary-it
is not important)
• Time bound-When are you going to do
this? Simply putting down an exact
time increases your chances of
completion many times over
• As you can see making a real decision
is a critical part of procrastination some
peoples’ problem is not actually
procrastination but an inability to be
decisive (a separate and also insidious
Deciding Not To Do it
• A clean clear decision to do it
later or not to do it at all ends
procrastination just as effectively
as deciding to do it-it is off your
plate-the quality of this choice
depends on how well you have
assessed the costs and benefits-if
it is a good choice watching the
hockey game is better than
cleaning the garage!
Deciding To Delegate It
• Making the choice to get someone
else to do the task is often a great
decision-particularly for tasks you
know you will always put off
• If you hate cleaning-hire someone
who likes cleaning!
• For many people their
perfectionism manifests as “I have
to do everything myself or it
won’t be done right” then they
proceed to delay endlessly-usually
creating more problems
Remedies for
• As you have seen to reduce or eliminate
procrastination a number of things must
• First of all a decision must be made-Do itDon’t do it-Get someone else to do it. Any of
these choices is the end of procrastination for
that item. Unfortunately some people are
quite indecisive-a real problem of its own!!
• Next -you must have more advantages in
carrying out your decision than disadvantages
or you won’t follow through-hence the value
of a cost benefit analysis
• Next- you must be willing to change your
mind about whatever is getting in your wayyour own stubbornness works against you
5 Steps to End
• Step 1-Don’t put the cart before the
horse-never wait for motivation,
Realize deeply if you don’t feel like
doing it now you never will!!!Action
comes first then motivation-Do it
then feel like it
• Step 2- Make a plan –Realize deeply
you won’t get started “one of these
days”-Exactly what time will you do
it?-Exactly what will you do first?
• Step 3- Make it easy -chop the job into
bite sized time parts or bite sized time
bits- “I will do it for 15 minutes” or “I
will do one easy small step today”
5 Steps To End
• Step 4-Think rationally-which usually means
changing your story -use TIC-TOC
techniques or CBT
• Step 5-Reward yourself for what you have
accomplished-beating yourself up is not
helpful and keeps you stuck
• In your materials is a worksheet called Make
A Plan to be used for this process
• Also in your materials is the Procrastinators
Log- this is to deal with cognitive distortions
and substitute with rational thinking
• These forms are designed to subdivide the
problem into component parts
Doing a
Cost Benefit Analysis
• A cost benefit exercise is a good
way to bring to consciousness
why you are procrastinating-it
takes the mystery out of it, forces
you to look at the truth and
removes blame and negative self
judgment from the equation
• Lets try a cost benefit plus making
a decision on one thing you are
procrastinating now
Dealing With Cognitive
• Many of the benefits of
procrastinating are due to
cognitive distortions
• To change these to rational beliefs
we use the Procrastinators Log
• This involves replacing an old
belief with a more effective one
• If you believe “I must do it
perfectly or not at all”-this will
obviously create a lot of
procrastination in your life
Dealing with Cognitive
• To change a belief you must find
which distortions are present (see
page 2 of the procrastinators log)
• You then need to replace the old
belief with a more effective one “I
will do the best I can” this takes
away a major source of
• Changing your story or narrative
about anything is difficult because
it is an old mental habit
Completing a
Procrastinators Log
• Pick an area from your
procrastination test which creates
problems for you and think of a
specific example
• For example I have an old belief
that “I must be in the right mood
to do something like my taxes”-of
course in reality land I am never
in the right mood for this-thus it is
often is procrastinated
• The cognitive distortion here is
emotional reasoning #7
Procrastinators Log
• I can replace this belief with the belief
that “ I can do my taxes whether or not
I am in the mood for it”-or “I can do
something beneficial for myself
without feeling like it”
• Changing this is not easy but if it is
done in writing it is easier
• When I catch myself thinking the old
familiar thought I switch it over to the
new one
• Your mind won’t like this at all and
usually resists any change-it is in love
with its own beliefs
• This is a Cognitive Behavioral Technique and
stands for Task Interfering Cognitions and
Task Oriented Cognitions
• In other words thinking about things that get
in the way of doing things Vs. thinking about
things that promote getting things done
• Example: your partner wants you to clean the
storeroom this weekend-it will take about 2
hours - you have agreed to do it, but you have
put it off before
• TIC-I work hard all week, why should I have
to work on the weekend? It’s such a crappy
job-I hate cleaning-This the last thing I want
to do this weekend
• TOC-s/he will be happy if I do it, nice things
happen when s/he is happy. I can do it for 15
minutes and see what happens, I'll just start it
• Can it be as simple as changing my
thinking?-Absolutely yes-it is that
• Your mind will now say “It can’t be
that easy, it must be more complicated
than that!” Lawyers tend to distrust
anything simple-I often say to clients if
it was complicated and difficult
lawyers would get it quickly!!
• Actually there is a complication-it can
be very difficult to change your
thinking-most people are stubbornly
attached to being right about their
thoughts-no matter how destructive
they are!
Cognitive Distortions
• You have been given a tic-toc form to
complete and you will notice a column
called Distortions-these refer to
cognitive distortions which are general
errors of thinking
• You will see handout describing
common cognitive distortions-you can
get the general idea from that-we have
a full course in CBT which takes
several months( Burns group basic)
• People who have done CBT are
familiar with this and know what to do
in this column-those not familiar with
this can ignore it for now, or try it
based on the handout
Make a Plan
• In the materials you will find a
anti procrastination plan
• This is useful for major things in
your life you are procrastinating
• It breaks down the task into doable parts and deals with what
thinking will get in the way
• Lets pick a big area of
procrastination(you have written
these down in a prior exercise)
and do it now
How to Procrastinate
Anything Forever!!
• Focus on the whole job, especially the
tedium and boredom and how long it
will take
• Wait till you really feel like it
• Beat yourself up about what a lazy
ineffective loser you are “ the beatings
will continue until my morale
• Tell yourself you will get around to it
“one of these days”
• Always say “It wasn’t good enough”
• Rely on self criticism and will power
for motivation
Trouble Shooting
• Your procrastination has been
with you for a while and won’t go
quietly into the night after this
workshop-in fact it will fight
change like a junkyard dog!!
• If you are procrastinating it is
usually because you are “being
right” about some belief you are
unwilling to change
• There is some advantage in it for
you-sometimes it is obvioussometimes it is subtle and hard to
• Go back to your procrastination testbring to mind what story you are
telling yourself-what distortion are you
buying into?
• Remember- your procrastination
will end when your mind set
changes-otherwise, given what your
mind set is, procrastination is the
logical choice!!
• Changing your mind set is the keygaining “fluidity in your thinking” is
what works. If you stubbornly cling to
your old beliefs nothing changes
Perfectionism vs.
• This is an important distinction to
recognize especially since
perfectionism has such good press
notwithstanding it is very corrosive to
self esteem and a major cause of
• Many people have the cognitive
distortion that if you are not a
perfectionist you will be sloppy or
uncaring or useless-this is all or
nothing thinking
• Perfectionists rarely enjoy any of their
achievements (after all could have
done better!)
Perfectionism vs.
• Perfectionists see a problem-beat
themselves up then (if they have any
time left) solve the problem
• People who pursue excellence skip the
self criticism and get right to the
• Perfectionists are motivated by fear of
failure not enthusiasm-they have no
faith in themselves
• Perfectionists who are also determined
can be so concerned about being in
control that they pursue goals they
really have no genuine passion or
interest in “I hate my job but I am good
at it”
• Lawyers are often plagued by perfectionism
believing they wouldn’t have made it through
law school or articling without it-in fact you
have succeeded in spite of it
• Read the article and do the exercise in the
handout Perfectionism V. The Healthy
Pursuit of Excellence
• You can imagine the havoc these beliefs
could wreak on your life
• An achievement perfectionist will live in
constant fear and anxiety of making a mistake
or not achieving a goal-this ensures a life of
misery, especially in law, since making
mistakes in law is a certainty
• A romantic perfectionist will always
have relationship problems, divorces,
breakups etc. since they have a totally
unrealistic view of relationships. They
believe a fairy tale version so when
measured against reality, it always
comes up short
• A physical perfectionist will live their
life always wanting the perfect face or
figure, even if they are genetically
lucky, eventually it will not live up
their unrealistic standards and they
guarantee misery for themselves. If
they are genetically unlucky the misery
is guaranteed for life
• A perceived perfectionist believes they
must always impress people with
accomplishments , intelligence, talent
etc. They believe people will look
down on them if they fail or make a
• This results in a sense of never being
good enough and their internal sense of
worth is always outside themselvesthey live their lives being concerned
about what other people think of them
Procrastination and Being
a Perfectionist
• To the degree you are a perfectionist in
any area of life this belief will create a
procrastination problem
• You will avoid risk or doing anything
at all that you might fail at or be less
than perfect at or look foolish. You
might avoid new relationships, new
• You will be continuously stressed-your
achievements will never be enough
• You will likely procrastinate in any
area where you have not shifted into
excellence from perfection
Procrastination and
• Waiting for the perfect moment to draft the
perfect document for the perfect case so you
will be seen as the perfect lawyer means your
life will be about waiting forever-you have
locked in a procrastination mind set.
• A common justification for perfectionism is
the belief that it motivates by fear to succeedit requires a total lack of faith in yourself-that
without fear you would be a a passive slug
and achieve nothing
• It requires a shift in belief to accept that you
can be motivated by joy and enthusiasm.
• Faith here is the belief you will be called to
do what you are meant to do, which will bring
you joy and you are ok just the way you are
Change your Mind about
• Perfectionism is not a quest for the best
,but rather a pursuit of the worst in
ourselves-the part that believes nothing
we ever do is good enough
• Dare to be average!! Dare to make
mistakes! Dare to accept yourself
just as you are! Dare to be happy
with what you have done!!
• Paradoxically, you are then more likely
to achieve excellence
• Realize deeply pursuing perfectionism
guarantees a lifetime of failure in your
own eyes
Change your Mind about
• Perfectionism can result in great sadness-the
other night I listened to an interview on CBC
of a famous and well known musician nearing
the end of his life (a self acknowledged
perfectionist) who looked upon his life as a
failure because he never wrote the perfect
song-the interviewer kept referring to the
awards he won, the huge fan base and
influence on others etc to no avail-the
musician did not acknowledge any of it-none
of it was good enough-in his own mind he
was a failure and I have no doubt he believed
it-this is a huge price to pay to avoid changing
your mind about the joy killing neurosis of
Procrastination Additional
(6 hour format)
Lawyers Assistance
Facilitated by Robert
Making a Decision
• For many lawyers the root cause of their
procrastination is indecisiveness
• We have seen that overcoming
procrastination involves making a
decision to do it, dump it , or delegate it
• Failure to make a real decision results in
multiple failures in life, lost opportunities
and chronic procrastination
• Examples would be: a desire, for many
years, to change jobs, but taking no
action-or a desire to be in (or out of) a
long term relationship, but not translating
thought into action
The Fourth OptionDeceive Yourself
• There is another option to “do it, dump it or delegate
it” and that is to “Deceive Yourself-and live in
• This frequently chosen option means to avoid a
decision and stay in “should land” forever
• A good friend of mine has been torturing himself for
many years about cleaning out his large storage
locker “I should do it-I have been putting it off
forever”-he always says he wants to do it but never
gets “around to it”
• He won’t make a clean decision to do it, dump it or
delegate it-and lives eternally in “shouldland”
• Any of the 3 alternatives would work in this
situation-if he decides it is not important enough to
act on it now-no problem-if he delegates it no
problem-if he decides to do it and puts a plan in
place-no problem
Adventures in
• If you neglect or refuse to make a decision
to do, not do, or get somebody else to do
it -you get a free ticket to “shouldland”
• In “shouldland” there are no resorts or
beaches-the main entertainment is beating
yourself up for not doing “it”-if that isn’t
enough fun you can also make endless
plans that are never executed-there are no
“welcome to shouldland signs”-they aren’t
needed-if you won’t make a decision and
are worrying about it- you are already
• The only way out of “shouldland” is
making a real, clean, clear unequivocal
Chronic Abdication of the
Decision Process
• People who abdicate decision
making always feel something is
missing from their life-they are
right-they are missing!! They are
not giving direction to their own
• Success in any area of life
requires full commitment and full
participation in a choice
• This can be small time-inability to
make a decision in a restaurant or
big time-inability to decide
whether to be single or in a
relationship, or to change jobs
Real Decisions
• Translate thought into decisive
• Break through inhibition and
• Real decisions restore, augment
and sustain a healthy, positive
sense of self
• Chronic procrastination is a result
of abdication of decision-making
Real Decisions
• A free,unconditional,total and
personal commitment to a
choice or option
• Involve logic and feelings
• A full commitment to one road
• Enhance self esteem
• Increase self confidence
Healthy Waiting and
• What is the difference?
• Unhealthy waiting (procrastinating) leaves
clues-the delaying tactic is used
repeatedly- no growth, increased
clarification or real change occurs -no
healthy conclusion is arrived at-there is an
appearance of activity but really the
person is just waiting for “something to
turn up” i.e. to avoid making a decision
• In my friends example there is no
advantage in waiting to decide what to do
with his storage situation
Healthy Waiting
• Healthy waiting is just a decision not to
decide now-for example more information
is needed, some outside event needs to
occur, something else needs to happen etc.
• Be careful not to deceive yourself about
this-the reason to not make the decision
now must be important enough so that it
out weighs the disadvantages of not
deciding now
• Example: I will wait until I have read
Consumer Reports before I decide to buy
a new car is healthy waiting (although you
could then procrastinate that to avoid the
car buying decision!!)
• Appear to be a decision but are
• Paralysis, undermining
commitment and avoiding
conflicting feelings are all forms
of indecision
• Procrastination is often really an
outward manifestation of
• Ambivalence-”waiting for
something to turn up” or" no
choice is quite right”
• Impulse Moves-these are not decisions at
all-they often backfire and are based on
anxiety, fear and are usually attempts to
break through profound inertia
• Letting someone else decide-in this we
trade off parts of ourselves for some kind
of spurious “peace”
• Rebellious Decisions-automatically doing
the opposite of what others do, this
appears on the surface to be
independence, but the opposite is true
since they can’t make a decision until
someone else makes theirs so they what
the opposite will be
• One foot in - One foot out- trying
to satisfy all options at the same
time-this avoids genuine total
commitment and results in partial
or total failure
• Ruminating about the past-this
indicates a fundamental lack of
commitment to the decision that
was made or an infantile belief
“we could have have had our cake
and eaten it too!!”
Decision Exercise
• Write 3 decisions you have
recently made that feel like “real”
decisions to you-Part 2-What is
your favorite pseudo decision
• Write 3 decisions (which will end
your procrastination in those
areas) you need to make, but are
having trouble with (areas where
you are in “shouldland”
• Think- Pair -Share
Decision Blockers
1. Losing touch with feelings-this is
usually a gradual process and is in
response to a painful environment.
It is easy to see how lawyers can
be severely impacted by this since
it is a thinking business and some
alienation from client problems is
necessary to survive
2. Resignation-avoiding anxiety by
clinging on to things as they are
3. Confused or Absence of,
priorities-if you aren’t clear about
what you really value in life-poor
decisions are inevitable
Decision Blockers 2
Poor self esteem
Unrealistic self image
Self Erasing/obsessive need to
be liked
5. Perfectionism-common with
Decision Blockers-3
1. Wanting it all-Malignant belief
that if you make no choice you
will have a chance to have it all
2. Illustration-A 4 year old in a
Toy Store-You can have 1 toy!
3. All decisions involve some form
of payment-i.e.... discarded
4. The word “decision” comes
from the Latin “decision”- to cut
off-in other words it is about
cutting out the path not taken
Decision Blockers-4
1. Something better will come
2. Fear of self hate due to a bad
choice-need to be right
3. Coulda,Woulda,Shouldaberating the self
4. Option Blindness
5. Time pressure distortion
6. Impaired judgment
The Big Fact
• In very few instances is one decision
actually better than another
• The substance of the decision is less
important than the process
• A choice works by reason of the amount
of investment and energy put into it by
decision maker
• The decision maker makes or breaks the
decision according to the strength or
weakness of the commitment and loyalty
to the choice
• Decision failure is really a lack of
dedicated commitment to the choice
• The position of life’s issues on our
personal scale of importance
• Are the same as or tell us about
our values
• Being out of touch with our
priorities results in chaotic
• Some priorities are not fully
• Honesty with self is critical here
• Priority exercise
Eight Stages of Decision
1.Listing and observing all the
possibilities, options or choices
-not a time for judgment
-perfectionism is dangerous here
2.Sustaining a free flow of feelings
and thoughts about each of the
possible choices
3.Observing thoughts and feelings
about each of the options and
applying those feelings
Eight Stages of Decision
4.Relating choices to established
-i.e. buying a carmoney,ownership,prestige,aestheti
cs,comfort,integrety,peace of
mind etc.
5.Designating one choice;
Discarding those not chosen
-will “feel right”
-tough part is letting go of other
choices-Must absolutely let go
of nonchosen options!!
Eight Stages of Decision
6.Registering the decision
-dangerous stage for obsessive ruminator
7.Investing the decision with committed
feelings,thoughts,time and energy.
8.Translating the decision into optimistic
-must invest loyalty and optimism about
the decision
Decision Success
• Know your priorities
• Establishing realistic goals and
• Knowing there is always a price
to pay
• Recognizing major personal assets
• Knowing and exploring your
• Getting over fear of rejection and
Decision Success-2
• Leaving- is non involving/Going
to- is involving the self
• Conditions are always imperfect
• Moods make a difference
• Accepting some ambivalence
• Accepting some insecurity and
• Interest comes after involvement
• Integrated concentration
Decision Success-3
• Profiting from other peoples
experience and help
• Delegating responsibility
• Effective use of time
• Insight,motivation,discipline
• Postponement of gratification
• Value of struggle
Decision Exercise
• Take the 3 decisions you need to
make (from the previous exercise)
and follow through with this 8
step process
• What action step could you take
today to cement your decision?
• What choices will you need to let
go of to make a real decision
• How will you deal with the part of
you that will continue to doubt
this decision?
• Think/pair/share
Ending Procrastination in
Your life
• We have seen that procrastination
is about making a conscious
decision to not do something
• Your mind will have great reasons
to justify this as we have seen
from our procrastination test and
the main cognitive distortions
(described in “Why people
• These distortions can be changed
using mood logs
Ending Procrastination
• Also using a procrastination plan will be
• Perfectionism is often a liability here, so
we have looked at that influence
• Making a real decision is necessary-some
procrastination is really just
• Changing your mind using TIC-TOC will
also work
• We have gained great insight into why we
procrastinate but we must actually change
behaviors in order to stop it- insight is the
booby prize of psychological learning
Changing Behavior-Getting
Out of Your Own Way
• What process or procedure are you most
likely to use from what we have done
here? What will work to get you to change
your behavior?
• What will get in the way of changing your
procrastination behavior?
• If the benefits (which you are
comfortable with) outweigh the
disadvantages (which take conscious
effort to change) you will continue to
• What outside support would help? ie a
group or friend
• Will radical change be outside your
comfort zone?
Avoiding Change by Staying
Within Your Comfort Zone
• One powerful reason for continuing to
procrastinate, even after becoming aware
of how you create it is staying within
your “comfort zone”
• “Comfort Zone Theory” is a concept
developed as a result of a study done by
IBM wherein they moved their sales force
around from high producing areas to low
producing areas and vice versa and
discovered that the area had very little to
do with it
• A salesperson making a certain amount
would do what was necessary to recreate
their income no matter what the area
Avoiding Change by Staying
Within Your Comfort Zone
• A salesperson from a high sales area soon
turned the low sales area around so that
they could make the amount of money
they were used to
• A salesperson from a low sales area soon
turned around a high sales area to the
lower amount they were used to
• People are comfortable with a certain
amount of money and will consciously or
unconsciously recreate that income in any
situation-it only changes when they
internally believe they are worth more
• This comfort zone also applies to other
areas of life-like relationships
Avoiding Change by Staying
Within Your Comfort Zone
• For example-Harv Eker the designer of
the Millionaire Mind course says he can
predict your bank balance a year in
advance with 95% accuracy-if you don’t
change your preconceptions about moneyi.e. how much you are worth
• This means that some procrastination is
actually your unconscious attempt to stay
in your comfort zone
• As we get close to the upper or lower limit
to our comfort zone fear kicks in and takes
Getting out of Your
Comfort Zone
• If you are in a job making $90,000 a year
you may sabotage any attempt to get a job
paying $130,000-your mind will make up
many reasons why you can’t get such a
job, or delay or “forget” to apply-or think
I can’t do that, I am not qualified etc.
• In situations where you are delaying or
procrastinating about a significant positive
change, it may be that you are bumping up
against your comfort zone and need to
deal with the fear associated with thatotherwise you will continue to
• Think –Pair –Share-what areas of your life
are you holding back or procrastinating
out of fear?
Our Own Personal
Comfort Zone
• The comfort zone is not just a collection
of uncomfortable emotions-it has its own
personality-it is a complex psychologicalphysiological entity unto itself
• Our own comfort zone knows us
intimately and hits us at our weakest
point-it wouldn’t dream of using an
excuse we could see through. It uses
reasons we find reasonable, rationales we
find rational-it can take our greatest
aspirations and turn them into excuses for
not bothering to aspire
Beating Procrastination by
• A small amount of planning pays
big dividends-some people act
first- then think-with predictably
disastrous results
• Putting the plan in writing is many
times more effective than just
thinking it
• Planning exercise-use the make a
plan form for something big you
are procrastinating
Beating Procrastination by
Becoming Effective
• Make and use lists-i.e. things to
do today prioritized as A, B and C
–phone call list etc.
• Fight to link everything to your
goals-productivity is the
deliberate, strategic investment of
your, time, talent, intelligence,
energy, resources and
opportunities in a manner
calculated to move you
measurably closer to meaningful
• Use tickler files to replace
Beating Procrastination by
Becoming Effective
• Phone Fax and Email freedomtightly control when and if you
answer calls-answering all of
these mean you are allowing
someone else's priority to govern
your day
• Meetings-meetings are often a
waste-be very picky about when
or if you attend them
• Always be on time-this speaks
volumes to others about your
credibility and reduces stress
Beating Procrastination by
Becoming Effective
• Time blocking-blocking off
certain amounts of time for a taski.e. lunch hour for fitness
• Minimize unplanned activity-if
you are vague about the day- low
productivity is the result
• Profit from odd- lot time-listening
to books on tape or cd’s in the carreading reports or files at the
airport etc.
Beating Procrastination by
Becoming Effective
• Live off peak-do activities at
times when nobody else is doing
them -i.e. grocery shopping Sun
morning-or the time you travel to
or from work to minimize traffic
• Exercise –which of these
techniques would work for you?
How could you implement them?
Workbook and Exercises
Facilitated by Robert Bircher
Lawyers Assistance Program
of British Columbia

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