Procrastination and Depression

Ever hear the joke about how students’ rooms are cleanest when they’re supposed to be studying for exams?(because all of a sudden cleaning becomes appealing when compared to exam study)

How does procrastination relate to low mood?

When people’s moods get low they often get stuck in a pattern of ever decreasing circles of

low mood > withdrawal and avoidance (or excessive perfectionism)> lower mood + lower confidence > more withdrawal and avoidance

If your mood is low and you’re procrastinating doing a task

Option 1:

Do you need rest? If yes, do it.

Option 2:

If needing rest isn’t the issue, try doing an alternative task that gives you a sense of competence/achievement.

Doing a task that gives you a sense of competence might boost your mood enough that the task you’ve been putting off starts to seem achievable.

Also, doing something rather than nothing will help stop you from completely deactivating (doing less and less, and your thoughts becoming more and more negative, narrow, rigid).

Your alternative task doesn’t need to be fancy.

Here are a couple of personal examples for alternative tasks:

– I often write a blog post when I’m procrastinating doing something else work-related. [Not today. Today is because I haven’t done one in over a week 🙂 ].

– I often clear an item that has been hanging around on my to do list for weeks. For example, last week when I was putting off other stuff I went and purchased the repairing treatment I use on my hair. I’d been out of it for weeks and the task kept getting bumped off my priority list. By getting it done I had a sense that I was taking care of myself.

– Or, sometimes I do a 1/2-1 hour blitz of some of the 5-10 minute jobs I’ve accumulated.

Option 3:

If you’re avoidance-prone, an INCREDIBLY important psychological skill is the ability to make avoided tasks more achievable and easier.

Think about a kid who is completely stuck learning their times tables (multiplication tables). The kid is likely to say “I hate times tables, can’t learn times tables, don’t want to” (when kids say they “hate” something its often code for “its difficult”). Not learning times tables is not really an option so a parent in this case would need to break down the task of learning times tables into an achievable next step that would allow the child to have a success experience and boost their confidence/motivation.

As adults we need to do this too.

For example, you might make one phone call about the task you most need to do.