Tell the truth … are you procrastinating right now? Stalling on something you need to do? We all do it — some of us chronically. Well, here’s some expert advice on how to push through and manage your time.
Good news, procrastinators — you are not alone. Studies show that around 20 percent of adults procrastinate chronically, with the internet and digital devices (no surprise) greatly contributing to modern-day distractions. Adults even procrastinate on seemingly desirable events like getting shut-eye, with one study determining that, at least once a week, 74 percent of adults go to bed later than they had planned.
Clinical psychologist, procrastination coach and podcaster Dr. Christine Li is an ideal expert to broach this topic. For the past 20 years she’s combined her knowledge of psychological and mindset strategies to help herself and others recover from chronic procrastination. By making this her area of expertise, she also began working with clients who struggle with anxiety, performance issues and attention problems such as ADHD, and learning disorders.
“I became an expert in the area of procrastination quite accidentally,” she explains, “when I volunteered to design and lead a workshop on the topic at a major university. By researching the topic, I realized that I was ‘patient zero’ — I was the clinician who needed to treat and heal herself first. Once I had the Procrastination Workshop up and running, I was hooked, as it really is quite simple and straightforward to be able to assist people with their difficulties in time management, planning and self-regulation.”
Li finds procrastination to be a fascinating phenomenon, since it’s essentially our voluntary decision to NOT do what we know we should. Also, it involves all of our major operating systems — the mind, the body, our energy, and our action patterns. “And from what I have seen in working with clients and patients,” she says, “is that we are each endlessly creative in the ways in which we can lead ourselves into the procrastination zone. I have always been interested in how we get ourselves to function at our best, but also how we can hold ourselves back from doing our best.”
A common thread she’s found among those who procrastinate? An unfortunate feeling of shame. Li has learned that when we feel badly about ourselves, it makes it that much harder to focus or to get anything accomplished. “That is why one of the first ways I try to help people is to help them see that treating themselves in a kinder fashion is the quickest way to improve almost any stressful situation,” she says.
Li doesn’t believe there’s always something “deeper” going on when people feel blocked. Very often, folks feel stalled from moving forward simply because they’re trying to do everything all at once, which she thinks actually can be a surface-level issue. She provides her clients with different templates, workshops and options for individual and group coaching sessions. Her weekly membership program offers accountability sessions so that members can make sure they’re consistently completing their work and tasks.
One of Li’s favorite tips for those who find themselves procrastinating: Simplify. “Pause and think for a few minutes about what you would do if the feeling of stress was removed from the situation,” she advises. “Then also consider if the options you were considering were guaranteed to succeed or work out in your favor, what action step would you take next? Remove the fear, and then take the action.”
Li’s work most excites her when she’s able to help clients see there are so many more opportunities present than they originally knew — for wellness, excitement, growth and joy. She adds, “When we heal ourselves from the habit of procrastination, much better habits follow!”