What Procrastination Is Trying to Teach You

Why befriending your procrastination is better than judging it

Christina Tesoro, LMSW

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Photo by RetroSupply on Unsplash

One of the most common issues folks bring up in therapy is procrastination. Most often, clients are hardest on themselves when they find themselves procrastinating the creative tasks they really want to do. They approach procrastination with a lot of self-blame, and the narratives that we get into around procrastination tend to be narratives that involve guilt, shame, and self-criticism.

Culturally, I think we often see procrastination as laziness, but as a therapist, it’s clear to me that laziness is rarely, if ever, at the root of procrastination. In therapy, we learn to approach things from a difference lens. It’s more helpful to think about what the purpose or function of engaging in procrastination is. Put more simply: What is the act of procrastinating protecting you from?

When it comes to our creative lives, there is a lot of pressure. To get it right. To be brilliant and original. To express ourselves fully, authentically, and perfectly. To say interesting things, and to move people. To be seen by them (and adored by them) through our creative work. To create outstanding and meaningful art. To risk showing ourselves, vulnerably and with intimacy, to strangers, and risk being judged.

Extremely high stakes.

So if you, like me, find yourself procrastinating, here are some things to try if you want to get to know your procrastination a little better, see what it might be protecting you from, and move from fear and survival mode, to safety and play, and see what shakes loose.

Do You Actually Want to Do the Thing?

First off, ask yourself if you actually want to do the thing you’re procrastinating. Sometimes, we get ourselves stuck in The Shoulds, and we procrastinate because we don’t actually want to do what we tell ourselves we should do. I should sit down and re-write my YA New York City Zombie Apocalypse Little Red Riding Hood retelling (an actual thing I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2013). But if I ask myself why I “should” do this, mostly what comes up is that it would be really cool to be a young adult author, a longtime dream of mine from many years ago. This has less…

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Christina Tesoro, LMSW

Christina Tesoro is a New York City-based writer, sex educator, and therapist.