It’s one of the most common avoidance behaviors to overcome and affects more therapists than not. Procrastination… it’s so wrong, but feels so good! So why does this guilty pleasure hold our efficiency, productivity, and self-esteem hostage? And what can therapists do to beat it?
It’s important to understand what procrastination is not. Procrastination is not laziness. It is not indifference, inability, or irresponsibility. Many highly successful, productive, and goal-oriented therapists can procrastinate. For example, if you’ve ever chosen to complete one task over the other, you may have been procrastinating. If you work long, hard hours every day, but avoid reaching for a more fulfilling job, you might be procrastinating. Spending time to read this article to increase your knowledge and inform you of healthier habits might mean that you are procrastinating on something! Even my choosing to write this blog article in this moment is my way of procrastinating on documenting patient charts and other work-responsibilities!
The point is that there is always something to do, but if we pay attention to the reasons we are delaying our goals or choosing to complete certain tasks above others, then we may better understand what is driving our procrastination. Are you bored by the task you need to complete? Are you disinterested? Are you worried about failing? Each reason might require a different strategy toward completing the task at hand. If you’re a procrastinating therapist, follow these helpful tools to increase your productivity and decrease burnout:
Arrive to the office early. Visualize the day ahead of you when you’re at the office. Arrive early to look over your schedule and set all of your goals for the day. Map out things to complete/address during sessions, during meetings, during downtime, and then reduce distraction.
Regular Breaks. You do not need to see your patients to the top of the hour. We were meant to leave ourselves 10-15 minutes for the purposes of reflection, processing, and writing. Use it efficiently instead of checking emails, social media, text messages…but please do not skip on using the restroom!
Document Daily and Efficiently. Switching to electronic record keeping and documenting concisely will save you time, paper, spare you the dread of piling documentation, and decrease writing cramps! Make your best effort to document your sessions daily instead of saving it for the end of the week or, in worst cases, to the end of the month (I’ve seen this risky behavior practiced by too many therapists). Not only does this provide you a sense of daily accomplishment and prevents you from feeling burdened by a growing stack of patient charts to update, but it’s the ethical thing to do!
Tell others of the tasks ahead. This will hold you accountable for getting things done, especially if you inform supervisors/supervisees who rely on you to complete tasks. This sets unofficial deadlines, but deadlines, nevertheless, so that you do not perpetually push tasks off.
There’s Always Going to Be Someone Better at Your Job. This is not an excuse to put little to no effort, but it’s a realistic perspective if your procrastination is caused by fear of failing to meet your/others expectations of you. If you’re planning on giving a lecture, providing therapy, supervision, consultation, or writing a blog article, then you must remember that there is always someone else better at it than you… so no point in building anxiety around performance and putting things off to the last minute. The humbling perspective of negative optimism removes pressure, increases realistic thinking, and decreases worry, thereby allowing you to simply get things done!