Overcoming Procrastination using IFS



Do you find yourself avoiding important tasks? Is it hard for you to make decisions and take action to move your life ahead? When you are faced with a project you have decided to work on, do you get distracted or busy with other tasks? Is it difficult for you to discipline yourself to exercise, meditate, eat well, or something similar?

If you answered yes to some of these questions, you are one of the many people struggling with procrastination.

Procrastination usually happens out of awareness, except for those situations where you sit down to do a task and can’t bring yourself to get started. If you are a procrastinator, you probably don’t decide not to do a task that needs to be done. You just go along with your life, and after a while you realize that you haven’t done the task. You may get distracted with other things. You may get lost in thought. You might spent time online, relaxing, partying, having fun. You might work hard doing things that are less important than the task you are avoiding. Or you may simply forget about the task.

This avoidance is caused by a Procrastinator Part, which is a protector, but you may not be aware of your Procrastinator. Therefore, the first step in doing IFS on procrastination is to discover this part and access it (see Chapter 4 in Self-Therapy). Here is one way to do this. Remember what it feels like when you are procrastinating. I don’t mean what you feel when you realize that you have been procrastinating. That usually comes a different part—a part that is upset with you for procrastinating. I am referring to the feelings you have when you are avoiding a task—when you are getting distracted, or doing non-essential tasks, or putting off the important task, or feeling stuck and unable to get started.

Tune into that experience of avoidance. You may feel an emotion, an impulse, a fear, or a sense of wanting to avoid. Feel what this is like in your body. Get a sense of the part of you that experiences that avoidance; you might see an image of that part.

You work on this part just the way you would with any other protector in IFS. First you unblend from it if necessary (Chapter 5 in Self-Therapy). Then you unblend from any concerned parts (Chapter 6 in Self-Therapy). It can get dicey during this step, so let me explain further. When you check to see how you feel toward the Procrastination Part, you may realize that you are judging the Procrastination Part and wanting to get rid of it. This indicates that you are blended with a type of part that I call the Taskmaster, which may be angry at you (and specifically at your Procrastinator) for procrastinating. The Taskmaster is a type of Inner Critic (see Freedom from Your Inner Critic) that pushes you to work hard and judges you if you don’t. When you are procrastinating, your Taskmaster will work very hard to get you to take action.

In order to fully resolve your Procrastination, you may have to work with both your Procrastinator and your Taskmaster.

For help with Procrastination, see the Procrastination Pattern in Self-Therapy Journey or my book Taking Action. I also teach about how to work with Procrastination in my Advanced IFS Classes.