Taming the Procrastination Beast

Smart people procrastinate.

Really? What do smart people have to procrastinate about? Can’t they just get things done with ease and aplomb?

Oh, brother.

(Now I realize that you may not be a procrastinator. And if you aren’t, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t a smart person. I’m just making a sweeping generalization, as is my tendency, because so many of the rainforest-minded folks I know, are. Procrastinators. And, as I’ve told you before, I know a heck of a lot of smart people since I’ve been working with them in some form or another since the ’70s which I realize suggests that I must be close to geezerhood. Which I am. But, age aside, I still have a totally unscientific anecdotal experience of hordes of g-g-gifted people waiting until the very very last minute to complete whatever it was that needed completing.)


For those of you who are procrastinators, then, or for those of you who have one or more in your home, I’m here to help.

First, let’s get clear about the reasons why you procrastinate. In no particular order.

Do you ever think any of the following:

If I do it at the last minute, and it’s not great, it’s because I didn’t have the time.

I have to be brilliant all the time or people will see I’m not so smart. They’ll be disappointed in me and I can’t let that happen.

My identity depends on my achievements. If I fail at something, it means I’m worthless.

I believe that everything I do needs to be perfect.

I could do assignments for school at the last minute and still get an A. Now I don’t know how not to do things at the last minute.

I never learned how to take one step at a time or prioritize so I get overwhelmed by tasks.

What I’m doing is so mundane, I can at least add time pressure to make it more stimulating.

I can’t be mediocre, ordinary, work hard, ask for help or lose.

What do all of these thoughts have in common?

Pressure. Expectations. Perfectionism. Performance anxiety. Patterns formed in childhood. A shadow side of being g-g-gifted.

So, what do you do?

First, you don’t have to feel guilty if you haven’t tamed your procrastination. In the best book I’ve seen on the topic, titled creatively, Procrastination, by Jane Burka and Lenora Yuen, readers are told that the factors that contribute to procrastination are “not only individual psychological, behavioral, and emotional issues, but also social, cultural, and technological dynamics, biological and neurological predispositions and universal human tendencies.”books

Oh boy.

Now don’t get all overwhelmed on me.

They then provide several chapters of excellent suggestions. Steps you can take to begin to tame the beast.

And, what else?

What if you start to imagine that you do have a rainforest mind. You’re highly sensitive, empathetic, socially conscious, emotional, creative, and intense. You analyze deeply. You think nonstop.

It’s not good or bad. It just is. You just are.

And remember–

“Confronting and changing long-held assumptions about you and your family can be unnerving and disorienting. This is why procrastination is so hard to overcome. It’s not simply a matter of changing a habit; it requires changing your inner world. However, as you access capabilities and parts of yourself that have been held back by procrastination, you can derive great pleasure in claiming your whole self.”  Jane Burka & Lenora Yuen


To my dearest blogEEs:

Let me/us know your experiences with procrastination and how you deal with it. Don’t put it off. Do it now!

This is very likely the last post before the SENG conference this coming week, July 18-20, in San Jose, CA. I mean, I really have to finish planning my presentation. Not that I’m a procrastinator, mind you. I’m not. I’m just saying…


Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

49 responses to “Taming the Procrastination Beast”

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  1. What Does Exceptional Giftedness Look Like In A Teen? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] known, Judith’s emotions were explosive at times and she struggled with perfectionism and procrastination. She said, “I don’t want to turn in crappy work that isn’t up to my one hundred percent.” […]

  2. 16 Ways to Manage Anxiety in a High Stress World | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] Procrastination by Burka and Yuen is a good resource for perfectionism and procrastination. […]

  3. Why Do We Need A Blog For Super Smart, Sensitive, Creative, and Empathetic (Gifted!) People? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] don’t understand why you are still procrastinating now that you are no longer in […]

  4. Learning Comes Easily To Gifted Kids And Adults — How Might That Be A Problem? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] easy to learn or achieve, you conclude you are not as smart as everyone says. This can lead to  procrastination, questioning of your self-worth, and to lack of […]

  5. Learning Comes Easily To Gifted Kids And Adults — How Might That Be A Problem? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] easy to learn or achieve, you conclude you are not as smart as everyone says. This can lead to  procrastination, questioning of your self-worth, and to lack of […]

  6. Kim Elam Avatar
    Kim Elam

    Rather than “procrastinator,” I like to refer to myself as an “avoidance achiever,” since I get a lot of things done in a short amount of time as a deadline (for something I’d rather not do) approaches. 😉

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Ha! Love that, Kim!

  7. A Gifted Kid’s Conundrum — Part Two — Anxiety and Perfectionism | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] Procrastination by Burka and Yuen is a good resource for perfectionism and […]

  8. EwaB Avatar

    stumbled acros this one today and man is it recognizable. I am doing a course at home, so my own tempo. first block I did in two months. (read that most other people doing the same course take 6 months or longer) second block, is taking for ever. Why?
    I have to draw a chicken coup. so how hard can it be. very hard clearly because I know what i want to draw but I am not a technical drawer or architect, so I cant get in down on paper the way I want it to look. So it isnt happening. ARGGGG
    And I know nobody expects me to make an architect level drawing of a chicken coop ( sorry english isn’t my first language) but I expect it.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Procrastination and perfectionism are so often linked! I hope this post will help you make progress. Thank you! (your English is just fine!!)

  9. Jay Avatar

    I procrastinate all the time because I know I can always do the work.

    then I just don’t do the work.

    heh, even doing this I can feel my mind start to get sleepy, but… little steps and all.

    I’ve gotten better (actually knowing how that phrase applies to me is almost overwhelming, in a very goo… positive way)

    I do do the work that is needed to get done with photography, music and acting. all those micro steps that I don’t even think about.

    all those steps can be applied to every single thing in my life, I just need to do them…

    you know, tomorrow (now)

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Jay. You didn’t procrastinate on commenting… 🙂

  10. Afflicted With Too Much Talent | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] coping strategies? Procrastination. Depression. Anxiety. Hot Fudge […]

  11. If I’m So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] perhaps you did get good grades. Without really trying. You could procrastinate until the very last minute and get an A. So the grades became meaningless. Or an opportunity for […]

  12. The Hazards Of Praise And Too Much Smartness | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] to being at the top of the class and good at everything you tried. It was easy to excel. You could wait until the last minute on any assignment and still get an […]

  13. The Arrogant Know-It-All Conundrum | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] you may feel pressure to achieve, too, and guilt when you don’t. You may have learned that your worth depends on your […]

  14. black sheep Avatar
    black sheep

    Paula the proper reply would be, yes taking a book would solve the problem, and down time to read would be awesome!
    Truth is I always have such a laundry list of things that I could or should be doing that i feel frustrated or anxious. Making sure I always have my phone helps depending on my current to do list.

  15. black sheep Avatar
    black sheep

    I am always late, due to underestimating travel time. Add a couple kids, which means getting 4 people ready even when I try to be proactive I underestimate! It makes me cringe to show up to an appointment early when I know I am going to have to sit and wait. My time is so very precious! I distinctly remember a time when I was preparing for a national competition and my parents sat me down and berated me for not practicing. When I had to put it into words… “well if I don’t win at least I have a good excuse” It was all fear based! I tell myself I work better under pressure…. Then there is documentation portion of my job, I am pulling it together last minute EVERY SINGLE TIME! Going to see if this book is in our library!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Let me know if you find the book to be helpful.

      I mentioned to someone else who also talked about being late to always bring a book or something else to do so that if you have to wait, you aren’t wasting your time. Could that work?

  16. Audra Avatar

    I am of the “I could do assignments for school at the last minute and still get an A. Now I don’t know how not to do things at the last minute” and “I never learned how to take one step at a time or prioritize so I get overwhelmed by tasks” variety of procrastinator and I still fight with it a lot. Now that I am older, I’m better at breaking projects into more manageable pieces and at encouraging myself to focus, but I have also gotten better at putting my energy, wherever possible, into work and activities I don’t need to talk myself into. It is definitely still an issue though, so thank you for this post.

    I am looking forward to hopefully meeting you at the conference next weekend!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Hi Audra. That’s a great suggestion. If you do more of what you love, there’s likely less procrastination.

      I read your letter to SENG about my article on their website. I’m so happy that it made a difference for you. I’d love to meet you at the conference. Please find me if I don’t see you first!

      1. Audra Avatar

        I certainly will, Paula. Reading that article was a huge turning point in my life and I look forward to thanking you in person!

  17. Susan Avatar

    Procrastinate or percolate? A lot of work can happen on a project while I’m procrastinating. It just may not be visible.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Percolating is not procrastinating! I just responded to a comment about the same thing. (see above). I think percolating is an active process where you’re actually working on something. You just might not be producing the product. Do you agree? I may have to elaborate on that in a future post. Can I use your “procrastinate or percolate” phrase? 🙂 Thanks Susan.

      1. Susan Avatar

        You can certainly use it…my percolation process often involves a “not actually thinking about it” period where I hope my subconscious mind is forwarding things toward an eventual Eureka! moment 😉

  18. Katherine Kelley Avatar
    Katherine Kelley

    I procrastinated in reading this because you point things out about myself that I’d rather ignore and think about later. Or never. 🙂 I stared at the open tab on my computer long enough that I finally decided to face the music. Your posts clearly illuminate what it is like to be gifted. You not only make me take a look at myself, but the kids I am lucky enough to work with. In this case, you made me realize I need to cut them a bit of slack, especially since I use exactly the same avoidance tactics. 🙂

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thanks for your feedback, Katherine. I bet those kids are lucky to have you!

  19. poprice Avatar

    I used to regret my tendency toward procrastination. More recently I’ve come to accept my procrastination as a writer is really me allowing my brain to puzzle through all the possibilities more or less on mute. To keep it from getting me in trouble–and specifically to prevent it from causing me to “miss” deadlines, I just give myself a firm deadline BEFORE the one provided by my editors. And then I let myself take as long as I need to get revved up and meet my internal deadline. It works. I now work in bright, frenzied bursts. For my freelance journalism, it also means that my hourly rate is higher because I spend less time in front of the computer.

    Loved you post. Hope to see you in San Jose!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I’ve found that some gifted folks think that the incubation process is procrastination. I wonder if that’s what you’re describing. Maybe your “getting revved up” is part of your creative process. In that case, you aren’t procrastinating. You’re just working on it in your mind. Does that sound right? Perhaps you should bill for your internal-time!

      I’m enjoying your blog! Would love to meet at the conference. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      1. poprice Avatar

        Yes, exactly. For writers, I think that is OFTEN part of the process but we feel shamed for it, especially in the beginning of our careers.

        I laughed at the internal time quip, yet I find my clearest, most interesting sentences pop into my head at the most bizarre times. If I trust that process, I actually have a “freer” schedule. If I chain myself to my desk, it doesn’t flow.

        See you soon!

  20. Elise Avatar

    I’d like to say something, but I think I need to go sweep my kitchen before I do. Or maybe (eventually) that homework that is due tonight.


    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I’d reply to your comment but I have to listen to the news on NPR first. 🙂

  21. paulaprober Avatar

    Hi Toni. Thank you for the reblog. I’m glad you liked the post. Let me know if you find the book to be helpful. I’m going to check out your blog as well.

  22. Toni Avatar

    Reblogged this on Parenting Today's African American Children and commented:
    I am constantly fighting my procrastination or that of my children. I am hoping for recovery as soon as I get time to read this book! 🙂 Great article!

  23. Taming the Procrastination Beast | Creative Passages

    […] Taming the Procrastination beast […]

  24. billy Avatar

    Is there some connection between TAG and being super messy creative exhausted? Basically Im hoping society and my wife that I can find a way theyll keep me

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Oh Billy. I hope they keep you! Sometimes TAG folks are messy, creative and exhausted. Other TAG individuals are neat, creative and exhausted. Some are messy at times, neat at times, creative at times and energetic at time. So, it all depends. Relationships can be challenging for people with rainforest minds.

  25. billy Avatar

    Wow. Your posts are great. I feel quite a few of these things and it depends on the task which ones actually freeze me up and tangle me into inaction. Are there known connections between TAG or gifted and ADD?

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      There are people who are both gifted and ADD. And there are people who are gifted who seem to be ADD and aren’t. Those people are often highly creative and passionate about many things and appear to be easily distractible and impulsive but are really just intense and very full of ideas. Have you read about ADD? Books by Ed Hallowell are good. Reading about ADD might help you differentiate between the two. Thanks for commenting.

  26. Gigi Avatar

    I don’t procrastinate on work, I procrastinate on relaxing. In my family of origin, relaxation was not allowed until all the work was done. And there was always work to be done. The emphasis was definitely on perfection, and I adopted it wholesale. 🙂

    I did manage to find time to be creative, and I worked hard at that. Somehow it never felt like work though. There is that weird sense of play you so frequently mention. I still do that. 🙂

    A variation on this theme for me is being chronically late. It took me years to figure out that I could not leave my house unless the bed was made, the dishes were done, the counters and tables clear. Then I had to be sure I had *everything* I might need when I went out. No casual dashing out for me. Hair, clothes, all must be just so. Perfectionism.

    I chronically underestimate how long it will take me to get somewhere because I never want to waste any of my precious time. Heaven forbid that I should just sit for 5 minutes. How inefficient! (laugh)

    The best thing I can do about all of this is to laugh and take it less seriously. And try to be on time. 🙂

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      This is another good topic, Gigi. I have had clients and friends who are chronically late and I think there can be many reasons for it. Fascinating that you can connect it to perfectionism. And time wasting! Have you thought about always bringing a book with you wherever you go so that you’ll have something worthwhile to do if you have to wait? Oh, and laughing whenever possible. Yes!! (and making time to be creative–)

  27. Ann Avatar

    This is extremely enlightening and helpful. I cannot wait to read the book, thanks for making me think and learn.
    I look forward to your posts.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Let me know what you think of the book. I found it so comprehensive. The authors really understand how complex procrastination can be. Thanks, Ann.

  28. C A Avatar
    C A

    Wow love you Paula …you are so fantastic…how do you know this stuff and me 🙂 yes the messages speak to me so much…about how you can do it a few minutes so why spend more time and the never learning how people learn and the well if I do it at the last minute then I don’t put myself out there…wow that one gave me chills man! 🙂 and from the parentified child files we won’t let you do it anyway because we want your well being and genius to be used for us..so logistically you will have to wait until we go to bed or whatever…BUT I have changed it I believe…being busier helps because you don’t have time to procrastinate if you only have a certain amount of time to complete something before you move on….enjoy the conference….. Way 🙂

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Oh yes, the “parentified child files.” I’m so familiar with those. Will have to blog about that one of these days. Thank you as always for sharing your thoughts. I shall enjoy the conference and get back to you and blogworld soon!

  29. Cynthia Avatar

    “I still have some time left. And I really want to read this…. ”
    “I’m just not in the mood to do it yet, and I still have some extra time….”
    I’ve got to get this project done for Joey before I can work on anything for me….”
    “If I don’t clear off this tabletop and clean and water and vacuum and….I won’t be able to concentrate when I start on this project.”
    “It’s almost dinner time and I need to figure out what we’re going to eat tonight before I can start a project….”

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Yes, Cynthia. And the list goes on and on! Thanks!

  30. sknelson Avatar

    Great post! It speaks to me…but I’ll think about that tomorrow.

    1. paulaprober Avatar