Procrastination, Perfection and a Turkey – Why Does Xmas Day Come as a Surprise?



We had 365 days’ notice


It’s that time of year already. I can’t believe it’s come around so quickly.

We hear and see the countdown to the 25th day of the 12th month just about everywhere. Like it just popped out of the proverbial rabbit hole. However, reality lets us know that we have had a whole year to prepare for the festivities (or not).

Why do some of us begin our preparations in the Boxing Day sales whilst others wait until Christmas Eve to prepare or decide to avoid the Christmas spirit?

Procrastination, (or putting things off) can be part of our personality style. Maybe for some of us it us a form of control or even rebellion. It can also be part of a larger game that outlines our fear of failure or even our fear of success. Procrastination, for the 20% of people who report feeling that it affects multiple life areas; is a decision not to act.

Waiting until the last minute isn’t just about Christmas, it can be seen in many other areas of our treatment calendar. How does procrastination find it’s way into the addiction cycle?

My tutors told me that I would make a great lecturer. They also told me to stay well away from working with addictions in private practice, where the cancellation rate and no show rate is high. They told me that it is near on impossible to work with addictions in an outpatient clinic. Procrastination of change spills over into keeping appointments, self care and the other important things; like living.

Are procrastination and addiction linked? Addiction to procrastination, a consuming need to avoid matters, with increasing frequency in multiple situations; even when it causes unpleasant situations, difficult emotional responses and is followed by guilt, shame snd a promise to work it our differently next time. It sounds very much like any other addiction?

Are procrastination and perfectionism linked?


Perfectionism is an active training ground for guilt, fear, remorse and shame. My grandfather told me ‘if you can’t do it properly, don’t do it so all’. I read properly and perfectly and that it turn led me to procrastinate when I had a fear that perfect wasn’t in the menu. Whether that was an essay, revision or putting up the Christmas tree. The need to be perfect can hold us back and lead us to familiar unpleasant feelings. Substances, chemicals, shopping and the multitude of other mood changing behaviors allows us to feel relief from the emotional response to perfectionism. Procrastination is waiting on every corner, ready to fill the perfectionist with a fear of failure or sabotage the potential success.

Does procrastination affect treatment outcomes in addictive disorders?
Self-efficacy, is believing that you have the required skills to influence your behaviors to produce the outcome that you desire. There is considerable interest in this area and the positive and protective elements that self-efficacy brings to those in treatment. Procrastination is delaying action, even though the outcome may be undesirable to us and to others.

We see both daily in our treatment programs. We need to consider these elements in all aspects of our longer-term treatment planning. Procrastination leading to self-sabotage and the ability to relinquish responsibility is a challenge for those in early recovery. Relapse is the curse that procrastination around wellness and recovery planning with activities brings.

Top tips to avoid procrastination


  1. Begin by accepting that ‘good enough’ is the order of the day. Letting go of the need to ‘be prefect’, just for today.
  2. Keep it real. Often, we delay tasks because we tell ourselves a list of negatives self talks and comments. ‘It’s too hard, too boring, too long, what if I fail, what if they laugh’ The chances are that we make the situation a lot bigger than it is. Keep it real by checking out your fears with someone else or saying the negative comments out loud. The chances are you will modify them to something more manageable.
  3. What is the benefit to me? Check out with yourself, why you agreed to take in the task? What were the perceived benefits?
  4. Contract with yourself. If you always wait until the last minute, you may be in a place where you are able to accept that is your style. In which case you can give yourself permission to accept you; just as you are.
  5. Stop the Blame Game. The past is gone, we can’t rewind and start earlier. The future is unknown, so no amount of forward planning for the unknown is going to help. The lights, the furniture, you mood, you are not able to go back and rearrange. Accept what you have, where you are snd plan the task ahead in chunks.

As Christmas Eve draws close by and the shops are closed for the magical 24 hours, do what you do best.

After all, even the man in red, takes his time.

He’s making a list
He’s checking it twice

Let’s do this. See you in the Mall.
Merry Christmas.

Fiona - The Wave Clinic

Fiona Yassin is the founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic. She is a U.K. and International registered Psychotherapist and Accredited Clinical Supervisor (U.K. and UNCG).

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