“You had three weeks! He told you with enough time — and I reminded you as well.”
My wife was yelling at me, and I deserved it. It was 9pm on a school night. The next morning, my son had to be in school with his baseball gear clean and prepared for the big game. It was my job to get it all ready, and I had failed again.
I had thought about doing it plenty of times but kept putting it off — as usual.
For the past six weeks, I had been seeing a therapist for my chronic procrastination. Things got better after the first session. But at that moment, looking down at my son, thinking about him going to school empty-handed and having to stand on the sidelines, I realized the quick fix was wearing off.
I’ve been procrastinating since I got my first homework assignment. For my first essay, I stayed up all night and handed in a half-assed, barely readable paper the next morning.
Every project thereafter was the same.
Sometimes I didn’t even finish (even after an intense all-nighter and copious amounts of Red Bull) so I lied and told the teacher that I handed it in but it must have gotten lost. That started a habit of lying to cover up my bad habit. Cue more guilt and shame.
I managed to score enough C grades to scrape into college thanks to my Mum constantly reminding me to do all the things I had to do.
I almost failed my undergraduate degree a couple of times — I missed the deadline for the end-of-year term paper and had to retake it. I put that off too and just about handed it in, minutes after the deadline, just as my tutor’s secretary was closing the office.
I was late handing in a paper to make up for a paper that I had handed in late. If it wasn’t so serious I would have laughed. Looking back, there were more tears than laughter.
I realized my problem was serious, so I went to the bookstore to look for answers.
Even though I was reading more Tony Robbins than textbooks, I graduated by the seat of my pants.
I moved on to the ‘real world’ but I wasn’t done with the gurus yet.
Once I had a bit more money, I threw it at my problem. I upgraded from books to seminars to multi-day retreats. I learned there were lots of other people out there with the same issues.
That gave me solace and made me realize I wasn’t alone. I didn’t realize it at the time but I had stumbled onto one of the keys that would eventually help me overcome procrastination for good.
Away from the resorts and conference rooms, procrastination was taking its toll on the rest of my life. I put off cleaning and tidying my apartment, so my place was always a mess. I put off calling or writing to my elderly grandmother. She passed away without me getting a chance to tell her how much I loved her.
I still carry those words left unsaid to this day.
I was procrastinating on a macro level too: I had been dating a great girl for eighteen months but I was no closer to getting married or buying a house.
Once again, my luck changed and I became a father unexpectedly. I decided then I needed to step up and support my family and be a good example for my son.
I realized my way wasn’t working… I needed some professional help
I found a therapist and started going once per week. It was expensive but I was desperate.
She helped me identify my bad habits and helped me tackle them one at a time. We started with my phone scrolling habit where I would lose track of time. Then we moved on to the adrenaline rush I was getting by leaving things to the last minute.
But every time I addressed one issue, another would pop up. It was like playing a game of ‘Whac-A-Mole’ with my bad habits.
The day after the argument about not getting my son’s sports kit ready for school, my wife sent me a link to an article. I wasn’t sure if it was her way of saying sorry or if it was a message to finally get my act together or else.
The piece was about a woman who had lost over 100 pounds after years of procrastinating on improving her health.
First, she got a personal trainer: that gave her a personalized plan that worked around her limitations.
Once she got in decent shape, she then joined a local CrossFit group: that gave her a support group, made training sociable and kept her accountable.
Reading the article on my phone, the cogs in my mind started turning and I thought about why all the self-help books and courses had failed: they were generalized and not specific for me. I realized that different people procrastinate for different reasons. We all have histories and neuroses that cause us to put things off.
That’s why the therapy had started to work for me — I was getting one-on-one help.
But it got expensive and with a young family support I had to find a cheaper method.
Also, I realized I needed to find a peer group who were on the same path and could relate to what I was going through.
So I started aggressively surfing the web to find a program that would give me personalized help and a group of people to grow with — power in numbers.
I finally found Virtue Map.
I was skeptical at first (after all the other things I had gotten excited about in vain) but I saw that lots of other people had gone through the program: 154,200
That gave me some confidence. I took the short online quiz and then worked with a coach to identify my triggers and weak spots.
It wasn’t an overnight change. It took a lot of hard work. But I never doubted their system, and within a couple of months I started to see glimmers of progress.
Fast-forward six months later and the biggest change is the huge weight off my shoulders — all the guilt and over analyzing and analysis paralysis has gone away…
These days I am always prepared. Family birthdays, and anniversaries, I have the card and gifts ready weeks in advance. Packing for a work trip, my suitcase is ready days before my flight.
Some of my work colleagues and friends have noticed the transformation. I have to hold back from sounding like a salesman, raving about Virtue Map. I wait until they ask me and are serious about changing.
I encourage them to take the quick quiz.
Even if they just do that, it will help them get to the root cause of their procrastination instead of trying to change symptoms.