We speak of procrastination when something remains undone, or is being attended to at the very last moment, even though this comes with significant disadvantages and even though there would have been the opportunity and the skills to get things done earlier.

Procrastination is a common theme in the counselling of gifted people, and can be linked to some of the typical challenges of giftedness.

  • If a gifted student wasn’t sufficiently challenged in school, she may not have developed good self-management strategies such as self-motivation, persistence or frustration tolerance.
  • Underexertion led to a lack of learning strategies and the gifted person does not know, for example, how to make a realistic time estimate, or how to structure learning material. (cf. Underexertion)
  • Underexertion may have caused ADHD symptoms
  • The gifted person may actually suffer from ADHD (cf. ADHD)
  • The gifted person may have developed a fixed mindset and be afraid of challenges and failures (cf. Fixed Mindset)
  • The gifted person may be afraid of rejection in case her skills get noticed (cf. Ambivalence Dilemma)
  • The task may not be stimulating enough, so that the gifted person faces stress or underexertion

In my experience, procrastination can rarely be treated with techniques and discipline alone. The core of the issue is that the respective tasks are associated with negative emotions and circumstances such as stress, overexertion, feelings of inferiority, fear of failure or loss of connection. All of these cause avoidant behavior. Even if the reason is actual ADHD, with this disorder, discipline remains a behavior that is hard to keep up long-term.

It is a lot more effective (and comfortable) to reduce the associated negative emotions, make the task as easy as possible and to connect it with positive emotions.

My recommendation would be to proceed in a similar way as proposed in the analysis and regulation schema of the emotional competence training. A situation can be analyzed with the following questions:

  1. What is the feeling I associate with the tasks I procrastinate?
  2. Which tasks make me procrastinate?
    For example: Tasks …where I will be compared …where I feel bored …that seem very extensive to me …where I can’t figure out the first step …where I am afraid to perform particularly well. …etc. etc.
  3. Which general feeling state leads to very strong procrastination?
  4. What happens cognitively when I procrastinate: What do I focus on when I procrastinate? What are my thoughts? Which inner interpretations and judgements take place?
  5. Which goals, expectations and needs come into play?
  6. Which life experiences, fears and emotional patterns influence me?
  7. Which physical body sensations do I have?
  8. Which other emotions are effected (e.g. shame, anger at me or others)?
  9. What would I prefer to do now?
  10. How do I actually behave?
  11. What are short- and long-term advantages of this behavior?
  12. What are short- and long-term disadvantages of this behavior?


After this extensive analysis, you can differentiate what the difficulties are and develop specific resolution strategies. 


  1. The first question is: Which emotion would help you to begin with the task?
  2. Collect ideas that might cause this emotion to arise:
  • How could I change the task or situation in such a way that this positive emotion comes up? This is also where you can use common advice for dealing with procrastination, e.g.: Splitting the task up in several smaller steps, smaller time intervals with a clear beginning and end, sufficient breaks, minimize distractions, create a nice atmosphere etc.
  • Which general emotional state would help me and how can I trigger it?
  • What should I focus on and remember? Which thoughts would help?
  • Are my goals and expectations realistic or do they lead to negative emotions (pressure, fear, disappointment etc.)? Which goals or expectations would be realistic and helpful?
  • Are my fears and emotional patterns correct and helpful or are they, in fact, unrealistic and harmful generalizations from the past? Which attitudes and beliefs would help me get to my desired feeling state?
  • How can I use my body to create the desired feeling? 
    E.g. relaxation techniques, taking on a specific body posture etc.?
  • Which other emotions would support my desired feeling state (e.g. happiness, fun, curiosity, trust etc.)? What can I do to create those?
  • Which other emotions would support my desired feeling state (e.g. happiness, fun, curiosity, trust etc.)? What can I do to create those?

It is often very helpful to remember that very short moments decide on your behavior: You feel something uncomfortable when thinking about the task and you become instantly avoidant. If you do this again and again, it will become a behavior pattern. It can be changed by allowing this negative emotion in small moments and still stick to your plan. In that moment, this will not be effortless, however, you need to make this effort, because the respective emotion normally changes pretty fast and if it comes back, you need to allow and feel it only for a short time.

It is a little bit different with ADHD and continuous underexertion. Here, the negative emotion often remains and keeps building up. In this case, you need to ensure that the moments of effort (of feeling) do not overtax you, for example by keeping them short, mix them up with other things etc.

Finally, I would like to recommend changing procrastination in small steps, because it is the most successful way. If you take on too much at once, you risk not accomplishing it and therefore create another negative emotion and a vicious cycle. It is better to keep your goals small and achievable, so as to create a sense of achievement. I also recommend keeping at least one task that you procrastinate regularly. It would be unbearable for your environment, if suddenly you are able to do anything. Be nice to your fellow humans! ;)


More information and seminars on this topic can be found here:


For therapists and counselors:


Erledigt statt Aufgeschoben!  Ein Seminar zum Thema Prokrastination

Emotionszentrierte Arbeit



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