Dealing with performance anxiety, procrastination and discipline
June 22, 2013 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I've been putting off important tasks due to anxiety and a big fear of failure. What books would you recommend that teaches concepts or techniques that would help?

Depression is getting me down, and I find it hard to put in effort to tidy my room, clean up stuff and work on important, long-term projects. While I think my depression is a contributing factor, I wouldn't want to say I have no responsibility at all. So I am looking for help for any ways to put off procrastination. Books, websites, courses are all welcomed.
posted by crowbar_of_irony to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Coping With Life's Challenges by Chris Kleinke is a pretty straightforward and helpful book. It's mostly practical advice and exercises, so no great timeless insight or anything, but if you actually do the exercises (checklists and such), it can be really helpful.

I also really like the tips that Michelle Russell gives for overcoming perfectionism in this interview. I haven't looked at her blog, which appears to be not-very-updated, but I suspect some of the archives might still be helpful.
posted by jaguar at 11:28 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm tempted to say "see my previous answers, especially this one," but:

The Now Habit
Getting Things Done (which is as much about psychology as about specific tricks.)

Seriously, though, this is like a third of CBT (and procrastination is deeply intertwined with anxiety, particularly of the anticipatory variety.) So, see my previous answers, especially that one.
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 11:38 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also: it being due or related to depression doesn't mean "it's not your fault," and it being NOT due to depression doesn't mean "it is your fault." Guilt, shame, and assigning blame are also really deeply intertwined with functional impairments such as (but not limited to) procrastination.

If it's related to your depression (or any other medical condition,) however, you do need to figure out to what extent your productivity is being impaired by medical symptoms (or medication side effects) such as hypersomnia, inability to focus, etc., and to what extent this is an actual cognitive-behavioral kind of thing. Because I'm "not getting stuff done" when I'm lying on the bed sobbing my heart out, but The Now Habit isn't the right answer at all when that's the case.

This is another one of my previous answers that talks about when things are "hard" from a more straight-up mental health perspective.
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 11:49 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

With procrastination - after you've read a book or two, you may find that even wanting books is a procrastination. It feels like you're doing it, but you're not doing it, you're still thinking about doing it. Sometimes you just have to DO IT and MAKE IT A HABIT. There's no way through but through.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:38 PM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding The Now Habit. It's not so good on tidying your room, but very good on important, long-term projects. Also it's pretty short, so even if you're reading it to procrastinate, it won't put you much further behind.
posted by pont at 1:01 PM on June 22, 2013

I know you don't mention any attention issues here, but I have been finding this book on Mindfulness and ADHD to be helpful for this type of thing (in addition to The Now Habit, which is mentioned a lot for good reasons). Despite the title, I don't think you'd need to have ADHD to benefit from the exercises here, though there might be a few sections that wouldn't directly apply to you.

This workbook on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (of which mindfulness practice plays a huge part) is also really helpful IMO but is a more serious and "heavy" read, so that might be something to think about in the slightly longer term. The techniques in The Now Habit and the other book I mentioned are maybe more immediately applicable and don't require you to do quite as much psychological digging.

Anyway, in both the ACT and the mindfulness/ADHD books, the idea is that meditation practice can help you to practice recognizing anxiety, distraction, etc. before they derail your day, and to decide to continue with the things you feel are important despite these obstacles. Most of the exercises are short (5-10 min) and can be really rewarding even if you think you're not "good at" meditation, in the same way that weightlifting is helpful even (especially!) if you're not strong. The ADHD book also comes with links to some guided meditation mp3s to coach you through it.

And while in principle I see how reading can sometimes be an escape from doing the things you're supposed to be doing, I think it's a great idea to learn more about the how and why of your particular problems. Unfortunately, I've found "just do it" is rarely effective advice (and the reasons are actually something these texts go into). I also think it's a good idea to periodically check back in with books that I've read and repeat some of the exercises - it helps to renew your commitment and to reinforce the new habits you're trying to make. And finally, IMO, it can also be helpful just to read something in a friendly, understanding, sympathetic voice when part of your brain is yelling at you about how you're a fuckup and will never amount to anything (thanks, brain! super helpful).
posted by en forme de poire at 1:37 PM on June 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

Delivered from Distraction helped me with focus and ADD.
Feeling Good is great for depression and anxiety.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:22 PM on June 22, 2013

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