David Rasch, a California psychologist who holds his PhD in Counseling Psychology, developed the Wheel of Suffering in regards to procrastination. He spends much of his life helping people who suffer from writer’s block and other issues that stem from procrastination, and his research may help lawyers in particular. His Procrastination Wheel of Suffering is divided into six parts, detailed here. Do you suffer from the vicious cycle of procrastination? Hopefully, this will help.
Part 1: Unrealistic Goals, which Delay the Start
Most procrastinators have developed their tendencies over time—procrastination of writing projects does not happen overnight. However, most habitual procrastinators start each project with lofty and unrealistic goals in mind that physically cannot be reached. For something to be so ingrained in a person’s life (as habitual procrastination often is), denial of the problem is the first problem. All of this combines together to delay the start of the writing project. This delay and avoidance starts the project on the wrong foot, which leads into the rest of the cycle.
Part 2: Fear of Failure, which Leads to Anxiety and Resentment
As the avoidance of writing takes hold, fear starts to creep into your conscience. It may feel like you aren’t the competent person everyone thinks you are, or that you are going to fail. This leads to anxiety, which does not help the writing process (it often causes interference with concentration and affects short term memory). Avoidance continues. This is when you may start to resent the project, the people who may have assigned, and the people around you who don’t have an unstarted project hanging over their heads. Writing while these emotions rage is difficult, so you continue to avoid.
Part 3: Internal Pep Talks and Daydreaming
There is always a time, partway through a project, where you still feel like you can turn the whole thing around. You write everything down in your calendar, setting deadlines for yourself that, deep inside, you know you can’t possibly meet. You give yourself a couple of pep talks, telling yourself that it isn’t so bad, that there is still time to recover. But yet, you still don’t start writing. Or, if you do sit down to write, you are distracted by daydreams. This is a more serious problem, because it makes it evident that you don’t always have control over your own thoughts and goals.
Part 4: Avoidance, which Leads to Worry, Lying, and Self-Criticism
At this point, your avoidance is becoming a problem, and you know it. So you worry. It’s easy to worry, but the feeling of concern also makes it difficult to actually begin writing anything. So, even though you are fully aware of the looming deadline, of the project at hand, you continue to avoid. Your worry grows. If people start asking how it’s going, you lie because you’re embarrassed that you haven’t made any progress. Feelings of self-loathing grow and flourish and your stress level rises.
Part 5: More Anxiety, and Approaching Deadline, and Inevitable Binge Writing
As your deadline approaches, you start to feel completely overwhelmed. You know you have to get to work, so you make yourself do it. Everything else in your life falls by the wayside and you dive head-first into a writing binge.
Part 6: The Writing Binge, Disappointment, and Rationalizing
There is a strange thrill during this binge as you do eventually get your work done before the deadline passes. You may be disappointed in the work, but you rationalize that you got it done, so it’s not all bad. And you can definitely do better next time, especially if you have more time.
How Does This Relate to Lawyers?
Unfortunately, lawyers and law students may suffer more in the wheel of procrastination than in other fields of work. Procrastinators are often labeled as lazy, which sounds counterintuitive when used in the same sentence as law student. However, procrastination is a huge detriment in law school. If you suffer from this cycle of procrastination and binge writing, now is the time to try to break the habit. Law school is difficult enough without making it harder on yourself. Start at the first step of the cycle and shut the whole thing down. Write a little bit every day until it becomes a habit, until there is no desire to procrastinate anymore. As with any habit, procrastination is a difficult thing to get rid of entirely. It is in your best interest, whether you’re still in law school or are a practicing attorney, to do what you can to break yourself of the habit now, before it consumes your life.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- Procrastination Rehab: Release the Responsible Law Student Hiding Inside of You
- Best Apps for Goal Setting
- Do You Need a Sponsor to Stay Productive in Law School
- How to Stay Productive and Remember Everything in Law School
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