"Procrastination is something best put off until tomorrow." — Gerald Vaughan
The Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts is a technique to use when you’re overwhelmed by the urge to do nothing. What I like about this technique is you intercept your automatic thoughts and challenge your thinking.
In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated,Dr. David Burns introduces the Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts to help you take action and overcome what he calls "doing nothingism."
Why a Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts
The Daily Record of Dysfunction thoughts works because it addresses two things:
- You capture your automatic thoughts. This is the process of paying attention to what your automatic thoughts are about a given task or situation. The automatic thoughts can be negative in nature and can gradually undermine your desire to take action, or they can wear you down over time.
- You create rational responses. This is your chance to be mindful and write down a rational response to your automatic thoughts. By noticing your automatic thoughts, you can respond to them more deliberately and start to tune yourself to take action and adopt more effective thoughts.
Summary of Steps
Here are the key steps according to Burns:
- Step 1. Create the Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts Table
- Step 2. Write down the situation or task.
- Step 3. Write down your thoughts.
- Step 4. Write down rational responses.
Step 1. Create the Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts Table
To create the Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts Table:
Draw five lines down a piece of paper. This will divide the sheet into 6 columns.
Label the columns:
- Automatic Thoughts
- Rational Responses
Step 2. Write down the situation or task.
Write down the situation or task.
Step 3. Write down your thoughts.
Write down the thoughts that run through your mind when you think about the particular task or situation.
Step 4. Write down rational responses.
Write down appropriate rational responses that show these thoughts are unrealistic.
Example Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts
Burns include an example of a Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts:
|Date||Situation||Emotions||Automatic Thoughts||Rational Responses||Outcome|
|7/15/99||I stayed in bed all day Sunday – slept off and on – no desire or energy to get up or do anything productive.||Depressed; Exhausted; Guilty; Self-Hatred; Lonely||I have no desire to do anything.||That’s because I’m doing nothing. Remember motivation follows action!||Felt some relief and decided to get up and take a shower at least.|
|-||-||-||I don’t have the energy to get out of bed.||I can get out of bed; I’m not crippled.||-|
|-||-||-||I’m a failure as a person.||I do succeed at things when I want to. Doing nothing makes me depressed and bored but it doesn’t mean I’m "a failure as a person" because there is no such thing!||-|
|-||-||-||I have no real interests.||I do have interests but not when I’m doing nothing. If I get started at something, I’ll probably get more interested.||-|
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