Identify Your Procrastination Style and How to Change Your Ways
I’ve said it before; I’m a procrastinator. I've once again started two new articles (plus this one) and have not finished any of them; I just did a load of laundry that I said I was going to do since I got the kids out of the house this morning (it’s now 4 p.m.); and I never got around to putting some of my sons’ toys away like I meant to do this afternoon, as well.
I didn't start that one right away because I wanted to start researching for this article, which also got side-tracked because I started surfing online, got caught up in it, and said that famous line “I’ll get back to that in a minute.” I did finally get back to my research, only to find that the “minute” turned into about 3 hours.
Psychologist Dr. Linda Sapadin found that there are six different styles of procrastination. Every procrastinator falls into one or more of these styles. Dr. Sapadin developed a quiz that can help you determine which of the six types is most like you. It’s possible to have a tie with multiple styles, which just means that you have many different reasons to procrastinate.
The Perfectionist Procrastinator
Perfectionist procrastinators are idealists and can be very unrealistic in their use of time. These type of people either put off starting tasks or delay finishing them because of their fear of failure of achieving perfection in the task that they were doing. They’re generally the “all or nothing” types of thinkers and figure if they can’t complete what they were doing perfectly that it’s not worth completing. Procrastinating in this case is helpful at first (not having to deal with what you don’t want to do) but in the long term it affects you since it is like to result in greater stress and distress that avoiding the task and working on it at the last minute brings.
The Crisis-Maker Procrastinator
When faced with a task that they really don’t want to do, these individuals go from one extreme to the other. First, they try to ignore the task as much as they can and then they end up being extremely caught up in it. These people dramatize situations in order to make themselves the center of attention and feel there’s a need to always prove themselves to everyone around them. These people are the ones you know that get bored very easily and don’t like doing things in a rational way since they find it “boring”.
The Defier Procrastinator
If you’re the type of person that does things that others either expect or require you to do and not what you want or need to do, then you are this type of procrastinator. In order to appear nice and cooperative to others, this procrastinator doesn’t express any negative they have directly and show their feeling indirectly by procrastinating. The people resent authority and challenge it by procrastinating. They are also pessimistic by nature which makes them lack motivation to complete things in a timely manner.
The Dreamer Procrastinator
Dreamers want life to be easy and pleasant. For that reason, they avoid anything that might prove difficult or distressing, which leads to procrastination. They also tend to be rather passive individuals since they live in their fantasies and dreams. They’re also people who don’t pay much attention to facts and details in the work that they do which makes it difficult to focus on specific tasks. They tend to consider themselves as “special” individuals and as such, believe that fate will at some point intervene in their lives to help them out with what they’re doing.
The worrier procrastinator
Since these individuals lack confidence in their abilities, they either delay or avoid doing things altogether. They are very indecisive and can’t commit to the decisions they do eventually make. This makes them very dependent on the people around them for advice, reassurance and for help. Giving their worrying nature, they don’t like the unknown and are extremely resistant to change.
The overdoer procrastinator
These individuals have low self-esteem which makes them take on more work than they can so they can try to boost their confidence by showing that they can do it. This type is the person that can never say no when people ask them for help and they themselves can’t ask for help when they have too much to do. They lack self-discipline and assume so many different responsibilities that they become overwhelmed and confused as to which one is more important than the other. If they ever actually do manage to have time to themselves, they feel guilty for relaxing when they could be working or ashamed that they aren’t doing anything productive.
The chances are high that you see yourself in more than one of the styles but you will probably be able to identify with one more than the rest. Once you know what type of procrastinator you are, you can then start working on how to change your attitude and overcome your procrastination. For that there are three things you can focus on changing, each one different for each style; how you think, how you speak and how you act.
If you’re the Perfectionist Procrastinator
The first step is acknowledging that perfectionism is your problem. The second step is to tell yourself that perfection is not necessary; achieving excellent results is just as good and will stress you out less than trying to reach the unreachable. Don’t focus on the ideal of a task; focus on what you can realistically achieve and stick with that. Don’t condemn and put yourself down if you don’t do what you think is “perfect”; start practicing self-acceptance and be happy with what you achieved. Visualize positive and constructive images that will help you overcome what you are having trouble accomplishing so that you can overcome it.
Stop telling yourself “I should do this…”, “I have to do this…”, “I must do this…”and change that to a “can do” attitude “I could do this…”, “I want to…” and “I choose to do this..”.
Give yourself a time limit to complete a task and stick to it. If you can’t do it yourself, ask someone to help you set one up, which should further motivate you to stick to the time limit since someone will know that you’ve set a specific limit. Another thing you can do to help yourself is to make a to-do list keeping it short so that you don’t get overwhelmed. This may sound odd, but try to make one deliberate mistake every day. It will help you to see that making mistakes aren’t the end of the world. When you do finish a task, rewarding yourself with something that you like (like dinner out or a movie) will motivate you to continue on and do another task that you need to do.
If you're the Crisis-Maker Procrastinator
One thing that will help you is to practice creative visualization. The visions should focus on relaxing you and help you gain peace of mind. You will also have to understand that even if you don’t want to do something, once you actually start the task, you actually might like it. It’s also best, not only to overcome procrastination but for your general health to find something else to motivate you to do something other than stress. Always living on the edge is stressful and overall does more harm than good. Don’t focus on your feelings in regards to a task; think about the facts about the task which will help you alleviate your over/under reacting. One that might be hard to do is to change your thinking style; crisis-makers tend to think in extremist and general ways where a moderate and specific style would be best.
When you speak to someone or just to yourself, avoid overdramatic and polarized language; try using more thinking words and not words describing how you feel about a task. In the same vein, when you’re talking about a task, try focusing on the positive of that task instead of dwelling on the negative. The negative talk applies to how you perceive yourself as well; try to stop trying to center the attention onto yourself by saying that you are incompetent or that you feel victimized by a situation.
If you find that you have a lot of crises in your life, keep a record of them. From there, look at those records and try to find methods to handle them so that you can avoid further crises. To quell that urge to live on the edge, engage in healthier activities that would get your adrenaline running. As with the rest of the procrastination styles, create some kind of reward system that will motivate you to complete the task.
If you're the Defier Procrastinator
One thing you can do is to visualize focusing on creating a richer life for yourself; one that doesn’t focus on what others want of you. It might take some practice but it’s important to realize that when someone asks you to complete a task, it is not a demand that has to be defied, but it is a request by that individual. Finally, pick your battles carefully. Weigh out the situation and decide what’s really worth fighting for. If your boss asks you to do something important, is it worth defying them and potentially causing problems for you at work or is it better for you to just do what they asked you to do? If you find yourself thinking that you should just defy your boss, stop yourself and focus on thinking in a calmer, practical manner about what the best course of action really is.
Not expressing your negative feelings is what made you turn to procrastination in order to indirectly convey those negative feelings. To change that, say what’s on your mind, whether it be positive or negative and mean what you say. Don’t just say it to say it and don’t say it in a way that another individual would consider it a personal attack or you blaming them for something. Don’t be confrontational; there are times you may not think are you are being confrontational but your tone of voice may say differently to the person you are speaking with.
Try to act instead of reacting. If your boss asks for something, start on it; don’t have a negative reaction to the task and leave it. If you’re asked to work with a team, work with them; don’t do all you can to work against them because you feel like defying everyone. Don’t put it off anymore; simply do what you know needs to be done. Something to consider might be to take a course in assertiveness which would help you by teaching you better negotiation skills.
If you're the Dreamer Procrastinator
Something that is right up a dreamer’s alley is visualization. Visualize something that will allow you to take something abstract into something concrete and be sure to visualize doing it step by step. Also, train yourself to differentiate between dreams and goals. This goes back to the visualization; the dream is the abstract thought whereas the goal is something concrete that you can work towards achieving. An important step is to get into the habit of thinking with the “5 W’s and 1 H”, which of course are what, when, where, who, why and how. Asking yourself these questions will make the objective or task more concrete.
Continuing on the abstract/concrete thought, change how you speak regarding your wants. Instead of saying “I wish” say “I’d like to” or “I’ll try to” to simply “I will.”. Your “someday” dreams should be given an actual date. Instead of saying “Someday I’ll try to make it to Disneyworld.” tell yourself “I will save my money and go to Disneyland in 2 years.” Vague, passive language should also be changed to concrete active language which will help keep you in the here and now.
Keep track of things; put your projects in writing and use a timeline. If you find that you have a lot of tasks, it may be best to maintain two separate calendars for your home and your job and be sure to write everything down that has to be done. It’s also beneficial for you to keep a to do list but, given your dreaming nature, make a “to think about” list as well. Since dreamers enjoy dreaming about an easier, simpler life, you could use that “to think about” list as motivation to do stuff on your to do list. When you’re done your to do list, you can take a few minutes and dream. Try to participate in more active pass times rather than passive ones and seek more interaction with other people. It’s probably a little out of your comfort zone, but it will be very beneficial to you if you do.
If you're the Worrier procrastinator
This comes up with each style but it does so because it’s helpful. Use creative visualization to create a positive and confident place for you to shift to if you ever feel your anxiety level rising. When you encounter a situation that you find challenging, don’t just think of think about how the task is making you anxious, think about what aspects of that task are exciting and focus on those. Instead of being dependent on others for reassurance, learn to be your own best friend whenever you need support; self-motivation is a great tool to help overcome procrastination. In order to become more decisive, start following a two-part decision-making process. First, once you know what your task/project is, commit yourself to a goal (whether it be completing one part of the project for a certain time if it’s long or finishing it altogether if it’s not a long task), then determine the steps that you will take in order to achieve the goal.
Changing your negative statements is also helpful. Instead of saying “I don’t know,” or “I can’t”, say “I know that…” or “Maybe I can’t do this but I can do this…”. The fear of the unknown is what makes a worrier procrastinate and they are always asking themselves “what if?”. Instead of leaving it at that, try to answer the question so you can see that the task is not so bad.
To break out of the worrier/procrastinating shell, you should do things that you have either been putting off or that make you uncomfortable. Spending more time with optimistic people that are self-reliant will inspire and help you become more optimistic and self-reliant yourself. Both of these traits will help you overcome your worrying tendencies.
If you're the overdoer procrastinator
As you might expect, I’m going to suggest creative visualization. This visualization should focus on rising above your problems in order to realize solutions. A very important thing to remember is not you are not Superman/Superwoman; saying no to people’s requests if you have too much on your plate already is perfectly fine. Overdoers tend to say yes for positive approval from others but sometimes those same people just give you all the tasks to do because they know you will not say no. Remember that taking on too many tasks will make it hard for you to determine which one is a priority. Don’t think of things as if they are controlling you; focus on how you are going to gain control over things and not let them overwhelm you.
I said it earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again; say NO to others when it’s appropriate. If you have too much to do or their request is just too much for you to handle, there is no harm in saying no to it. Stop putting yourself last; instead of saying “I should do this…”, say instead “I want to…” and makes you take notice of the things that you want and need. Also, don’t feel guilty about not working. There is no need to be defensive if someone sees that you are not doing anything; after doing your tasks, there is no harm in paying attention to yourself.
Keeping a journal of everything that you have done during the day is a good idea. That way you can see how you used your time during the day. You can also try making a to-do list that is organized in order to ensure that you have made good use of your time. If you find that you have too much to do, there is no shame in enlisting the help of others near you or even hiring extra help in order to complete all your tasks. Make sure your daily to-do list has leisure time included; taking extra relaxation breaks when you need it is essential to prevent yourself from burning out from overdoing it.
Essentially, these six styles encompass all procrastinators. Hopefully you were able to identify yourself in one (or more!) of the descriptions and that the suggestions for beating your procrastination style will be beneficial to you and help you overcome this bad habit.