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The Anatomy of Procrastination

The Anatomy of Procrastination

By procrastinating, a person doesn’t know what they have done for around 218 minutes a day. In other words, more than 3 hours go missing every single day, and about 55 days — almost 2 months are lost every year. Imagine every night you put 100 bucks in your wallet, and the next morning when you open it, 30 bucks are missing and you don’t know where the money has gone. This is what procrastination does.

We all procrastinate, and we procrastinate a lot.

Even if you do make an effort to fight procrastination, the tide is against you.

Modern Living Has Made It Even Easier to Procrastinate

Not only is procrastination tough to beat – but it’s getting even tougher. The percentage of chronic procrastinators has grown from about 5 percent in 1978, to 26 percent in 2007, as shown in a study by University of Calgary.[1]

In today’s always-connected age, there are constant temptations to choose procrastination over action. Checking the latest news, updating social media accounts, and chatting digitally with friends from around the world. It’s literally a non-stop cycle of news, notifications and quirky YouTube videos.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. The internet is a great thing, and has brought about a communications revolution. The problem is that without control on your part, the internet can suck your life and energy – just like an electronic vampire.

And you don’t need to take my word for it either. A recent study by Webtrate showed that email and social media stole an hour of productivity per workday for about 36 percent of people, while 16 percent lost more than an hour.[2]

The trend towards procrastination is a powerful one – but technology is not the the only thing to blame.

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    At Its Core, Procrastination Is About Our Emotions

    It turns out that procrastination is at the core of each of us.

    Procrastination is strongly linked to our emotions. Let’s briefly talk about biology — the limbic system. This system acts as the brain’s emotional center. It’s developed to manage circuitry attributed to the fight-or-flight response.[3] In other words, the limbic system primes us to ‘feel’ first.

    When our feelings are negative (e.g., when we hear bad news), we look for ways to distract ourselves. Usually, this involves giving into instant pleasures such as: chocolate, social media and TV marathons.

    The same thing applies to procrastination. Say you need to complete a project at work that involves tons of research. Unfortunately for you, research is something that you don’t enjoy, so you find yourself constantly looking for ways to avoid starting (let alone finishing) the project. This might involve making lots of coffee or tea, chatting with colleagues, or working on anything other than the project.

    Procrastination and emotions are eternally linked, and unless you discover how to step out of this union, you’ll be forever destined to be weak and hesitant. Fortunately, there are ways to break free.

    The 5 Procrastination Personalities

    Our instinct to navigate to instant pleasure first has led to five distinct ‘procrastinator personalities.’ Let’s take a look at each of these personalities – and see if you can identify yourself in the process.

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    1. The Perfectionist

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      Being perfect is the pleasure perfectionists want. But often this leads to them being too scared to show any imperfections. Because of this, they frequently fail to complete things, as they’re forever seeking the perfect timing or approach. Tasks end up never being completed, because in the eyes of the perfectionist, things are never perfect enough.

      You’ve no doubt encountered these types (and you may even be one of them) in your day-to-day life. In the office, perfectionists can be found staring intently at their screens, as they continually make minor changes to their spreadsheets, documents and presentations. Instead of finishing something, they get caught up in a never-ending cycle of additions, edits, and deletions. Someone needs to tell them that perfection is rarely realized.

      2. The Dreamer

      Dreaming is fun when compared to real life – which involves lots of challenges and difficulties. It’s no wonder that a dreamer prefers to stay in the dreaming stage. That way, they don’t have to work for real, or deal with any negativity or stress.

      Dreaming gives this type of people a false sense of achievement, as in their minds, they envision big, ambitious plans. Unfortunately for them, these plans will most likely stay as dreams, and they’ll never accomplish anything truly worthwhile.

      You probably know someone like this. Every time you meet them, they tell you of their grandiose ideas and goals, but not once do they state what they’re doing to bring these dreams into reality. After years of hearing their stories, you come to a valid conclusion: they’re just dreamers.

      3. The Avoider

      Avoiders have bought into the line that ‘by doing nothing, bad things won’t happen.’

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      In reality, avoiders have developed a fear of making mistakes or doing anything wrong. Their way to avoid these mishaps, is to do nothing at all. In the end, they may make few mistakes – but they also see few accomplishments.

      In the workplace, avoiders are easy to spot. They seldom speak, preferring to keep themselves to themselves. They also lack proactivity, instead, they favor the motto: ‘I’ll just do the bare minimum.’ They may regard themselves as solid and reliable workers, but in reality, they lack drive, ambition and the spark of life.

      4. The Crisis-maker

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        Crisis-makers are those who believe that deadlines can push them to do better. Instead of having a schedule to complete their work – they prefer to enjoy time doing their own thing before the deadline comes around.

        It’s most likely an unconscious thing, but crisis-makers evidently believe that starting early will sacrifice their time for pleasure. This is reinforced in their minds and feelings, by the many times they manage to get away with burning the midnight oil. Often they sacrifice the quality of their work because of rushing it.

        Without naming the individual, let me tell you the story of a crisis-maker I used to work with. He was a party lover, and frequently came to work late – and not in the best state either. He was blessed with charisma, and so was able to come across in meetings as focused, organized and determined. The real story was that his work would be left until the very last minute, when he would then make a massive effort to finish it. Sometimes this went well, other times his work was littered with careless and costly mistakes.

        5. The Busy Procrastinator

        A busy procrastinator is certainly busy – but they lack the ability to prioritize their work. They do what they feel like they should do, rather than thinking through what they really need to do.

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        Prioritizing tasks is a step that takes extra time, so a busy procrastinator will feel it’s not worth it. In these cases, they delay doing what’s really important, because they don’t actually recognize it as being important. Because of this, they usually end up doing a lot of effortless tasks that don’t contribute much to a project.

        I come across busy procrastinators all the time. They look super busy, but their output and results reveal their lack of organizational skills. They’re incessantly busy on low-impact tasks, but seem oblivious to urgent, high-impact tasks. It’s the equivalent to a thirsty cat licking the outside of a bowl filled with milk – its efforts are focused on the wrong place!

        If you suffer from procrastination, identify which of the above personality types you most closely match. Once you’ve done that, take some time to reflect on how you became like that, and then think of ways to step outside of your conditioned behavior. For example, if you’re a dreamer, look for ways to turn your dreams into reality. In most cases, you’ll need an end goal – and a plan to get there. You’ll also make it easy on yourself if you take small, but certain, steps at a time.

        Understand It to Beat It

        Everyone has a different reason to procrastinate, but every reason points to our prime to feel first. By understanding how your emotions make procrastination happen, you can figure out the exact action to turn around the negativity.

        I’ve written another article about how to control your emotions better to beat procrastination, read it and find out how to adjust your tasks to avoid the negative emotions.

        Don’t let procrastination steal your life. Be active, be confident, and become a person of accomplishment.

        Featured photo credit: Vimeo via vimeo.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Leon Ho

        Founder & CEO of Lifehack

        How to Move Forward After Achieving Goal Success FIRED to HIRED with the Fortune Formula Why Having a Goals Strategy Can Help You Achieve More How to Be More Assertive and Go After Your Goals How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

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        Last Updated on May 7, 2021

        Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

        Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

        I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

        Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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        Relocate your alarm clock.

        Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

        Scrap the snooze.

        The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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        Change up your buzzer

        If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

        Make a puzzle

        If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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        Get into a routine

        Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

        Have a reason

        Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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        As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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