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Last Updated on July 26, 2018

Types of Procrastination (And How To Fix Procrastination And Start Doing)

Types of Procrastination (And How To Fix Procrastination And Start Doing)

We are all guilty of procrastinating from time to time—there’s always something more interesting than the work in hand. We usually think it’s no big deal since deadline is our biggest inspiration, and we do our best work when we’re inspired. We may even joke about it.

However, procrastination is a massive waste of time as it turns out.

A survey in 2015 found that on average, a person loses over 55 days per year procrastinating, wasting around 218 minutes every day on doing unimportant things.[1] Here’s the maths:

218 minutes/day x 365 = 79570 minutes = 55.3 days

That’s a lot of time wasted!

We must fight procrastination to its core.  And we can do this if we become more aware of ourselves and this bad habit called procrastination. Only then can we succeed to crush it and reach our goals.

5 Types of procrastination (and how to fix them)

There’re mainly 5 common reasons why people procrastinate. To help you identify the reason why you put things off easily, here’re 5 types of procrastination. Let’s see which one you find yourself more relatable to:

Type 1: The Perfectionist

    They are the ones who pay too much attention to the minor details. The perfectionist is afraid to start a task because they get stressed out about getting every detail right. They can also get stuck in the process even when they’ve started since they’re just too scared to move on.

    Advice for the Perfectionist:

    Instead of letting your obsession with details take up all your time, be clear about the purpose of your tasks and assign a time limit to each task.[2] This will force you to stay focused and finish your task within the time frame.

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    For example:

    If you’re going to write a report, be clear about the purpose of the report first.

    If the goal of having the report is to clearly present the changes in data over the past few months, don’t sweat too much about writing up a lot of dainty words; rather, focus more on the figures and charts. Just make sure the goal can be reached, and there’s really no need to work on things that don’t help you achieve the ultimate goal.

    Type 2: The Dreamer

      This is someone who enjoys making the ideal plan more than taking actions. They are highly creative, but find it hard to actually finish a task.

      Advice for the Dreamer

      To stop yourself from being carried away by your endless imagination, get your feet back on the ground by setting specific (and achievable) goals for each day based on the SMART framework. Set a goal and break down the plan into small tasks that you can take actions right away.[3]

      For example:

      If you dream about waking up earlier every day, set a clear goal about it – “In 3 weeks, I will wake up at 6:30am every day.”

      Then, break this goal down into smaller tasks:

      • From tonight onwards, I will go to sleep before 11:00pm.
        • Set alarm to remind me to go to sleep
        • Schedule earlier friends gathering so I can go to sleep early
      • For the 1st week, I will wake up at 7:30am even for non-working days
        • Go jogging or swimming in the morning for weekends

      … and the task list goes on.

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      Also, you should reflect on your progress while you work. Track your input and output for each task, so you can easily tell which tasks are only a waste of time with little importance.[4] This can help you focus on doing the things that bring positive results, which will improve productivity.

      Type 3: The Avoider

        The worrier are scared to take on tasks that they think they can’t manage. They would rather put off work than be judged by others when they end up making mistakes.

        Advice for the Avoider

        I know checking emails seems tempting, but don’t make answering emails the first thing on your to-do list.[5] More often than not, emails are unimportant. But they steal your time and mental energy before you even notice.

        Instead, focus on the worst first.[6] Spend your morning working on what you find the most challenging. This will give you a sense of achievement, and helps you build momentum for a productive day ahead.

        Try to break down your tasks into smaller sub-tasks. Understand how much time and energy is really needed for a given task. Make realistic calculations.

        For example:

        A 2000-word report does seem to take a lot of time and effort, it does seem scary to just start working on it. But is there anyway to break this down into smaller pieces so it’ll seem less scary? What about this:

        • Introduction: around 100 words (15 min)
        • Table of content (5 min)
        • Report on the financial status: a chart with 100 supporting text (20 min)
        • Case study: 3 cases based on the new business model with around 400 words each (around 40 min each)
        • Conclusion: around 800 words (30 min)

        Does it look a lot more easier now?

        Type 4: The Crisis-maker

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          Now the crisis-maker deliberately pushes back work until the last minute. They find deadlines (the crises) exciting, and believe that they work best when being forced to rush it.

          Advice for the Crisis-maker

          Being forced to rush the work will perform better is just an illusion because it actually leaves you no room for reviewing the work to make it better afterwards.

          If you always leave work until the last minute, try using the Pomodoro technique. Literally the ‘tomato technique’ developed by Italian entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo.[7]

          It focuses on working in short, intensely focused bursts, and then giving yourself a brief break to recover and start over.

          For example:

          Use a timer and divide your complex work into small manageable sessions. In between the small sessions, give yourself a break to recover.

          While giving your brain a regular break can highly boost your performance by recharging your brain’s energy;[8] having completed the tasks earlier allows you to have plenty of time to go through your work again to make it even better.

          Type 5: The Busy Procrastinator

            This type of procrastinators are the fussy ones. They have trouble prioritizing tasks because they either have too many of them or refuse to work on what they see as unworthy of their effort. They don’t know how to choose the task that’s best for them and simply postpone making any decisions.[9]

            Advice for the Busy Procrastinator

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            You have to get your priorities straight. Important tasks should take priority over urgent ones because ‘urgent’ doesn’t always mean important.[10] You only have so much time and energy, and you don’t want to waste that on things that don’t matter.

            Identify the purpose of your task and the expected outcome. Important tasks are the ones that add value in the long run.

            Replying an email that’s written “please get back to me asap” seems to be urgent, but before you reply that email, think about how important it is compared to other tasks.

            For example:

            Imagine the email is sent by a client asking about the progress of a project and she wants you to reply her as soon as possible; at the same time you have another task about fixing the logistics problem that is affecting all the projects on hand. Which one should you handle first?

            The time cost for replying an email is as low as just around 5 minutes but the benefit is also very low because you’re just satisfying one client request. Fixing the logistic problem probably takes a lot more time but it’s also a lot more worth it because by fixing the problem, you’re saving all the projects on hands, benefiting the whole company.

            Beat procrastination now!

            You may notice most of the characteristics of procrastinators have to do with their mindset. People keep delaying work because of fear. This is exactly why tweaking our attitude towards work can help us stop procrastinating.

            Changing your mindset may seem a lot of work. But by doing the smallest things every day, you’re getting used to the way you handle works — from setting goals, to breaking down tasks, to evaluating each task’s values.

            There is no tomorrow when it comes to this particular habit.  You just have to beat it now!

            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

            Reference

            More by this author

            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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            Last Updated on August 16, 2018

            16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

            16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

            The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

            How about a unique spin on things?

            These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

            1. Empty your mind.

            It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

            Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

            Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

            Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

            How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

            2. Keep certain days clear.

            Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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            This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

            3. Prioritize your work.

            Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

            Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

            Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

            How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

            4. Chop up your time.

            Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

            5. Have a thinking position.

            Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

            What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

            6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

            To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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            Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

            7. Don’t try to do too much.

            OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

            8. Have a daily action plan.

            Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

            Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

            9. Do your most dreaded project first.

            Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

            10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

            The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

            11. Have a place devoted to work.

            If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

            But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

            Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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            Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

            12. Find your golden hour.

            You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

            Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

            Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

            Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

            13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

            It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

            By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

            Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

            14. Never stop.

            Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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            Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

            There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

            15. Be in tune with your body.

            Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

            16. Try different methods.

            Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

            It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

            Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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