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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

5 Types of Procrastination (And How to Fix Each of Them)

5 Types of Procrastination (And How to Fix Each of Them)

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

However, procrastination is a massive waste of time and can greatly hurt productivity.

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

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 in reaching our goals.

5 Types of Procrastination (And How to Fix Them)

There are 5 common reasons why people procrastinate. To help you identify the reason why you put things off easily, here are 5 types of procrastination and procrastinators.

Type 1: The Perfectionist

The perfectionist procrastination

    They are the ones who pay too much attention to the minor details. The perfectionist is afraid to start the task at hand 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 to deal with this type of procrastination.[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

    The dreamer procrastination

      This is someone who enjoys making the ideal plan more than taking action. 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 with this type of procrastination, 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 action on right away.[3]

      For example:

      If you dream about waking up earlier every day, set a clear goal for 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 friend gatherings 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

      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. This can help you focus on doing the things that bring positive results, which will improve productivity.

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      Type 3: The Avoider

      The avoider procrastination

        The worriers 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.[4] 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 to tackle this type of procrastination. Spend your morning working on what you find the most challenging. This will give you a sense of achievement, and it 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, and make realistic calculations.

        For example:

        A 2000-word report does seem to take a lot of time and effort, and 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? You can try this:

        • Introduction: around 100 words (15 min)
        • Table of content (5 min)
        • Report on the financial status: a chart with 100 words 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 easier now?

        Type 4: The Crisis-Maker

        The crisis-maker procrastination

          The crisis-maker deliberately pushes back work until the last minute. They find deadlines (the crises) exciting and believe that they work best when working under pressure, which causes them to manage their time poorly.

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          Advice for the Crisis-Maker

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

          If you always leave work until the last minute, try using the Pomodoro technique, developed by Italian entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo.

          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, 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

          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.

            Advice for the Busy Procrastinator

            You have to get your priorities straight when you run into this type of procrastination. Important tasks should take priority over urgent ones because “urgent” doesn’t always mean important. 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.

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            Replying to an email that says “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 to 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 to an email is low, but the benefit is also very low because you’re just satisfying one client’s 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.

            The Bottom Line

            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 like a lot of work, but by doing the smallest things every day, you’re getting used to the way you handle work—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 have to overcome procrastination today. Get more tips in this Lifehack Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination.

            More on Overcoming the Types of Procrastination

            Featured photo credit: Nick Fewings via unsplash.com

            Reference

            More by this author

            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

            A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success 17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It How to Think Critically: 5 Powerful Techniques What Are The Levels Of The Mind And How To Improve Them

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            Last Updated on July 21, 2021

            Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

            Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

            Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

            Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

            There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

            Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

            Why We Procrastinate After All?

            We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

            Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

            Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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            To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

            If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

            Is Procrastination Bad?

            Yes it is.

            Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

            Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

            Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

            It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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            The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

            Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

            For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

            A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

            Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

            Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

            How Bad Procrastination Can Be

            Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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            After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

            One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

            That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

            Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

            In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

            You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

            More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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            Procrastination, a Technical Failure

            Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

            It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

            It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

            Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

            Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

            Reference

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