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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

            How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy How Your Attitude Determines Your Success How to Ask for Help When You Need It Most How Much Do You Need to Give Up to Start Over? Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

            Trending in Productivity

            1 11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits 2 How Your Attitude Determines Your Success 3 How to Ask for Help When You Need It Most 4 How Much Do You Need to Give Up to Start Over? 5 Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

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            Last Updated on March 21, 2019

            11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

            11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

            Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

            You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

            But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

            To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

            It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

            “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

            The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

            In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

            Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

            1. Start Small

            The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

            Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

            Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

            Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

            Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

            Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

            It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

            Do less today to do more in a year.

            2. Stay Small

            There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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            But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

            If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

            When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

            I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

            Why?

            Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

            The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

            Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

            3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

            No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

            There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

            What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

            Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

            This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

            This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

            4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

            When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

            There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

            Peter Drucker said,

            “What you track is what you do.”

            So track it to do it — it really helps.

            But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

            5. Measure Once, Do Twice

            Peter Drucker also said,

            “What you measure is what you improve.”

            So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

            For reading, it’s 20 pages.
            For writing, it’s 500 words.
            For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
            For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

            Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

            6. All Days Make a Difference

            Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

            Will two? They won’t.

            Will three? They won’t.

            Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

            What happened? Which one made you fit?

            The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

            No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

            7. They Are Never Fully Automated

            Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

            But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

            What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

            It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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            The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

            It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

            It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

            8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

            Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

            Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

            When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

            The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

            Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

            9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

            The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

            Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

            You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

            But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

            So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

            If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

            This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

            The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

            Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

            10. Punish Yourself

            Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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            I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

            It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

            You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

            No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

            The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

            But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

            11. Reward Yourself

            When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

            Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

            The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

            After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

            If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

            Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

            If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

            In the End, It Matters

            What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

            When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

            And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

            “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

            Keep going.

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            More Resources to Help You Build Habits

            Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

            Reference

            [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
            [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
            [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
            [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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