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Last Updated on February 10, 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

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            Last Updated on February 11, 2021

            What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

            What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

            If you have so many things to do that you often find yourself struggling to finish projects and tasks and move on to other stuff, you’re certainly not alone. Studies show that over 20 percent of the adult population put off or avoid doing certain tasks by allowing themselves to be overtaken by distractions.[1]

            So what is procrastination? And what can you do to prevent procrastination?

            In this article, I am going to explain to you why procrastination is so difficult to beat and how you can stop procrastinating and manage time better by following a step-by-step guide. But first, you need to understand how procrastination happens.

            What Is Procrastination?

            Piers Steel, the author of the book The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done, defines procrastination in this way:[2]

            “Procrastination is to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.”

            In other words, procrastination is doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones. The end result is that important tasks are put off to a later time.

            This comic is one of the typical examples of procrastination:

              Signs of a Procrastinator

              Procrastinators don’t want to complete their works because they tend to feel overwhelmed easily and lack focus when they work.

              If you’re wondering whether you’re a chronic procrastinator, take a look at these signs of a procrastinator and find out: 30 Signs You’re Actually A Procrastinator

              Why Do We Procrastinate?

              The reasons vary from person to person. It could be a matter of emotion, which affects your motivation. It could also be something related to your ability to focus, and the way you deal with your fears.

              To understand more about your procrastination behavior, I recommend you take this quick assessment on procrastination, It’s a free assessment that can help analyze your procrastination behavior. Take the free assessment now.

              Here’re more reasons why we procrastinate:

              Is Procrastination Bad?

              Yes, it is. Procrastination is bad. It drags your progress and make you unable to get anything done. If you procrastinate, you will lose your precious time and blow opportunities.

              Take a look at the consequences of procrastination here: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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              The Challenge of Getting Over Procrastination

              Human beings have limited self-control. Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist from Florida State University, has been studying self-control and he has found that just like any muscles, human’s self-control is a limited resource that can quickly become exhausted.[3] When self-control is close to being depleted, human tend to choose what’s more pleasurable– the immediate procrastinated tasks instead of the actual works.

              At its core, procrastination is an avoidance strategy. Procrastinators choose to do something else instead of doing what they need to do because it’s much easier to choose pleasure over pain.

              In short, procrastination is so difficult to beat because it is a battle against human’s natural enemy, a human weakness that is in-born.

              The common symptoms of procrastination are lack of vision, lack of time and lack of organisation. Check them out here: 7 Symptoms of Procrastination and How to Fight Them

              How to Stop Procrastinating (Step-By-Step Guide)

              Despite the fact that it’s human nature to seek for immediate rewards and procrastinate, here I have a step-by-step guide for you to follow so as to break the procrastination cycle.

              1. Identify Your Triggers: The 5 Types of Procrastinator

              Identifying the type of procrastination you personally experience is an essential step for you to fix the problem at its root.

              Take a look at this flowchart here to find out what type of procrastinator you are:

                Which type of procrastinator are you? Let’s take a look at the triggers for your procrastination type:

                Perfectionist

                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.

                Instead of finishing something, perfectionists get caught up in a never-ending cycle of additions, edits, and deletions.

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                Ostrich

                An ostrich 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.

                Self-Saboteur

                A self-saboteur has bought into the line that ‘by doing nothing, bad things won’t happen.’

                In reality, self-saboteurs 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.

                Daredevil

                Daredevils 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 daredevils 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.

                Chicken

                Chickens 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.

                Prioritizing tasks is a step that takes extra time, so chicken will feel it’s not worth it. Because of this, they usually end up doing a lot of effortless tasks that don’t contribute much to a project. They’re incessantly busy on low-impact tasks, but seem oblivious to urgent, high-impact tasks.

                Learn more about the 5 types of procrastinators here: Types of Procrastination (And How To Fix Procrastination And Start Doing)

                2. Face Your Triggers and Get Rid of Them

                Whether it’s fear of failure, overwhelming feelings, avoidance or convincing yourself you’re just too busy to get something done, you can improve your ability to be productive by eliminating your procrastination triggers.

                For Perfectionists, Re-Clarify Your Goals

                Much of the time procrastination tendencies form simply because we’ve outgrown our goals. We’re ever-changing and so are our wants in life. Try looking over your goals and ask yourself if they’re still what you want.

                Take time out to regroup and ask yourself what you really want to achieve:

                • What steps do you need to take?
                • Is what you’re currently doing reflecting what you want?
                • What do you need to change?

                Write things down, scribble them out and rewrite.

                For Ostriches, Do the Difficult Tasks First

                Even if you feel you’re not a morning person, the beginning of the day is when your brain is most productive. Use this window of time to get the more difficult stuff done.

                If you leave your difficult tasks to later, you’re much more likely to put it off because you’re tired and lack motivation.

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                Finishing lots of simple tasks at the beginning of the day such as reading all the new emails only gives you a false sense of being productive.

                For Self-Saboteurs, Write out a To-Do (And a Not–To-Do) List Each Day

                Writing things down is powerful and psychologically increases your need to get things done.

                Each day, make a habit of creating a list of the tasks you know you’ll try and avoid. By doing this, it brings these ‘difficult’ tasks to your mind’s attention instead of keeping them locked away somewhere in your avoidance mode.

                Remember, think how satisfying and productive it feels to cross of a completed task.

                For Daredevils, Create a Timeline with Deadlines

                It’s common to have a deadline for a goal which seems like a good idea. But this is basically an open invitation for procrastination.

                If it’s a self-created deadline with no pressure, we tend to justify pushing it back each time it comes into sight and feel we haven’t yet done ‘enough’ to get there.

                Create a bigger timeline then within that, establish deadlines along the way. The beauty of this comes when each deadline completion is dependent on the next. It keeps you on track and keeps you accountable for being in alignment with the overall timeline.

                For Chickens, Break Tasks into Bite-Sized Pieces

                A lot of the time procrastination comes from overwhelming thoughts.

                If something feels too big to tackle and we don’t know where to start, it feels like a struggle. This is also true if our goal is too vague and lacking direction.

                Break down larger tasks into smaller ones and turn them into daily or weekly goals. Smaller steps may seem like the slower approach to achieving a goal, but it often leads you much more quickly to where you want to be due to the powerful momentum you get going.

                3. Form a Ritual

                By forming a ritual, you save yourself time from thinking about what to do next. When you don’t need to think about what to do next, you can go autopilot to actually get what you have to do done because you have no time to think about what other things to do besides completing your important tasks.

                Here’s how to form a ritual and beat procrastination: The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

                I know it’s not easy to get over procrastination on your own, so joining the free Fast Track Class – No More Procrastination is an effective way to help you overcome procrastination. In this focused 30-minute session, you will learn how to take over your procrastinating mind and start taking action. Join the free class and never stop procrastinating again!

                4. Take Planned Breaks

                The human brain isn’t designed to work continuously on the same task and this could be a reason for procrastination.

                Make sure you take regular, structured breaks away from your task so that you can come back refreshed and ready to be more productive.

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                A break as short as 5 minutes is enough to keep your mind sharp and wards off fatigue. I recommend you to use the Pomodoro Time Tracker. It is a great tool to help you take breaks at set intervals. Simply start the 25-minute timer, and follow the prompts.

                  5.  Reward Yourself

                  It’s important to acknowledge and reward yourself for achieving even the small tasks. It creates a sense of motivation and releases those feel-good, productive emotions that spur you on to achieve even more.

                  Make your reward proportional to the task you completed so getting a bite-sized task done gets you a cup of your favourite coffee or snack. Then plan a weekend away or fun activity for the bigger stuff.

                  Personally I try to make staying focus more fun by using the app Forest. It turns productivity into a game. In the game, you can plant a virtual tree at the beginning of your work time. If you maintain focus for the duration of the timer, you’ll grow a tree to add to your forest. It’s rewarding when you can eventually grow a forest.

                    6. Keep Track of Your Time in a Smart Way

                    If you want to prevent the bad habit of procrastination from coming back, keep track of the time you spend every day.

                    By having a clear idea of where you spend your time, you can always review your productivity and know which areas to improve.

                    It’s not easy to keep track of every minute you spend throughout the day so I recommend you to use the app Rescue Time.

                    It gets you a categorized breakdown of how you spend your time and helps you to find out how much time you’re really on-task. You can even label activities as productive and non-productive so as to block your biggest distractions.

                      Here’re 5 extra strategies to help you stop procrastinating:

                      The Bottom Line

                      Procrastination exists for many reasons and only you know for yourself what these triggers are.

                      Understanding what procrastination really is and the source of your avoidance tendencies is important in moving them out of the way and help you start the productivity momentum.

                      Make procrastination under your control!

                      More Tips About Fighting Procrastination

                      Reference

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