Are you a procrastinator that always get accused of being lazy?
Well congratulations, experts have confirmed that procrastinators are not lazy. They simply need to understand their reasoning behind procrastination in order to manage it.
“A lot of people believe that procrastination is nothing more than laziness, but it’s an unresolved approach to avoid conflict; something you know you need or want to do, so some energy is going toward that, and then some energy is going toward avoiding it. You're torn between two impulses, to do it or not to do it. That ambivalence makes it tough to choose a clear commitment to action,” Linda Sapadin, Ph.D., psychologist, success coach, author, and motivational speaker, told Healthline.
According to Sapadin, there are six different styles of procrastination. And once you understand which procrastination style or combination of styles you fall into, you can change how you think, speak, and act, based on your procrastination style.
“It’s not so much that you are a procrastinator, it’s your behavior. We tend to ‘name call’ people, ‘We are this, or we suffer from this.’ I am personally against those phrases, it’s more like ‘Is our behavior this way?’ and not so much ‘suffer from it’ but ‘Do we make this choice?’ I have found that people procrastinate for many reasons, it’s not just a one size fits all procrastination. I have done research and written books on it, and one size does not fit all,” said Sapadin.
The six different procrastination styles come from three different types of behavior. The first two focus on attention to detail, the second two focus on the future, and the other two focus on relationships with others.
The six different behavioral styles of procrastination are perfectionist, dreamer, worrier, crisis-maker, defier, and overdoer.
It is likely that an individual can fall into multiple styles of procrastination.
Six styles of procrastination
The perfectionist is reluctant to start or finish a task because they don't want anything to be less than perfect.
“The perfectionist pays too much attention to detail, and you would think a perfectionist does not procrastinate, but that’s not true because a perfectionist pays so much attention to detail that they often can’t finish a project,” said Sapadin
The dreamer doesn't like details. This makes ideas difficult to implement.
“Now the dreamer, in contrast, doesn't pay enough attention to detail so they can have all kinds of great ideas of what they want to do, but they hate dealing with all of those annoying details. They're dreamers,” said Sapadin. “They have thoughts about wonderful things, but somehow the details should just get done or somebody else should do it, so their thinking style is fuzzy, and they end up procrastinating because of that.”
According to Sapadin, the ideal attitude towards work would be somewhere in the middle of the perfectionist and the dreamer, “You should pay attention to details, but it’s not like it has to be perfect, unless of course you're building a bridge.”
The worriers have an excessive need for security, causing them to fear risk. They fear change, causing them to avoid finishing projects so they don't have to leave the comfort of the “known.”
“The worrier is so anxious they ask themselves ‘what if’ a lot. They're cautious. Because of that they're afraid to step down and actually do what needs to be done,” said Sapadin. “They spend too much time thinking about the anxiety of the piece.”
The crisis-maker is addicted to the adrenaline rush of living on the edge.
“The crisis-maker, on the other end of the worrier, tells himself he works best under pressure. So this person waits until the last minute, and often they pull it off, but with a whole lot of angst and generally not as good as it could be, so it’s no way to live life,” said Sapadin. “If you're a college student doing that it only affects you, and you're young and you can pull all these all-nighters. But if you create that as a lifestyle and it affects other people it’s not a good way at all. Procrastination in adult life has more severe consequences.”
The defier is a rebel seeking to buck the rules.
By procrastinating, they are setting their own schedule, one that nobody else can predict or control. More subtle forms are called passive-aggressive.
“The defier is more of the ‘Why should I do it?’ And they can be openly defiant or passive-aggressive and say, ‘Yeah I’ll do it,’ but they don’t do it,” said Sapadin.
The overdoer says ‘Yes’ to too much because they are unable or unwilling to make choices and establish priorities.
They have difficulty making decisions and are prime candidate for burnout.
“The overdoer on the other hand, you would think would do everything, but they end up actually doing a lot for other people,” said Sapadin. “But what they end up often procrastinating on is what they need to do for themselves. So they get involved in everybody else's stuff and then, ‘Oh my God my stuff isn't done.’”
The goal is to balance each of these areas, explained Sapadin.
Procrastination and the digital age
Sapadin’s book How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age covers the six personality styles and teaches the skills, strategies, and secrets needed to conquer patterns of procrastination.
“People have had struggles with procrastination since the beginning of time. Should I spend time doing chores or enjoying a good time with my friends? Should I do paperwork or plop down on the couch and watch a movie?’ It’s never been easy to control our impulses or urges, but it’s even more difficult now with the digital age,” said Sapadin.
Many of us just can’t stop scrolling down our Facebook newsfeed, taking the perfect food picture to post on Instagram, and catching as many Pokémon as we possibly can.
Although we are absolutely mesmerized by the digital age it’s truly taking up too much of our time and adding to our levels of procrastination.
“Procrastination is even harder to conquer because there are so many addictive distractions everywhere. It’s become a bigger problem because of all the accessible, appealing, and addicting distractions. It’s so easy to spend hours on something that has nothing to do with you personally, or your goals,” said Sapadin.
Leslie Connor, Ph.D., a psychologist focusing on procrastination, explained that in some cases procrastination gives you time to think about what you have to work on and how to go about it the best way possible.
“When you are putting something off it’s worth asking yourself, ‘is there any legitimate reason that I’m delaying on this?,’” Connor told Healthline.
Sapadin also believes in productive procrastination. She said that being impulsive and doing things too quickly doesn't always work.
“I tend to fall into that category, so I had to learn to slow down because if you just quickly make a decision you often don’t take time to think about it, to research it. You don’t procrastinate so you just respond quickly. So it is often helpful to do productive procrastination, which means you're taking your time to think about something before you jump into what you commit to or how you decide to do it,” said Sapadin.
For those who need to clean the house before getting to work, it’s OK — just as long as you get your work done and get it done on time.
“It’s amazing how many things can get done when you're procrastinating on something else. It’s creating some anxiety for you so you may end up cleaning your closets and responding to some emails, and you get a lot of stuff done because you need to spend some quiet time to think about the project you're procrastinating on, and it may take you a while to get there,” said Sapadin.
Work best under pressure?
“I believe that people work best under ‘some pressure,’ so if you have too much time people tend to just do other things and not pay attention to it,” said Sapadin. “We tend to do best with what’s in front of us and what really needs to get done so some pressure is OK, but if it’s last minute, ‘Oh my God I have to pull an all-nighter' pressure, it is not done well.”
While Connor believes that not only do some people work best under pressure, some people only work under pressure.
“You need to have an internal motivation to work when there’s no pressure, and some people learn that early in life. But for many people if they don’t learn that self-discipline and self-monitoring then there has to be an external pressure that drives them so they're dependent on deadlines,” explained Connor.
Sapadin advises that “you have to be self-motivated and give yourself deadlines and take those self-deadlines seriously.”
Is procrastination an issue?
“For many people it’s a huge issue because they don’t get things done, and it’s a self-defeating pattern of behavior. And I think it’s really important for people to try and conquer that, and to do that so it’s not one size fits all they need to know their personality style, which is essential because the right advice for one style is the wrong advice for another,” said Sapadin.
Sapadin explained that we all procrastinate about some things in life, but we shouldn't procrastinate on the important things, which she considers health, wealth, career, and personal relationships.
“If you procrastinate about those things, then it really gets you into trouble,” she said.
Connor, who formed an overcoming procrastination support group for grad students, found that they were so grateful for someone supporting them, as opposed to some family members who got annoyed that they were putting things off and advisors who were threatening them.
“It was a safe environment for them to really figure out why they were procrastinating, to make changes, set goals each week. Some people did beautifully, others still struggled,” said Connor, who based her work on Sapadin’s book It’s About Time.
But she explains that the motivation for change for a lot of people who procrastinate comes because of external feedback. However, that’s not true for everybody as some people beat themselves up over not meeting a deadline.
“The signals of procrastination can either come from your own internal distress or interpersonal distress because your procrastinating is now affecting the people around you,” she said.