Are you constantly pushing off tasks to another time? Do you feel overwhelmed, unsure where to start, or simply choosing immediate pleasure over long-term gains?
We all procrastinate, but most of us don’t really consider the reasons why we do it. There’s a tendency to assume that we procrastinate because we are weak or we’d simply rather be doing something more fun. In this article, we will cover four types of procrastinators:
I was a chronic procrastinator in the early days of building my digital marketing agency. Between strategy meetings, client pitches, content creation, and analytics reports, my to-do list seemed endless. But I caught myself seeking instant gratification way too often. Eventually, I started feeling empty. Something had to change…
I attempted numerous techniques to tackle my procrastination head-on. But each time, the success was short-lived.
Despite my best intentions, I would fall prey to my old thinking patterns, postponing the hard things for those easy micro-moments of pleasure. A quick scroll through social media, a chat with a colleague, or even a spontaneous coffee run… I was slipping back into old habits, postponing tasks, and dealing with the negative consequences later.
Then, I had a eureka moment.
I realized that my one-size-fits-all approach to beat procrastination was flawed. I needed to understand the types of procrastination that were holding me back. Only by recognizing my procrastinating style and addressing the behavioural perspective could I start breaking the chains.
Today, I’m completely free… And I want to help you beat procrastination too.
Allow me to show you the 4 types of procrastination, their root causes, and effective strategies to conquer each.
1. Anxious procrastination
Neil Fiore, the author of The Now Habit, defined procrastination as “a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision.”
Fiore suggested that people who procrastinate a lot are usually bad at managing their time and often end up scheduling more work than they can actually do, leaving no time for fun activities or resting.
Fiore suggested that not fulfilling these unrealistic expectations causes stress and anxiety, which some people deal with by procrastinating.
The problem with this kind of all-work-no-play lifestyle is that it sets you up for failure. These unrealistic expectations you place on yourself become your biggest enemy. When you inevitably fail to meet these expectations, it results in stress and anxiety. This emotional turmoil, in turn, drives you further down the rabbit hole of procrastination. It’s a vicious cycle, one where anxiety fuels procrastination, and procrastination amplifies anxiety.
Anxious procrastination can manifest in two ways. The first is where procrastination is primarily driven by anxiety. It’s the fear of the task, the dread of the outcome, or the stress of the expectations that compels you to postpone. The second scenario is when procrastination occurs despite a genuine intention to work and an awareness that the delay is irrational and self-defeating.
How to beat this procrastination type
Fiore suggested the “unschedule” method as a way to combat this anxiety-driven procrastination.
The unschedule method involves filling your schedule with fun activities and rest before scheduling any work. For example, if you find yourself checking Facebook for 15 minutes at 3 pm every afternoon, schedule Facebook time first and plan your work around that.
This scheduled fun or downtime will give you a chance to relax and prevent you from over-scheduling.
Also, identify your peak performance hours and plan your work accordingly. Are you more focused in the morning or more productive at night? Use these natural cycles to your advantage by scheduling challenging tasks during these times. This way, you’ll work in harmony with your natural rhythm, which is key to reducing the anxiety and resistance associated with the task.
Finally, break down your tasks into smaller steps. Instead of seeing a project as one huge entity, divide it into smaller, manageable parts. For example, if you must prepare a business proposal, don’t look at it as one gigantic task. Break it down into several smaller tasks, such as brainstorming ideas, creating an outline, drafting the introduction, etc. Each small victory will motivate you to progress further, reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed.
2. Fun procrastination
The fun procrastinator would rather be doing anything except that one dreaded task. After all, there are so many fun and exciting things you could be doing instead. How can you bear to start that boring project?
How to beat this procrastination type
If there’s absolutely no way you’re going to start on that one dreaded task, try indulging in some structured procrastination. You’re going to procrastinate anyway, so why not make it useful? Give in to your desire to procrastinate, but instead of watching videos of kittens on YouTube, start another item on your to-do list.
By starting another item first, you’ve made the dreaded task a lower priority which (in theory) will make you dread it a lot less, and in the meantime, you’re still being productive. It’s a win-win.
But if you feel like you’re mindlessly scrolling social media feeds and can’t even start any task, you may want to try out some of my techniques for beating social media & smartphone addiction. It will help with other types of procrastination too.
3. “Plenty of time” procrastination
You’re given a task with a deadline that’s weeks or even months away. You mentally file it under “future tasks,” intending to start it well in advance. Yet, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and before you know it, the deadline is staring you in the face, and you’ve barely begun.
If this sounds familiar, you’ve experienced what we call “plenty of time” procrastination. It’s a common trap many of us fall into, especially when dealing with distant deadlines.
Many people find it difficult to start a project when they know the deadline is a long way off. This type of procrastination is clearly visible in college students who often struggle to start homework assignments earlier than a few days before the deadline.
You may also have tasks that don’t have deadlines. Take a look at your to-do list. Chances are you have at least one item you’ve been putting off for weeks, if not months. It’s something you want to do; you know it will make things better in the long run. But you keep putting it off.
How to beat this procrastination type
Professor of Psychology and Behavioural Economics at Duke University, Dan Ariely, experimented with getting his students to set their own deadlines.
Ariely gave his students three assignments and let them set their own deadlines. He hypothesized that students would choose the last day of term for the deadlines as this would give them the most time to do their work (and procrastinate). In reality, the majority of students chose earlier deadlines and got better grades than those who left their work until the last minute.
The implications? By setting deadlines and announcing them publicly, you will not only be able to get your work done, but you’ll do a good job of it.
Try setting deadlines and telling your friends, family, and co-workers about them. This public commitment should keep you on track and motivate you to meet those deadlines.
To beat this procrastination type and ensure an accomplished day, another trick you can use is beating procrastination with the 5 minute rule. The premise is simple yet powerful. When faced with a task, commit to working on it for just five minutes. This approach reduces the initial resistance to starting a task. More often than not, once you’ve started, you’ll continue past those initial five minutes.
It’s easy to forget, but every journey begins with a single step. By implementing these strategies, we can overcome various types of procrastination and move closer to our goals.
4. Perfectionist procrastination
Do you find yourself obsessing over the smallest details, striving to make every element of your work absolutely flawless? Do you hold your work to such a high standard that even the thought of producing anything less than perfect gives you anxiety? If you find these patterns in your behavior, you can call yourself a perfectionist procrastinator.
Perfectionism fuels procrastination in multiple ways. One common way is by amplifying the negative emotions we feel when we make mistakes. Even the possibility of errors deeply unsettles you. This makes you delay your work, thus falling into the trap of procrastination.
Another mechanism is manifested through creating an illusion of an unbridgeable gap between your current situation and desired results. As a perfectionist, you might set the bar for yourself so high that your goals seem nearly unreachable. This makes you feel hopeless and prevents you from even starting your tasks.
Sometimes, your perfectionist tendencies make you fear the possibility of negative feedback. You delay tasks, and your performance suffers, which often leads to the exact negative feedback you feared in the first place. This intensifies your fear of criticism even further, fueling more procrastination in the future.
How to beat this procrastination type
Philosopher and professor emeritus at Stanford University, John Perry, thinks procrastinating can actually be a good thing for perfectionists…
“As long as they have a lot of time to do a task, they fantasize about doing a perfect job. Leaving it till the last minute is a way of giving oneself permission to do a merely adequate job. Ninety-nine percent of the time, a merely adequate job is all that is needed.”
Try looking back at the last five jobs you completed. Were they all perfect? Probably not. Were they sufficient? Chances are you’re already working to a high standard, so stop giving yourself a hard time.
Identifying times when you didn’t do the perfect job, but the consequences were the same as if you did, will help you to overcome your perfectionist routine and stop procrastinating.
Does Productive Procrastination Exist?
You might have heard of the term “productive procrastination,” also known as “structured procrastination.” It’s an intriguing concept that seemingly contradicts the conventional understanding of procrastination. But does it really exist, and if so, how does it function?
In essence, productive procrastination is the art of delaying essential tasks by performing beneficial but less crucial tasks. Imagine a scenario where you have a critical report to write. Still, instead of starting on it, you devote your time to clearing your inbox, tidying your workspace, or even taking an online course relevant to your work. In these instances, while you are procrastinating on writing the report, you’re still accomplishing something valuable.
However, this type of procrastination is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you’re completing tasks that are necessary, enhancing your productivity in other areas. But on the other hand, the central task — in this case, the report writing — still hangs over your head, possibly causing stress and anxiety.
For procrastination to be considered “productive,” the activities you engage in while procrastinating must be inherently beneficial. For instance, if you’re procrastinating on studying for a significant test by doing homework for another class, it could count as productive procrastination. It’s a task you need to complete anyway. However, if you decide to bake cookies instead of studying, it wouldn’t be considered productive procrastination, as it’s not a necessary or beneficial task in the context of your priorities.
The delicate balancing act of productive procrastination revolves around effectively managing your task hierarchy and being conscious of when this practice leans more towards avoidance than productivity.
Conclusion – How to beat procrastination in the digital age?
In the digital age, people procrastinate more than ever before. Social media addiction, in particular, has become a real issue, causing us to postpone our tasks, making the types of procrastination we have discussed increasingly more prevalent. It poses a significant challenge to people aiming to achieve personal goals and can easily slip into chronic procrastination, caught in the grip of instant gratification and pleasure-seeking behavior that these platforms offer.
But while many emphasize only the negative sides of technology, I believe it also opens many opportunities for us to become more productive and disciplined. Various productivity apps, time management tools, and even the best productivity gadgets are at our disposal, ready to help us organize our tasks and time better. And even social media platforms, when used properly, can help you connect with people and obtain valuable knowledge.
The key is how we choose to use technology. We can allow it to control us, leading us into the vortex of procrastination, or we can harness its power, using it as a tool to conquer our procrastinating tendencies. We must remember that beating procrastination isn’t about eliminating it entirely. It’s about better understanding our behavior, identifying our unique procrastination type, and applying appropriate strategies to manage it effectively.
Alternative answer to procrastination and social media addiction is to transform yourself into an iPhone a power user, try to embrace this method that worked well for us in building Alpha Efficiency as a company.
In the end, it’s all about balance. We’re all humans, and being 100 percent productive 365 days a year isn’t realistic or desirable. So, try to identify which types of procrastination prevent you from living a fulfilled life, and give your best to put them under control using techniques I’ve shown you in this article.