Procrastination is one the most often self-diagnosed conditions in the world. It’s a colossal characterization that hosts a whole range of behaviors beneath the surface. Whenever we don’t do what we are supposed to, it’s labeled as procrastination.
But if we were to dig a little deeper and look at those behaviors, we would find that at least five kinds of procrastinators and their motivations are very distinct. I would dare to say, opposite in many cases.
Our first contender is Josh, the Perfectionist.
He delays completing his tasks because they are not performed to his [unrealistic] standard. He keeps pushing it off until the night before it’s due, and his back is against the wall. As he gets closer to the due date, he lowers his standards and feels like he let himself down. Again. He often sets the bar so high; he never hits it.
Favorite line = It’s not good enough.
Price Josh pays = He never gets to feel good about any of his accomplishments.
The way out = Apply self-care. Be kind to yourself. Grow tolerance for excellence – it’s very different than perfection.
Our second candidate is Betty the Intuitive.
She delays because she’s actually not ready to perform that task. She does not have all the elements she needs to act yet. She often does not know it, and she judges herself harshly for being lazy or worse. Often, she finds out later that there was a reason she did not yet complete the task, because some crucial piece was missing, and she would have had to redo the whole thing. But she does not trust that intuitive signal or recognize that this intuition is actually a gift.
Favorite line= I am just lazy.
Price Betty pays= She denies her superpower of perceptive instinct.
The way out = Give herself the benefit of the doubt. When she does not do something, be curious about what that might mean.
The third one is James the Over Committer.
He has the hardest time saying NO to anyone, and it’s challenging for him to have the tiniest of boundaries. So, he says yes to helping his neighbor move this weekend. He says yes to being on a task force that doesn’t advance his career progression in the slightest. He agrees to build furniture for his sister-in-law. And he gets delayed on his own stuff. All the time. He can never catch up as he is ‘addicted’ to the validation he feels when he helps others.
Favorite line = I am soooo busy.
Price James pays = He is not true to himself.
The way out = Gently learn to say no. One small thing at a time. Trusting that people will be ok [and still like him], even if he stays on his own task.
The fourth player is Julia the Novelty Junkie.
She has shiny object syndrome. She gets excited about the next thing. She starts it and does not go back to finish the 11 previous things she started. She gets her fix from initiating something new and then drops all the balls thrown in the air. Over time, others stop trusting her, and that feeds the problem of not completing what she starts.
Favorite line= Oh, I just had this great idea…
Price Julia pays= People [including herself] stop trusting her.
The way out= Make a list of all good ideas. And pick a one, just a one. And do not stop until it’s completed.
The fifth player is Paula, the Emotion Avoidant.
She delays accomplishing her tasks to avoid feeling emotions she does not want to feel. By staying a step behind all the time, she is in a chronic state of angst, and to her, that feels better than the immense sadness she feels that her marriage is over. If she were to finish a task early, it would slow down the train of her life, and she would have to sit with herself. And she’s unconsciously avoiding that.
Favorite line = I like keeping busy…
Price Julia pays = She is not experiencing life fully.
The way out = Have an intention to feel her feelings. All of them, even for 3 seconds. Build stamina for feeling her feelings.
Procrastination is a label that often gets overutilized and prevents people from really taking a look at what’s going on in their lives. Our behaviors reveal our beliefs, and more often than not, there are reasons why we are procrastinating that need our attention and support. Next time you realize you are procrastinating, get curious. Identify your patterns and start to acknowledge that there is probably more going on than meets the eye.
Procrastination [and even more so, the way we judge ourselves about it] is an energy suck. Come read about more ways to plug those leaks and other hacks to get your energy up. Productivity is an inside job. Learn about your particulars.