WELLBEING COLUMN What's your procrastination personality?
It’s easy to look busy when really, we’re procrastinating. Face your to-do list and take back control
We’ve all been there. The washing-up gets done, the laundry pile diminishes like magic and the recycling’s sorted – anything, it seems, is preferable to doing that one thing we’re putting o , whether it’s a work deadline or a tricky phone call. Procrastination: it’s the thief of time and energy. There are a variety of reasons why we do it, from a lack of con dence about tackling a particular task, to boredom, or fear of failure. What’s more, we’ve created the perfect environment for procrastination with the many distractions we allow ourselves. From TV to the internet, mobile phones to email, we never switch o – it’s easy to look busy when, really, we’re just procrastinating.
Excuses? I’ve heard them – and probably used them – all. But when push comes to shove, understanding what sort of procrastinator you are may help to work out ways you can overcome it, and face your to-do list head-on.
Some of us choose to procrastinate because of our personality traits. Perfectionists want everything to be perfect, so will avoid doing anything unless it complies with their aims. Crisis Junkies like to leave everything to the last minute because it makes drama in their lives, creating a ‘living on the edge’ scenario that they use to motivate themselves. Then there are De ers – those who resist doing what they need to do because they are defying some sort of internal, or external, authority gure.
We can procrastinate accidentally as well. The Dreamers among us end up procrastinating because they nd it all too complicated and hate dealing with bothersome details, so would rather think about something else. Those who are Worriers often can’t get going because they constantly anticipate the worst and are afraid of change, and this nagging preoccupation stops them from starting. Overdoers take on too much, don’t know how to organise and prioritise what needs doing, so don’t know where to start – then go o and nd something else on their long list of things to do rather than tackle it.
When procrastination becomes a regular habit or an avoidance strategy, problems start to arise. Not getting things done can lead to stress, anxiety, chronic underperformance and loss of con dence, which can all then inhibit you from getting things done. It can easily become a vicious circle, so it’s worth addressing before persistent procrastination causes negative thoughts to crush your motivation.
So what can we do? Breaking bigger tasks down into smaller ones is the best technique. Instead of putting o clearing out the attic, allocate a speci c part of it and get that done, then move on to the next part. Instead of panicking about a report and putting it o , map out the stages needed to achieve it, the information you need, or the input required from others. Write yourself a simple to-do list to achieve what you need to get the task done, then work through it step-by-step. The progress you make towards completion can be its own reward, but if that’s notthecase,rewardyourself!
While no one usually has anything good to say about procrastination, I’d like to o er this: it can occasionally a ord you more time to, say, develop an idea or produce a better piece of work. Taking your foot o the metaphorical accelerator isn’t the same as putting your foot on the brake: coasting, if you like, can allow you the time you need to consider, formulate and even construct more e ectively something you want to achieve. The trick is to be aware of why you procrastinate and how; whether it’s useful or a form of self-sabotage is up to you. Put simply, procrastination can sometimes be a good servant, but it’s always a bad master.