WELL­BE­ING COL­UMN What's your pro­cras­ti­na­tion per­son­al­ity?

In the Moment - - Contents - Words: Har­riet Gri ey / Illustration: Bene­dict Blyth HAR­RIET GRIF­FEY is a writer, jour­nal­ist and au­thor of over 20 books on health and well­be­ing. Her lat­est ti­tle, I Want to Be Cre­ative (Hardie Grant, £7.99), is out now.

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.

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