Do you identify as a procrastinator?
If you do, it might be helpful to adjust your thinking. Instead of thinking of it as an identity that you either are or aren’t, it might be more accurate (and more healthy) to think of it as a situational behavior.
In other words, it’s not so much that some people are procrastinators and some people aren’t, but rather that everyone sometimes procrastinates, just not in the same way or under the same circumstances.
Many researchers have tried to categorize procrastination into different types based on the specific motivations and situations that contribute to it.
There isn’t necessarily a consensus on how many types there are or where the lines should be drawn. Still, each of these models can give us a different perspective and a little more insight into our individual procrastination patterns.
Active or Passive Procrastination
Are you deciding to procrastinate, or is it happening accidentally?
In many cases, procrastination is accidental or against your wishes. You don’t want or choose to procrastinate, but you get pulled away by distractions and interruptions. Often this will be connected with emotions such as anxiety, self-doubt, and distress.
Other times, you may make an intentional decision to neglect the task at hand. Maybe you think it feels more exciting and satisfying to wait until the pressure is high, getting it done at the last possible moment.
If you passively procrastinate, mindfulness meditation may help you gain more awareness of your accidental behaviors and learn to control yourself better.
If you actively and intentionally procrastinate, you may benefit from reassessing whether this mindset is helping you.
Arousal or Avoidant Procrastination
Are you chasing something more pleasurable than your task, or are you avoiding the stress of the task itself?
There might not actually be a clear difference between these two types. Pleasure-seeking and stress avoidance are often the same thing. But it can be helpful to consider how your procrastination relates to pleasure and stress.
If you feel overwhelmed with stress, you’ll probably try to find ways to relax and relieve that feeling. Look for healthy ways to manage your stress levels so that you don’t use procrastination as an escape mechanism.
Productive or Non-Productive Procrastination
When procrastinating, are you not doing anything important, or are you just being productive in the wrong direction?
Productive procrastination can be tricky. It’s typically less harmful than other forms of procrastination, but it can still become a problem if you’re not careful.
Productively procrastinating means that you are working on something other than your main task. For example, you need to complete a project for work or school, but you end up cleaning your house instead.
With non-productive procrastination, you’re essentially not doing anything at all. You’re just sitting around, watching TV, browsing social media, or sleeping. If this is the case, try to find anything that you can do to start making progress on your task, even if it’s not the most important thing.
The Perfectionist, Dreamer, Worrier, Crisis-Maker, Defier, and Overdoer
Dr. Linda Sapadin has suggested six different styles of procrastinators, each with their unique set of challenges.
Three different behavioral patterns distinguish these.
Are you overly concerned with every little detail, or are you completely neglecting the practical details?
- The Perfectionist: High expectations make it hard to move forward. Try focusing on realistic outcomes rather than perfect solutions.
- The Dreamer: You have big ideas, but you don’t know how to make them happen. Break your goals down into a to-do list of small, manageable steps.
Do you feel worried or excited when you think about how little time you have to finish your task?
- The Worrier: Panic and anxiety can prevent you from working effectively. Try to focus on the present moment and what you can do right now without catastrophizing about possible futures.
- The Crisis-Maker: You enjoy the thrill of working under pressure, but constant crises can be exhausting. See if you can find a way to get your adrenaline rush without putting your responsibilities at risk.
Are you rebelling against someone, or are you trying to please everyone?
- The Defier: You may require independence and control. Try to find a balance between asserting your autonomy and meeting your obligations.
- The Overdoer: You say yes to everything and everyone, and now you’re overwhelmed. Saying no is always an option—you can still be a good friend, family member, or colleague without overextending yourself.
Procrastination is a complex issue with many different causes. By understanding the motivations behind your procrastination, you can start to find ways to overcome it.