Do it later

Lean Time Management – Understanding What Type of Procrastinator You Are

We all suffer from procrastination at some stage in our lives. There’s bound to be the odd task at work or in your home life that you just can’t stand doing and when it comes around, it feels like a mountain to climb.

So, instead of just biting the bullet and pushing through it, we decide not to deal with it at all, pushing it right to the bottom of the to-do list.

The problem is, it remains on that to-do list and will inevitably come around again making us feel demotivated and unproductive. But we only have ourselves to blame for this – so something needs to change.


Why Do We Procrastinate?

Most people, even the least organised among us, will create a ‘to-do list’ in our heads of the tasks we need to do. It looks something like this:

  • Do the dishes
  • Go food shopping
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Get an appointment with the dog groomer
  • Renew the insurance policy

And, right at the end of this list, we have the shiny end-goal of being able to do what we enjoy. It’s like a prize at the end of the day for completing all of those tasks. It might be a Netflix binge or a nice glass of wine.

We’re motivated to get as much off the list as we can to reach that end-goal and that normally means completing all of the smaller tasks first.

Completing each task gives us a buzz – we’re one step closer to that goal. So, that’s great when we’re doing all the smaller tasks, we feel accomplished for completing so much in such a short time.

But when it comes to the larger tasks – the ones that we’ve put off all day – it feels like an uphill battle. Because they’ll take longer and we don’t want to do them, we’ll see them as a barrier between us and the prize.

Instead of just working through it, most people will procrastinate, make an excuse for not doing it, and jump right to the prize at the end. It’s that procrastination which leaves us feeling unfulfilled and undeserving of that evening in front of the TV.


Different Types of Procrastinator

The excuse that people use for not doing these larger tasks is different for everyone. The first step to overcoming this procrastination is to learn why you do it. How do you excuse yourself from that last mammoth task? 

Perfectionist – Nothing is ever perfect the first time you attempt it. Some procrastinators try once, don’t get the results they expected and then avoid attempting again because they want to avoid that feeling of disappointment. But not trying at all means that it’ll never get done.

Dreamer – Some people have that perfect picture in their head of how they want it to be but doubt their abilities. Meaning they avoid trying as they feel the goal is out of their reach.

Worrier – We’re all afraid of change, but if we don’t change how we do things, then our lives will always remain the same and we’ll never get what we want.

Rebel – People always feel that their way is best. In a working environment, you’ll want to complete a task in the way you always did, but if someone asks you to change that process, you might deliberately leave it just because you don’t like the new procedure.

Defier – There’s a pile of dishes at the sink and your partner is letting them build up. Why should you do it if they aren’t going to? The problem is, they’re probably thinking that exact same thing, meanwhile, that pile of dishes is growing.

Overdoer – Taking pity on yourself because you’re so busy gives you that ‘out’ to say, “I just didn’t get around to it.” Deciding you’re too busy for everything will mean that you never actually do anything.


Understanding Your Procrastinator Type

Understanding which type of procrastinator you are is majorly important and should be your first port of call when you’re looking to overcome procrastination.

According to Ph.D. psychologist Linda Sapadin, the main cause of chronic procrastination is the need to avoid conflict. Essentially, it’s a way to avoid failure at a given task. You can’t fail if you don’t attempt, right?

To find out which type of procrastinator you are, you need to understand why it is that you don’t want to do the task that you’re avoiding.

Is it because you’re worried about the end result? If you’re concerned that the result won’t be as amazing as you picture, then you may be a perfectionist or a dreamer. These people focus on what comes after the task and other people’s take on it, rather than just getting the task itself done.

Focus on baby steps. Don’t think of the task as a whole, think about the smaller achievements as you go through and focus on the present achievements, not what’s going to happen later.

Alternatively, if you’re focusing on the past and not moving forward, you may be a defier or a rebel. You’re determined not to move forward until something is done the way you want. You should consider becoming more flexible. Doing something the way you’ve always done it will only achieve the same results as you’ve always got – and right now, that’s no results at all.

Overdoers, on the other hand, are just based around excuses. Ask yourself, is there an actual reason that you can’t do the task? Are you hiding away from something? Are you able to complete it?

If you’re avoiding for no clear reason, then you’re an overdoer, and ironically, overdoers don’t get any work done. The sooner you do it, the better you’ll feel.


What Should We Do Instead?

When we procrastinate, we’re fully aware that there’s that last thing on the to-do list and we actually choose to ignore it because it feels too huge to overcome.

What you need to do is break the task down, so it doesn’t feel so giant. Just like you managed to get through all of the tiny tasks further up the list, you’ll get through the larger one by breaking it down into smaller sections. This way, you’ll stay motivated because you’re getting that ‘accomplished buzz’ each time you complete a small section.

Breaking Down a Macro Task into Micro Sections

 It takes practice to break down a macro task into smaller, micro sections, but the best way to do it is take that mental list and write it down physically. You can cross off each tiny section as you do it.

For Example: Redecorating the Bedroom

Decorating isn’t at the top of anyone’s list of easy tasks, but you really want the reward of that brand new bedroom when you’re done. So, how do you get there without pushing the task further and further away?

Don’t think of it as decorating the bedroom. Instead break it down into micro tasks:

  • Remove the furniture from the room
  • Get the paint out of the garage
  • Lay the dust sheets on the floor
  • Put tape around the skirting board and light switches
  • Paint one wall
  • Paint the next wall (and so on)
  • Do another coat on each wall
  • Remove tape
  • Touch up
  • Put paint away
  • Move furniture back

Doing each of these things on their own feels like a much smaller task. You could even break it down further:

Removing the furniture from the room could become:

  • Take clothes out of wardrobe
  • Move books from shelf
  • Take off bedding
  • Move bed to the centre of the room
  • Move bookcase out of the room

Remember to create a physical list and tick them off as you go. The thrill of completing your micro tasks will have you whizzing through that list. You’ll have a brand-new bedroom in no time, overcoming your procrastination and all you’ve got left to do is sit back and admire it.

This method can work for all types of procrastinator but may require you to look at the list in different ways.

Those that fear the end result need the small wins to get there. If you look at each micro section as a whole task by itself, you’ll get to the end faster without even realising.

Those that focus on the past and the old methods of working can compromise. Sure, the whole list won’t be able to be done to your liking, but perhaps some of the micro sections could be to still achieve the same results. Focus on those.

For excuse makers, you can give yourself a break, right after you’ve crossed off the first 3 sections. Sure, you might not get to the end today, but at least you’re a little closer.