What’s Your Procrastination Style?

Learn to substitute productive styles for procrastination styles.

Posted May 17, 2010

Do you routinely delay starting a task until time nearly runs out, and then rush to beat the clock? This is intrigue procrastination. If you start many things and finish few, this is behavioral procrastination. You think you'll prevent health problems, but when you get older. This is an example of health procrastination. Do you routinely fuss with tidying up before you leave for an important meeting and then show up late? If so, this is lateness procrastination.

I named these and other procrastination styles from the context in which they occur, their distinguishing features, the process they follow, or their end-results. For example, intrigue procrastination gets its name from its result.

In intrigue procrastination, you make a decision to delay that often leads to a crisis. You feel stimulated to get started, but when there is little time left.  You may feel charged up while trying to beat the clock. You may feel relief--perhaps exhilarated--if you finish just in time, or if you can talk yourself out of trouble.

Here's an intrigue procrastination antidote. Do you tell yourself that you'll get to it later? Stop and think about the long-term effects of that decision. Ask yourself, "What benefits do I gain from an 11th hour rush?" Then ask yourself what long-term benefits do you gain where starting and finishing early? If you decide that the benefits of finishing sooner exceed the thrills of delaying, push yourself into starting sooner.

Behavioral procrastination is not following through on what you started. You don't gain the anticipated benefits. It is as though you prepared yourself to run a race then quit in the middle. For example, you pay your money to a fitness center, then quit after a few weeks. Research from Behavioral Economics shows that you are better off not starting something you won't finish. Yet how are you to know what you'll finish before you start?

Here are three behavioral procrastination antidotes:   1. Isolate where procrastination starts in a behavioral procrastination cycle. Do you lose interest? Do you wait for a guarantee that your final output will prove perfect? Use the analysis to hone in on where procrastination starts and why. Then use this information to plan a strategy to get beyond that barrier. Execute the plan. 2. Visualize the benefits of finishing. Then stretch for the finish. 3. Next time you have a discretionary project, such as starting a new hobby, decide if the task is worth the effort to do.

In health procrastination, you put off making or maintaining important health-related lifestyle changes. You put off medical or dental examinations. You don't follow through on health advice. You have a pre-diabetic condition and go on sugar binges. You are at risk for glaucoma, a disease that can cause blindness by damaging the optic nerve that carries information from the eye to the brain. You can prevent the condition using prescribed eye drops. You pretend you are invincible. You avoid the discomfort of using the drops by believing the drops are no more than a precaution. You tell yourself that you'll never go blind.

It is a paradox that as many as 70 percent will, within three years following coronary bypass surgery, revert to old dysfunctional lifestyle patterns, stop taking medication, and increase their chances for a second bypass operation.

Health procrastination antidotes are mainly cognitive. Expect to feel resistance to taking on an extra positive health responsibility, and remind yourself to live through the feeling without capitulating.  Expect to take a disciplined approach to following through whether you feel like it or not.  If you get to the point of reactive inhibition (reluctance to keep performing tasks already performed), recognize this is a stimulus for relapsing. Tough it out!  Then post this in a visible place: Prevention is cheaper than intervention.

Do you routinely show up late for appointments, arrive breathlessly at the airport, or feel in a rush where ever you are going? Welcome to the world of lateness procrastination.

It isn't that you don't want to be on time; rather you feel pressure to deal with last minute details. You shower, dust, or check your email at about the time you need to leave. You forget where you put your keys, or where you put your paperwork. This disorganized way of handling your affairs, adds to your delay.   Whatever the reason, the value of leaving on time gets lost in a shuffle of needless or useless activity.

As a lateness procrastination antidote, set an alarm clock to go off two hours before you need to leave to arrive on time.  Then set another for one-hour before your scheduled departure. Have a list of your diversionary activities and follow through on them after the first alarm rings.  Intentionally doing the diversions may make them less appealing. After the second alarm rings, collect the materials that you will need. Then leave on time to arrive on time.

For more on procrastination styles, see End Procrastination Now!  

For more information on how to defeat procrastination, tune into my free Podcast procrastination workshop at:

Dr. Bill Knaus

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