Conquering Procrastination: Six Tips for Six Styles
Sure, you've thought about curtailing your procrastination habit rather than justifying it. But it's hard to do. You have your ingrained patterns. You're always busy with something. You never have enough hours in the day. If you haven’t been successful so far, it could be that you haven't found the right approach. Most 'how-to' articles emphasize developing better organizational skills and increased discipline. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s rarely the total answer. Why not?
Because many habits - including procrastination - are driven by unconscious personality traits and emotional needs.
A helpful analogy: If you wish to lose weight, yet know little about nutrition, it's a good idea to learn more about calories, fat content, food groups, etc. However, if you're so knowledgeable in this area that you could teach a course on nutrition, yet you're still overweight, your failure and frustration has nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with personality traits and emotional needs.
- Perhaps you have trouble tolerating frustration so you satisfy your impulse to eat the moment you feel a bit hungry, discouraged or dissatisfied.
- Perhaps you long to fit into the social scene, so if your friends are having pizza that's what you're having too.
- Perhaps you make promises to yourself that are destined to fail because you make them when you're in one physical state (stuffed), ignoring how you'll feel when you're in another physical state (starved).
If you want to beat any self-defeating pattern of behavior - procrastination included - it's essential to be aware of your personality style, for ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL. Once you're aware, change is easier. Not simple, but easier.
Here now to help you conquer your procrastination pattern are six tips for six styles. These tips are not oriented toward changing you into another personality type. That would be counterproductive and rather insulting. Sure, it might be helpful if you were better organized like your sibling or less worried like your friend - but you've got some admirable traits that they don't have. Whatever your style, there's a way to DEVELOP the IMPROVED, UPGRADED, ENHANCED VERSION of YOU! No need for a personality makeover!
Tip #1 (Especially for Perfectionists)
*AIM FOR EXCELLENCE, NOT PERFECTION*
Perfectionists often work hard but not smart. Because their perfectionism intimidates them, they may find it difficult to either begin (Oh my God, there’s so much to do) or complete (It’s still not perfect) a task.
As kids, many perfectionists were told to "always do your best." This sounds like good advice, but is often impractical. Given the limited time, energy, and resources of your busy life, you simply can't do your absolute best in everything. So, choose what to devote your time and energies too. Then, aim for excellence; shy away from aiming for perfection.
What’s the difference between the two: Perfection is defined as "being flawless, the most desirable state that can be imagined." Except perhaps in a simple multiple-choice test, perfection is difficult to envision, no less achieve. Excellence, on the other hand, is defined as "possessing superior merit, remarkably good." This is both easier to envision and more realistic to achieve.
Striving for excellence is also more expansive. Who knows where your talents, desires and skills might be put to good use? Many highly successful people had no idea that they would be where they are now; they just worked hard and followed the opportunities. In contrast, perfectionists keep measuring their work against some impossibly high standard that’s often debilitating and energy-robbing.
Tip #2 (Especially for Dreamers)
*CHANGE "I'LL TRY TO" to "I WILL" (and mean it)!*
Language influences both thought and action (or lack of action). Listen to your choice of words. If you're like most dreamers, you often make vague, hazy statements. Two examples:
"I'll try to set up a meeting with my colleagues."
“Someday I'll sort through my mess of papers."
As you begin to speak more assertively, it can influence your behavior. Here are the above sentences just a bit revised.
"I will e-mail my colleagues today to set up a meeting for Friday."
"I’m sorting through my mess of papers now; whatever I don't finish, I'll complete tomorrow."
Notice the difference in the second set of sentences? As you become more definitive about your action plan, it will be easier to articulate a time frame for the completion of the task.
Tip #3 (Especially for Worriers)
*FOCUS ON WHAT'S EXCITING OR INSPIRING ABOUT A CHALLENGE*
The more nervous you are about a challenge, the more likely it is that you'll procrastinate. Yet, there's a fine line between feeling nervous and feeling excited. If you're the worrying type, you lean toward the nervous side of the line. To counteract this tendency, deliberately lean the other way. As you make this shift, you'll discover that worrying and excitement have much in common - the major difference is in your interpretation of your bodily experience. So, the next time you have "butterflies in your stomach," interpret it as a sign of excitement, not fear.
If this feels counterintuitive to you, take your cue from trapeze artists. Picture yourself high above ground, trying to stay upright as you attempt to keep your balance. Imagine yourself leaning too far to the left. Uh-oh! What do you do? Intuitively, your body knows. You lean to the right. You feel steadier. Once your body is centered, you move forward again.
If you have difficulty picturing yourself as a trapeze artist, let's use a different imagery, one even a young child can relate to - learning to ride a bike. At the beginning, the skill seems impossible. Someone must help you keep your balance. Or training wheels do the job for you. But then one day, with enough practice, you feel ready. You're a bit wobbly, but so what? That doesn't stop you. You're ready to go. No more training wheels. No more need for an adult to prop you up. You're on your own. And will you succeed? Oh yes, yes indeed. Now, if a young child can get excited about a challenge that initially seems impossible, so can you!
Tip #4 (Especially for Crisis-Makers)
*FOCUS MORE ON THE FACTS, LESS ON YOUR FEELINGS*
As a crisis-maker, you may claim that you can’t get motivated until the last minute. You’re either bored or distracted and only are propelled to take action when you feel the adrenaline rush of being under the gun.
Crisis-makers put excessive emphasis on how they feel, not enough emphasis on what they think or know. Feelings are important, of course. But so are thoughts. Hence, it’s important to strive toward a viable balance of the two.
As you focus on the facts, your assumptions will have a better chance of meshing up with reality. Here's how a crisis-maker might make a false assumption based on what he wants it to be rather than on 'what is’:
The meeting was called for 2 PM (a fact), but no big deal if I arrive by 3 (a false assumption).
Yeah, I had four drinks (a fact), but I’ll have no problem driving home (a false assumption).
As you shift your focus away from slavishly following your feelings and focus instead on ‘what is’ and what needs to be done, amazing things can happen for you! And if you find you still need that adrenaline rush, go ahead and challenge yourself with a competitive contest that activates your stress hormones.
Tip #5 (Especially for Passive-Aggressives Defiers)
*MEAN WHAT YOU SAY and SAY WHAT YOU MEAN*
Some defiers are open and obvious, saying, "But why should I be expected to do it?" Others are passive-aggressive acting as if they’re cooperating with others, as they hide their defiance under a guise of compliance.
If you agree with others just to appease them, procrastination will become your way of handling your responsibility. So, don't commit to doing a task if you don't intend to do it. If you do commit, then later change your mind, take responsibility for the change and tell the person involved.
For example, you might say, "I know I told you I'd take care of it this week, but I was feeling lethargic and didn't get to it." You can then propose a revised deadline:"I've fallen behind in our group project. How about changing our meeting time to Wednesday after I get a chance to catch up?"
Work with your team, (which can be your work group, family or community), instead of frequently fighting your team or acting as if you’re not a part of your team.
Tip #6 (Especially for Pleasers (Over-Doers)
CREATE PRIORITIES, LEARN TO SAY "NO"
Pleasers tend to say “yes” to others because, well they’re pleasers. Consequently, they end up with too much on their plate. Procrastination, then, becomes their indirect way of saying “no”. Pleasers need to think for themselves about how to structure their time. Learn to:
ELIMINATE - Know your priorities. Know what's important to you. Don’t do what everyone else is doing just to fit in. And don't try to do it all just to meet someone else’s expectations.
DELEGATE - Delegate and/or share the work. If you automatically say "yes" to a request, practice various ways of saying 'no'. It could be a blunt “no”, an apologetic “no” (sorry, but I just don’t have the time to do it) or a “no” with an alternative (I can’t drive you now, but I’ll have time this afternoon).
CONSOLIDATE - Consolidate multiple tasks into one. Planning ahead means you can combine two shopping trips into one, two meetings into one. As you put more time into planning what you need to do, you’ll end up with more time for yourself - just to breathe and be.
Want to take a quiz to discover your style(s) of procrastination? Want to learn more tips about changing your procrastination pattern? Go to www.SixStylesofProcrastination.com.
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach. She specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns. Contact her at email@example.com or visit her website at www.PsychWisdom.com.
If procrastination is your issue, check out www.BeatProcrastinationCoach.com to discover the Skills, Strategies and Secrets you need to know to conquer your procrastination pattern.