Whoever said procrastination is the thief of time was not joking. It takes much longer to delay a task than it does to buckle down and complete it. But why do we procrastinate if we know that it is probably a bad idea?
Being productive is not only a matter of planning our day. Being productive means setting that plan into motion. Too often, I have waited to complete a task and chosen to tell myself tomorrow will be a better time to start. Even in writing this blog, I experienced procrastination. I told myself, “Tomorrow I’ll have a better idea, tomorrow I’ll be more inspired,” because tomorrow always seems to be a better time until it isn’t.
Most of us consider procrastination to be a problem that stems from lack of planning, poor time management, or even laziness, but procrastination is much more than that. Although there are many contributing factors, such as lack of motivation, research shows that we tend to delay or postpone doing tasks that we perceive as unpleasant.
Joseph Ferrari, professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago, identified three basic types of procrastinators, each with different motives:
- The thrill seeker. Those who tend to wait until the last minute to complete tasks. They may enjoy the rush associated with an impending deadline.
- The avoider. Those who procrastinate out of fear and are attempting to avoid being judged, whether it is due to fear of failure or even fear of success. They are typically concerned with how others view them.
- The indecisive. Those who are unable to make a decision and procrastinate absolve themselves of responsibility for the outcome. They may be perfectionists who avoid making mistakes.
Addressing procrastination starts by becoming self-aware. For example, evaluate what you find unpleasant about that task and address it directly. If I am procrastinating on making a doctor’s appointment, is it because I truly forget to make the call? Or am I choosing to leave that task for a later time because I feel insecure or anxious about the outcome of that doctor’s visit?
Understanding what emotions are getting in the way of our productivity is vital to changing our behavior. We may also try to avoid distractions by limiting our access to electronics, dividing a project into smaller tasks that are more manageable, and managing expectations to avoid unrealistic standards or perfectionism. Procrastination can be managed. Identifying the emotions causing your procrastination is as important as coming up with strategies on how to address them.