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Procrastination

Specific types of personal traits that lead to procrastination have been identified and are commonly used in training. We’ll briefly describe each type and invite you to identify where you see yourself.

The Perfectionist

The much-prized personal attribute that requires us to achieve the unachievable or be forever damned! The perfectionist procrastinates simply because perfection IS unachievable, so we are reluctant to start a task only to inevitably fail. If we do start, we may never finish the task because it’s never deemed good enough. Never perfect.

The Dreamer

As a dreamer, we spend too much time thinking about the task and too little time actually doing it. We don’t like the actual activity involved in progressing the task. We prefer to keep thinking. Planning, but in a theoretical sense. Not employing too much detail. We talk about it. Widely discuss it. But we don’t actually get on and do it. As though thinking about it constitutes doing it.

The Worrier

This type of procrastinator has a strong desire for comfort and therefore a dislike of risk and the unknown. Tasks that threaten our comfort zone, are perceived to increase risk or place us in unfamiliar territory are avoided. A new job? Great idea! Hang on though. We start to think of all the possible what ifs. The risks. The potential for failure. We are struck inactive as we struggle to overcome our fear. We put things off. We defer. We doubt.

The Defier

The Defier procrastinator can be difficult to spot at first. When dealing with a Defier, you may think that they are the pinnacle of cooperation and support. They’re happy to help with things. Of course, that’s no problem. They’ll get that done right away. Except, they won’t.  They will have said whatever it took to get you off their back and may be largely unconcerned about over promising and under delivering. Why the heck should they do that? Do it yourself. The trouble is that their limited self-awareness may not allow them to appreciate nor accept what’s going on. It’s your fault see? Not theirs!

The Crisis Maker

“I work best under pressure” is the anthem of The Crisis Procrastinator. We go from protracted inactivity to self-induced frenetic endeavour as the deadline we’re so near to missing, looms. We don’t do dull. We’re thrill seekers. We love a drama, and we love everyone to know that we’re in the midst of our own personal activity-based meltdown. We ensure that people know we’ve worked through the night and sent the report at the exact time it was due. I’m a crazy, danger junky. Renegade. It’s who I am. It defines me.

The Overdoer

We may lack assertiveness and struggle with the word NO. We may have low self-worth and compensate by trying to please others. We take on too much, we don’t plan effectively and simply feel that we’ve run out of time. We feel stressed. Overburdened. Put upon. We can’t see the wood for the trees. We’re like a Rabbit, caught in the headlamps. Transfixed. Incapable. Unproductive.

We think these are wonderful descriptions of character traits that we can easily identify in ourselves and others. They are not however all or nothing descriptions. We are all formed of nuanced blends of tendencies. It is our ability to develop self-awareness, personal honesty and unconditional acceptance of who we are as flawed and fallible humans that enables us to grow and improve.

The ABC model is a great tool for examining our unhelpful, rigid beliefs that may be causing us to procrastinate. Cognitive therapies help us to recognise particular demand-based conditions that must be met in order for the procrastinator to move forward. We can use Mind Fitness skills to challenge and change our procrastination inducing beliefs, enabling ourselves to get out of our own way.

Let’s take a look at those conditions. See which ones you think may apply to you.

Comfort – Low Frustration Tolerance

I must feel comfortable before I begin. I can’t stand it if I’m not, and I certainly can’t start work whilst these uncomfortable conditions prevail. I must feel well. I mustn’t feel tired. It must be quiet. I’ll wait to start until the conditions are more to my liking.

Mood

I must be in the right mood to do this. Today I’m not. Tomorrow, hopefully I will be. Today, I can’t face it. I’m upset. I’m feeling a bit down. I’m simply not in the right frame of mind. I’ll do it tomorrow. Definitely!

Competence

I must know what I’m doing completely before I start work. I don’t feel entirely qualified to do this at this point, so I won’t.

Motivation

I lack motivation to do this, so I won’t. I’ll wait until motivation returns and then I’ll do it. I can’t possibly do anything without feeling driven.

Immediate Understanding

I must understand what I’m about to do completely otherwise, I won’t start. I don’t want any discomfort in having to learn as I go. I’m reluctant to start because I’m out of my knowledge comfort zone.

Pressure

I have to feel pressurised before I start. I know I do my best work under time pressure. I’ll stay up all night if needs be. I’ll manage to complete the work at the very latest deadline. It’ll kill me, but that’s who I am, and I can’t change.

Immediate Gratification

I must immediately enjoy, and be interested in the work I’m doing, otherwise it’s a nonstarter. If I struggle with the task, I stop. If I get bored, I stop. If the prospect bores me, I don’t start. It’s a form of selectivity. Not taking the bad with the good!

As you see, there is quite a bit of crossover. It’s often a blend of these elements and conditions that stop us starting. Confusion and a lack of awareness can serve to make procrastination very difficult to acknowledge and change. However, the good news is that yet again, because procrastination is caused by cognitive distortions, if we wish to change, we can.

Through awareness, resolve and Neuroplasticity, our brain’s amazing ability to rewire neural pathways, change will come with practice. By deliberately putting ourselves in what will feel like uncomfortable situations and discovering that we can stand it, we can work through it. I don’t feel like getting on with this, but I’m going to do it. Make a deal with yourself. I’ll work solidly for one hour then treat myself. Watch telly for fifteen minutes with a cuppa and a biscuit. Then crack on for another hour. And so on. You’ll begin to notice positive change and that feels great. The added bonus is you get so much more done with far less worry and stress.

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