Procrastination is a time monster all of us have to deal with. From putting off doing the bills to studying for a test or actually addressing conflicts with the boss, all of us find ourselves postponing the inevitable at one point of another. But is all procrastination the same and does it always serve the same goal? How does your personality fit with your own personal art of procrastination?
A recent study in Turkey looked at three different kinds of procrastinators: indecisive, avoidant and arousal procrastinators. Indecisive procrastinators simply cannot make up their minds. They are faced with too many choices and have difficulty selecting the one that is best for them. As a result, they postpone choosing to a much later time. Days, weeks and years go by in ambivalence, inaction and a lack of accomplishment.
Avoidant procrastinators cannot face the task they have to do, so they avoid doing this at all costs. Have to have a difficult conversation with a friend or spouse? Avoid. Have to take a look at your debt so as to do debt planning? Avoid. Have to walk past the ever-growing pile of laundry? Avoid. Avoidance procrastinators do whatever they can to not do unpleasant things.
Then there are arousal procrastinators, who postpone things to the very last minute so that they will in fact get them done (guilty!). Why start neatening up the house when your relatives are coming in two weeks? Wait till the day before because you will actually do something. Why start studying for a test three months before when you can start a week before and not waste your time staring at the wall? Avoidance procrastinators are adrenaline junkies who put things off to the last minute so that they can harness the motivation of panic.
What causes each of these types of procrastination? Indecisive procrastinators fear commitment to a choice and loss of other choices. So they try to prevent the loss as much as they can. Also, the commitment to a choice is threatening because there is the pressure to perform once the choice is made.
Avoidant procrastinators are usually filled with fear about the prospect of having to do something, so they do whatever they can to build up the courage they need. For avoidance procrastinators, looking forward to the task is like looking forward to a bikini wax.
Arousal procrastinators simply thrive on the “rush” to get things done and use their fear as a means of motivation. However, when they delay things till the very last moment, the stress can sometimes be too distracting and make it impossible to focus.
Getting rid of procrastination requires that you get out of your head. Instead of immersing yourself in the avoidance, immerse yourself in the outcome. To be comfortable with immersion in your goals and dreams requires more than just a schedule or reminder. While schedules and reminders can be helpful, they don’t necessarily address the root psychological issues. (I know I am terribly guilty of ignoring tasks EVEN when they’re on my calendar). To immerse yourself in a task means that you stop observing your goals and yourself and get into the thick of things. But to do this requires a certain state of consciousness-a willingness to let go of observing and trust your ability to act.
And this requires that you dare to own your own life. You have to be willing to put your entire body in action: heart rate, sweat and all. In effect, you have to let your emotions exist as they are — fear, excitement, disappointment, boredom, dread…. whatever the emotion — allowing yourself to be in it without looking at it. This form of allowing is what inspires people who act. We can exchange the thrill of last minute arousal, and the endless negative self-talk (I am a horrible person…. I still haven’t…) with the thrill of owning a life in a whole bodied way and having way more time to do it.