Six Styles of Procrastination

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from It’s About Time! by Linda Sapadin.

Each of us is a procrastinator at one time or another in our lives. And the procrastination is not just about not getting around to it. Rather we approach a task, assignment or deadline… or just about any other human endeavor… from one or the other of the six styles of procrastination.

  • The Perfectionist: “But I want to be perfect!” Perfectionists can be reluctant to start — or finish — a task because they don’t want to do anything less than a perfect job. Once they have begun a task they can’t resist spending far more time and energy on it than required. This delays the task by overworking or over-functioning.
  • The Dreamer: “But I hate all those bothersome details!” The dreamer wants life to be easy and pleasant. Difficult challenges that confront the dreamer can automatically provoke resistance. Grandiose ideas are seldom followed with tactical plans and a timeline in the dreamer’s fantasy existence.
  • The Worrier: “But I’m afraid to change!” Risk is a four-letter word for worrier procrastinators. The “what ifs” of their thinking immobilize them. The fear of the unknown or of failure causes them to put off beginning or sometimes completing a process or project once it is commenced. The worrier resists the change that they know intellectually is likely to improve life for them.
  • The Defier: “But why should I have to do it?” The defier is proud of the tendency to buck the rules of measure up to the norms others tolerate or observe. Their pattern is to set their own agendas and schedules and defy others to force them to comply with other arrangements.
  • The Crisis-Maker: “But I only get motivated at the last minute!” In an almost addictive behavior pattern the crisis-maker loves to feel the rush of adrenaline that comes with putting off things until the last minute. They see their lifestyle as one filled with adventure but they often lose the dash to the finish line of many of their projects. This is the “classic” style of procrastination category that most people recognize.
  • The Overdoer: “But I have so much to do!” Unable to make choices between alternatives or to establish boundaries or priorities the overdoer takes on too much and does poor or late work. Or they never complete some of the many things that they say “yes” to in their lives. The overdoer lacks the discernment to measure their own ability against the time available and the scope of a project. The overdoer is a prime candidate for early burnout.

What each chronic procrastinator needs to cultivate is a more nature, more fluid transition from mental activity to physical activity, so that an appropriate amount of time and energy gets allotted to each step or phase of a project or process. To do this though, the procrastinator needs to understand the internal conflicts that produced one of the six styles of procrastination sketched above.

Another helpful step is to develop a relationship with a mentor who will monitor the patterns that have been destructive and assist the procrastinator to develop a realistic and healthy self-image as they initiate a process that can result in improved action patterns.

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Retired Lutheran (ELCA) clergyperson. Founder & owner of Brookover Leadership Development & Consulting, Inc. (1967)

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