Can you hear Mr. T saying those words? If we know it is foolish, why do we do such a foolish thing? 20 percent of people have been identified as chronic procrastinators. Most of us procrastinate every once in a while. However, there are times when it causes us unnecessary stress and even damages important activities.
Procrastination seems to be offered in three flavors, according to your preferences. The three types of procrastinators identified are:
Type one is called the avoidant procrastinator. These people usually have a fear of failure and prefer to have people think they are lazy rather than incompetent. At times these people even appear depressed. However they seem to function just fine when doing what they want to do.
The second type is called the thrill seeker procrastinator. They are people who are stimulated by the intensity and frenzy caused by waiting until the last moment to take on a very difficult task. They even tell themselves and others that they work best under this type of pressure.
The third type it’s called decisional procrastinators. They avoid making difficult decisions due to the belief that it absolves them from any responsibility. But they fail to realize that not making a decision is still a decision they are responsible for.
Traits like impulsiveness and perfectionism can influence how often and how much time is wasted. Impulsiveness will pull you off task, and perfectionism will never let you get started.
Unfortunately, there is no pill that will cure this ill because it’s a condition created by an unconscious belief system and learned through conditioning, not faulty neurochemistry.
Procrastination occurs in definable stages. The first stage is when we experience the ambivalent feelings of beginning a necessary task in which we have created anticipatory negative thoughts. The ambivalent feelings cause us to struggle. The negative perceptions create behaviors that avoid, delay, or block starting the task.
The second stage involves a sense of relief because I give myself permission to withdraw from the activity, which creates negative reinforcement. This powerful learning experience is called avoidance conditioning based on Mower’s two-factor theory.
The last stage has a time delay, but when it hits we feel guilt and begin engaging in stories of self-abasement. Long periods of self-condemning dialogue in your head cause you to feel like a loser.
So, what is the solution to such a powerful snare? Well, young Padawan, first consider which type of procrastinator you are. Each typology has its own solution.
Let’s consider type one, the avoidant procrastinator. This type must learn to react differently when stories show up and awful-ize the failure or rejection risk you are taking on. You can choose to directly confront the anticipatory anxiety belief or you can redirect your attention out of your head and onto the task at hand and be willing to engage the task for at least ten minutes while feeling some level of discomfort. Therefore you could learn the skills of rational self-debate or the skill of tolerating the discomfort that shows up at the beginning of any challenging task.
When considering type two, the thrill seeker procrastinator, which is actually quite popular, they must first increase their self-awareness related to their poor performance when completing tasks in such a frenzied manner. At the core of their dysfunction is the irrational belief that intensity equals quality. Because they enjoy the stimulation of the intensity of the whirling chaos, they assume the task results reflect what they experienced as pleasurable.
After some self-examination and confronting their own irrational beliefs related to internal pleasures equaling external results, they now can move forward to adopt the skills of a more strategic approach of consuming their steak in manageable bites as opposed to attempting to swallow the steak in one gulp.
Finally, we have the decisional procrastinators, who avoid making decisions and assume they have dodged the weight of responsibility or eluded the risk of failing to make the perfect decision. They must begin by embracing the reality that they will still be held responsible for their passivity and inactivity. There are times when the decisional cost analysis indicates there are no good options, only the best of poor options.
So, I hope this helps you reduce or eliminate the procrastination ailment, which might have plagued you and your ambition.
By the way, I am considering starting a specialized group therapy for chronic procrastinators, but it will have to wait until next month when the time is right and the right people call me.
Photo (Flickr CC) by amira_a