Do you make multiple trips to the fridge when you’re supposed to be working on a paper? Do you find yourself cleaning your room or mindlessly scrolling the web instead of studying? Are you busy watching cat videos on YouTube despite having something more pressing to do?
Did you say “yes” to all of the above?
Everyone procrastinates at some point in time – even if it means doing something “productive” like cleaning instead of the task we had initially set our minds to.
According to Dr Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, there are three main procrastination profiles.
Which one are you?
According to Dr Hendriksen, the avoider puts things off to avoid the negative emotions that come with doing certain tasks. For example, you may put off writing a paper as it evokes feelings of pressure or worries that you’re going to fail.
We also procrastinate when we don’t know what to do next to avoid feeling overwhelmed or confused, like avoid applying to graduate school because you don’t know how to start the process.
On Psychology Today, Dr Hendriksen notes that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or stupid when starting out, especially if you’ve never done the task before.
“Therefore, build confusion into the task. Make ‘figure out steps’ the first step. Add ‘scream into your pillow’ to the top of your to-do list, if that gets you moving. Alternatively, some people need an outside party to help them think, so spitball with a friend or talk it out with your co-worker to come up with where to start,” she wrote.
Do you often think a task wouldn’t take as long as you think it should? Dr Hendriksen says the optimist tends to chronically underestimate their time frame or overestimate their abilities (ie. overconfidence), which may mean they sometimes overcommit (eg. I can write two papers the day before it’s due date).
There’s a silver lining, though. If you know yourself well enough and find that you work better under pressure, this type of “active” procrastination – which is more strategic – can work in your favour when you know you can deliver your best work closer to the witching hour of your deadline and deliberately procrastinate on the task at hand.
The pleasure seeker
The pleasure seeker waits until they feel like doing a particular task (which may or may not happen) before engaging in it. While it’s normal to feel lazy from time to time, the pleasure seeker can breed resentment from the people around them.
For instance, within a group project, group members may pick up the pleasure seeker’s slack. While it may seem like the pleasure seeker gets away with things, others are working around their procrastination, thus cementing their reputation as a lazy or unreliable person.
It’s important to be honest with yourself that you might never be in the mood. Instead, focus on how you’ll feel upon completing the task.