Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Procrastination is the thief of time

In the 21st Century we've created the perfect environment for procrastination with all the many distractions of our 24/7 lives, and psychologists have characterised this as behaviour that is counterproductive, needless or delaying.

It actually takes energy to procrastinate - dissipating energy that could be better used concentrating on getting the job done.

So why do we do it?

There are a number of reasons: immaturity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain (a characteristic of adolescence), it can also be linked to negative coping strategies that actually undermine our efforts, or lack of self-esteem about tackling a particular task, and even fear of failure. But psychologist and author of It's About Time, Dr Linda Sapadin has identified six procrastination styles, which can be helpful to consider if you feel that your procrastination habit is getting out of hand...

1. Perfectionists - who procrastinate because they want everything to be perfect, including that very first sentence, so will avoid doing anything unless it complies with their - usually unrealistic - aims.

2. Crisis Junkies - who like to leave everything to the last minute because it creates drama in their lives, gets them lots of attention, and actually creates a 'living on the edge' scenario they use to motivate themselves.

3. Dreamers - who tend to procrastinate because they find it all too complicated, and hate dealing with bothersome details, so would rather think about something else.

4. Defiers - who resent and resist doing what they need to do because they are defying some sort of internal, or external, authority figure.

5. Worriers - masters of the 'what if?' scenario, they can't get going because they constantly anticipate the worst and are afraid of change, and this nagging preoccupation stops them from starting.

6. Over-doers - who take on too much, don't know how to organise and prioritise what needs doing, so don't know where to start - then go off and find something else on their long list to do rather than tackle it.

What style of procrastination do you employ to avoid doing something? And why? Once you've identified it, you can work towards counteracting it - or, alternatively, just ignoring your efforts to procrastinate, and employ that same energy to getting it done!

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