Procrastinators get a bad wrap in the current work culture of busy, busy business. But if you do some soul-searching about what type of procrastinator you are (kind of like nailing down which breed of leggings enthusiast you are), you can totally find ways to hack your “I’ll do it later” attitude, according to Ellen Hendriksen, PhD.
“Like forms of procrastination—binge-watching Glow, shopping for dog raincoats online, or stalking your middle school friends on social media—procrastinators themselves come in many shapes and sizes,” says Dr. Hendriksen in a recent episode of the Savvy Psychologist podcast. Here are the three main types.
The Avoider: This is the classic procrastinator who puts off tasks in order to also sidestep negative emotions like doubt or stress that might come with tackling the problem. “For example, we may avoid an overtly stressful or high-stakes chore, like studying for exams or writing our best man speech,” Dr. Hendriksen explains.
The Optimist: You’ll recognize these folks as the ones who are super chill about encroaching deadlines, only to pull an all-nighter to actually complete the work. “Viewed through a charitable lens, this is overconfidence,” says the psychologist. “But for those left hanging or let down by this type of procrastinator, it may seem more like delusion.”
The Pleasure-Seeker: This person has no patience for anything that doesn’t offer immediate gratification. “They wait until they feel like doing their work to start, which sometimes never happens,” Dr. Hendriksen says. If you consider yourself lazy, the pleasure-seekers are your tribe.
Once you’ve found which camp you belong to, Dr. Hendriksen’s offers an action plan for pulling yourself out of an endless Instagram scroll. First, “radically accept that you’re procrastinating,” she advises. (*Ahem*, what were you doing before you started scrolling through Well+Good?) Next up, change your environment to exclude any objects—like Productivity Enemy #1, your phone—that usually distract you. And next time you do find yourself procrastinating, note any unpleasant feelings that it causes. “After the fourth episode of “The X Files,” your brain feels mushy. Whatever you’re doing to procrastinate, at some point it stops being fun,” says Dr. Hendriksen. When that does happen, get yourself back on the right track by checking an easy task of your to-do list, like sending a single email or going to the grocery store to restock your oat milk supply.
Last but not least, Dr. Hendriksen strongly advises keeping only two to three items on your to-do list at all times. “[A] mile-long to-do list has an effect on your psyche; first, it’s overwhelming, which can trigger more procrastination. And second, it’s unrealistic, which can amplify the Optimist’s ‘this will just take two minutes’ mindset,” she says. That way, you’ll have the satisfaction of bossing the entire list without leaving extraneous items for, you know, some time in the unspecified future.
If you’re looking for even more ways to be productive, taking your email off your phone might be a good start. And, yes, complaining at work is totally part of the equation.
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