time management

Now, Not Later: 5 Things You Should Know About Procrastination

June 21, 2021

Reading Time: 9 minutes

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Episode 85 is all about putting things off, doing stuff later, and getting around to it at some point.

In a word: procrastination.

I have to say that the most requested topic I’ve gotten recently – So you better believe that I want to do the topic justice. When I dove into the research on procrastination, scratching the surface turned into a full on avalanche. Decades of research has been conducted on procrastination, so instead of cramming it all into 45-ish minutes and leaving out a lot, or recording a mammoth 3 hour episode, instead, I’m breaking it down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Three to be exact.

Welcome to the very first It’s About Time 3 Part series on procrastination.

Procrastination: A Three-Part Series

First – in today’s episode, Part 1: I’ll share 5 things you need to know about procrastination.

Next week, in Part 2: You’ll learn WHY we procrastinate and walk away with 5 questions you should ask yourself whenever you feel like putting something off.

And finally in Part 3 – I’ll share specific strategies that you can use to get things done whenever you feel like doing it later.

So Part 1 is the what – What you need to know about procrastination, Part 2 is the Why. Why we procrastinate, and part 3 is the How. As in, wow to combat procrastination.

What. Why and How. And I’m super excited to dig into each piece of this procrastination puzzle with you.

In This Episode

So today – in part one, we’re talking about

  • Five things you need to know about procrastination

  • How laziness fits into the equation

  • Four procrastination personality types

  • Procrastination as a symptom for underlying medical conditions

01. You should know that everybody does it. 

Everybody does it – Studies on procrastination have found that 95% of us procrastinate to some degree. And if you’re in the 5% that never procrastinates, please send me a DM on instagram and tell me who you are so I can interview you for a future episode of It’s About Time and ask you a LOT of questions.

So why is this important to know? Well, I want to start off by making sure that you know that you’re not alone. As someone who is definitely in that 95% I know that procrastination can also come with shame and negative self-talk. We know we’re putting something off, which can give us feelings of both relief because we’re not doing that thing, but also guilt and shame because we know we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing. This can kick off a shame spiral.

What is a Shame Spiral?

First coined by clinical psychologist Gershen Kaufman in his 1992 book Shame: The Power of Caring, shame spirals are triggered by an unsettling event.

And if you’re not familiar with the term, a Shame Spiral is when we feel shame for something small, which then leads us to ruminate and become consumed with thoughts of shame for other things, and it spirals out of control.

It sucks. Trust me. I know. I’ve been there.

You’re putting something off. And then you get irritated with yourself for putting something off. And then you get mad at yourself because you’re always putting things off even though you know better. And then you’re upset with yourself because you can never do what you set out to do even though you want to do it, and then the spiral continues into a pit of negativity.

You start to think that other people are better than you because they don’t procrastinate like you do, and maybe you’ll never be successful because all you do is procrastinate. You start to believe that you’re falling behind because you can’t do things when you need to.

95% – Basically everyone procrastinates in some way. You are not alone. It’s okay. Okay? Procrastinating is totally normal and you know what – it doesn’t mean you’re lazy either.

But it might.

That brings us to the second thing you need to know about procrastination.

02. You should know that procrastination and laziness are actually not the same thing, even though they’re often used interchangeably. 

One of the things that often sets off that shame spiral we just talked about is the belief that procrastination means we’re inherently lazy, and that’s just not the case. Let’s look at procrastination and laziness separately.

Procrastination

Procrastination is choosing to put something off or do something else instead of the thing. Procrastination is an action.

Laziness

Laziness, on the other hand, is an unwillingness to put in the effort to do something, whether that’s to achieve a goal or tackle something on your to do list. This is really simplifying the concept of laziness, but it’s more of a feeling.

Procrastination v. Laziness

Procrastination is an action, laziness is a feeling, an unwillingness.

And While procrastination and laziness are not the same thing, laziness is sometimes – but not always –  the cause for procrastination. And it’s that But Not Always that we really need to keep in mind.

Part 2 of our procrastination series is going to take a much deeper look at why we procrastinate, but for now – just know that laziness is sometimes the cause but it is definitely not the only cause of procrastination.

Not even close.

03. You should know that, although we get down on ourselves for procrastinating, there are actually some benefits to procrastination.

Here are three of those benefits:

Pressure breeds performance

First of all, when you put something off til the last minute, Parkinson’s Law kicks in. You might have heard me mention Parkinson’s Law before. Basically Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted. If you give yourself 2 weeks to put together a report, it’ll probably take you the full two weeks. If you give yourself 2 hours, you’ll probably find a way to make it work in two hours.

This is because there’s no such thing as perfect, so there is literally always something that can be added, cut, edited, tweaked, fixed, or messed with on the endless and impossible road to perfection.

So, when you procrastinate and wait until the last minute, you typically get a boost of adrenaline, focus, work quickly and you lower your expectations. And Perfectionism tends to go out the window because you’ve just got to get it done.

If you’ve ever said “I totally thrive under pressure,” then you know exactly what this feels like.

Better Decision Making

A second benefit to putting things off? It can help you make better decisions. Sometimes in the process of procrastinating, you uncover new information, think about something in a new light or shift your priorities. Sometimes you simmer down and instead of making an irrational, emotional response – you’re able to put some logic on it. You know the advice to “sleep on it” before making a big decision? That’s actually a great example of a good kind of procrastination.

“Productive Procrastination”

And third – There’s also something called “productive procrastination” that I wrote a blog post on a few years ago. Productive procrastination is a little bitta good, and a little bitta bad – because it’s still procrastination – you’re putting off something important – but in the meantime you’re getting other things done.

This is a lot like how the first step to studying for finals when we were in college was to clean your apartment. I know that wasn’t just me! And even now I still feel tempted to clean my house before starting on a big work project.

But maybe you weren’t like that at all – which is completely normal because procrastination – like most things in life, isn’t one size fits all.

04. You should know that there are different procrastination personality types.

The coaches at Accountability Works have identified four.

I’ll tell you a little bit about each type and see if you can figure out which type you are.

Unless you’re a weirdo in the 5% who has never procrastinated ever, and then I don’t really know what to tell you, weirdo.

Okay – those four types are The Performer, the Self-deprecator, the Overbooker and the Novelty seeker.

One of these descriptions might really resonate with you – or you might see yourself in a few of them. I know I do.

The Performer

First up – The Performer. The performer procrastinates because they thrive under pressure. They like to wait til the last minute because it forces them to focus and get things done.

The Self-Deprecator

Next is a personality type they call the Self-deprecator. The self-deprecator tends to blame their procrastination on laziness, when in reality – they are just tired because they’re anything BUT lazy. They’re doing a LOT and just can’t do it all.

It’s like this – the self-deprecator is working their tail off growing their business. Getting up early, staying up late. Taking courses. Working with a coach. Creating social media content.. And then when they put something off – like cleaning their house – because they have so much on their plate… they tell themselves that they’re lazy. And then the shame spiral begins. When in reality – they’re actually getting a lot done, and they’re not lazy –  the work ethic is there… they’re just exhausted. That’s the Self-Deprecator.

The Overbooker

Then there’s the Overbooker. The Overbooker blames their procrastination on being “too busy.” They’ve got a full schedule and usually feel overwhelmed, but the thing is – plenty of people with full schedules still get things done. So basically, instead of doing the thing they need to do, the Overbooker blames not doing it on having other things to do…

The Novelty Seeker

And finally, the novelty seeker. The novelty seeker is an idea factory and LOVES chasing shiny things. They’re constantly starting new projects, and taking lots of action – but it’s not consistent action. It’s a little bit on this project, and a little bit on this one.  So they never see real progress in any direction, which makes them want to give up and start the cycle all over again by kicking off… you guessed it… a new project.

So while there are different procrastination personality types, and we’ve come to terms with the fact that procrastination and laziness aren’t the same thing – if you’ve tried everything you can think of and you continue to procrastinate to a degree that is detrimental to your career your health or your relationships,

05. You should know that procrastination could be a symptom of a larger medical issue. 

Please remember that I am not a doctor, psychologist or mental health expert. I’m just a Time Management Coach with a passion for helping ambitious women find their personal version of work/life balance through better time management.

However, I have to share that research has shown that there is a significant correlation between ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – and procrastination.

Watch Your Words, Please 

Also – I’m going to take a brief brief soapbox moment.

I take issue with people who say things like “Oh my gosh, I can’t focus on anything, I’m so ADD” or “I’m so ADHD” when they have not actually been diagnosed with the disorder.

And while we’re at it, I feel the same way about mentions of OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder. Alphabetizing your spice cabinet or asking people to take off their shoes when they enter your house doesn’t make you sooo OCD.

Being particular about how you like things to be done doesn’t make you OCD.

Not being able to choose a song or a radio station on a road trip doesn’t make you ADHD.

ADHD and OCD are medical conditions, not quirky personality traits, so please be respectful to those who actually have ADHD and/or OCD and cut that out.

Ok – soapbox moment over.

So, if you do persistently procrastinate, despite your best efforts to do what you need to, please consider seeing a doctor and learning more about ADHD. And in addition to ADHD, procrastination is often a symptom of depression because depression can lead to issues like fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and a reduced interest in activities. If any of that sounds familiar, please consider making an appointment with a mental health professional to learn more.

Not everything can be fixed with time management tips and an organized calendar, and I completely understand that.


RECAP

So there you have it. Let’s recap the five things you should know about procrastination:

First – Everybody does it. 95% of people have procrastinated at some point, and the remaining 5% are probably lying.

Second – Procrastination and laziness are not the same thing, but laziness can be a reason for procrastinating.

Third – Procrastination isn’t all bad. Sometimes it can lead to better decision making and it can help you move past perfectionism and get things done.

Fourth – There are four different procrastination personality types according to the coaches at Accountability Works: the Performer, the Self-deprecator, the Overbooker and the Novelty-seeker. Which one are you?

Fifth – Procrastination could be a symptom of an underlying medical issue such as ADHD or depression. If you think you might have ADHD or depression, please reach out to a medical professional to learn more.

In Episode 85, we skimmed the surface of procrastination, and there’s so much more to dive into. That’s why in Episode 86, Part 2 of our three-part series on procrastination, I’ll share the 5 questions you should ask yourself when you feel like procrastinating.

With those five questions, we’ll get to the heart of WHY we procrastinate so we can take the best action to move forward and get things done.

Just like I tell my time management coaching clients, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to procrastination.

We all bring different reasons for putting things off to the table.


LINKS & RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

How to Stop Procrastinating and Start Doing More of What Matters



  1. Alyssa Telander says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your comments about mental health in this episode. So on point and so appreciated!

    • Alyssa, you are so welcome. Thank you so much for listening. It’s important that we remember that not everything can be solved with a cute little "life hack" and that it’s NOT okay to make light of mental health issues. Thank you!

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