Procrastination is something we are all familiar with. From putting off doing the bills to studying for a test or actually addressing conflicts with the boss, all of us find ourselves in the reverie of postponement at one point of another. But is all procrastination the same and does it always serve the same goal? How does your personality fit with your own personal art of procrastination?
A recent study in Turkey looked at three different kinds of procrastinators: indecisive, avoidant and arousal procrastinators. Indecisive procrastinators simply cannot make up their minds. They are faced with too many choices and have difficulty selecting the one that is best for them. As a result, they postpone choosing to a much later time. Avoidant procrastinators cannot face the task they have to do, so they avoid doing this at all costs. Have to change a light bulb in an awkward part of the house? Avoid. Have to take a look at your debt so as to do debt planning? Avoid. Avoidance procrastinators do whatever they can to not do unpleasant things. Then there are arousal procrastinators, who postpone things to the very last minute so that they will in fact get them done. Why start neatening up the house when your relatives are coming in two weeks? Wait till the day before because you will actually do something. Why start studying for a test three months before when you can start a week before and not waste your time staring at the wall? Avoidance procrastinators are adrenaline junkies who put things off to the last minute so that they can harness the motivation of panic.
What causes each of these types of procrastination? Indecisive procrastinators fear commitment to a choice and loss of other choices. So they try to prevent the loss as much as they can. Also, the commitment to a choice is threatening because there is the pressure to perform once the choice is made. Avoidant procrastinators are usually filled with fear about the prospect of having to do something, so they do whatever they can to build up the courage they need. Also for avoidance procrastinators, looking forward to the task is like looking forward to a bikini or back wax. Arousal procrastinators simply thrive on the "rush" to get things done and use their fear as a means of motivation. However, when they delay things till the very last moment, the stress can sometimes be too distracting and make it impossible to focus.
Psychologically, getting rid of procrastination requires what I call "immersion comfort" without the fear of your psyche wrinkling like the skin on your hands when you are a swimming pool. To be comfortable with immersion in your goals and dreams requires more than just a schedule or reminder. While schedules and reminders can be helpful to the amotivated or busy people, the root psychological issues are not being addressed. Procrastinators are "perspective addicts" -- having the task in front of them is comforting because they have an eye on what to do. To immerse yourself in a task means that you stop observing your goals and yourself and get into the thick of things. But to do this requires a certain state of consciousness-a willingness to let go of observing and trust your ability to act.
It is this last quality of the psyche that also requires that you dare to own your own life. You have to be wiling to put your entire body in action: heart rate, sweat and all. In effect, you have to let your emotions exist as they are -- fear, excitement, disappointment, whatever the emotion -- you have to allow yourself to be in it without looking at it. This form of allowing is what inspires people who act. They exchange the thrill of last minute arousal with the thrill of owning a life in a whole bodied way. While the study in Turkey that I mentioned earlier found that having more than three children or less than a graduate degree makes you more of an indecisive procrastinator, you cannot allow these demographics to take over your life.
Instead, I would recommend taking a deeper look at your addiction to seeing things rather than being in them, and ask yourself, if you were blind to perspective (or observation of what you need to do), might you actually be able to see yourself more clearly? What I mean here is that we do not truly see ourselves in mirrors; we see ourselves mostly when we are in some positive situation of being out of control: a fast car, being in love or riding a wave. It is when we choose immersion that we choose to know ourselves through the learning of experience that procrastination can never provide.