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Procrastination in Self and Co-workers: What’s Driving Your Delaying?

Procrastination in Self and Co-workers: What’s Driving Your Delaying?

Yesterday, while discussing individual decision-making in a 300-level college course called “Managing Behavior in Pubic Organizations,” the class started a great conversation about procrastination. Although I am given the title of instructor of this course, once again I had the pleasure of being schooled by one of my students. Our reading for the day’s lecture had pointed out that procrastination can negatively impact individual decision-making. This concept prompted a student to ask more about the type of procrastination that would necessitate a negative decision. Hmm. Type of procrastination? I was completely unaware that procrastination came in various flavors.  After a bit of reading and contemplating, I have some thoughts and possible solutions to this age-old problem.


We see different types of procrastination in ourselves and others every day. Most students in my class sheepishly raised a hand when asked if they procrastinate and giggled when I reminded them not to put off starting their research papers. While procrastination is a trait that unifies us across cultures and genders, what motivates us to put something off, delay, or avoid a task may be different.

Arousal Procrastinators and Avoidant Procrastinators

There are two kinds of procrastinators, according to Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University and procrastination expert. The first is referred to as an arousal procrastinator and the second is called an avoidant procrastinator.  The arousal procrastinator believes that she performs best under pressure.  For arousal procrastinators, putting off a task could give them a jolt of extra energy as they race towards a deadline.  The avoidant procrastinator is filled with self-doubt and fear.  They worry that their work-product may be inadequate and delay starting projects because they are apprehensive about their performance.

Perfectionist Procrastinators and High Input Procrastinators

I would add two more types of procrastinators to this list – the perfectionist procrastinator and the high input procrastinator.  The perfectionist may begin the project but will never be done with it.  This is a procrastinator in completion.  There is always one more tweak that is needed before he or she can move on and a new job can be initiated.  Deadlines come and go but, because the perfectionist procrastinator is so close to completion, colleagues and superiors hang on to the hope that the finished project must be only days away.  The high input procrastinator is the individual who needs to read everything that has ever been written on a topic, talk to others, and do a bit more research before starting a project.  While the high input procrastinators are thorough analyzers, they are also experts at finding a new avenue to consider before getting down to work.

Bottom Line: How Can You Curb Procrastination?

Partnering with someone who can off-set your flavor of procrastination is a great way to get off the dime and move forward.  Below are suggestions for mutually beneficial couplings.

1.  Arousal Procrastinator + Activator:  The arousal procrastinators need to find individuals who enjoy activating projects.  Activators are great at getting a project off the ground.  Coupling these two types of individuals is a recipe for success because while the activator will initiate the project, she may not be as enthusiastic about completing it.  When the project nears the finish line, the arousal procrastinator will kick into high gear.

2.  Avoidant Procrastinator + People Supporter:  The avoidant procrastinator is fearful of criticism and skeptical about his skills.  This individual needs to partner with a team member who is supportive and can act as a cheerleader to rally the procrastinator past his fears.  Once the avoidant procrastinator begins the project, the supportive individual will need to give encouragement and advice along the way.

3.  Perfectionist Procrastinator + Realist:  The perfectionist procrastinator is a like a rose with thorns in the workplace.  The organization benefits greatly from this individual’s high level of dedication and interest in getting the product not just good, but perfect.  However, the issue of getting work out the door and starting new work is a reality that the perfectionist does not want to be reminded of.  The realist and the perfectionist need to work together when the project is nearing completion.  The realist needs to have credibility in the eyes of the perfectionist as well as authority.  The realist will identify the right time to complete the project and offer insight to the perfectionist as to why no further tweaks are needed.

4.  High Input Procrastinator + Focuser:  The high input procrastinator is happiest when finding new solutions and looking for new paths.  This individual has exceptional talents when researching and considering new opportunities, but when it’s time to get to work the high input procrastinator needs to couple with a colleague who is able to focus her efforts and steer her towards her immediate goal.

The reality is that most of us procrastinate, even though we don’t like procrastinators.  Partnering with someone who can help you to overcome your particular flavor of procrastination may be exactly what you’ve needed all along.  Don’t wait!  Find your partner in obliterating procrastination now.

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