Sure, you've thought about curtailing your procrastination habit instead of trying to justify it. But it's hard to do. You have your ingrained patterns. You're always busy with something. There are never enough hours in the day. If you've been unsuccessful so far, it could be that you haven't found the right approach. Most 'how-to' programs highlight developing better organizational skills and discipline. Those are good skills to learn; but they're not enough. Why not?

Because many habits - including procrastination - are driven by unconscious personality traits and emotional needs.

A helpful analogy: If you wish to lose weight, yet know little about nutrition, it's a good idea to learn more about calories, fat content, food groups, etc. However, if you're so knowledgeable in this area that you could teach a course on nutrition, yet you're still overweight, your failure and frustration has nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with personality traits and emotional needs.

Perhaps you have trouble tolerating frustration so you satisfy your impulse to eat the moment you feel a bit hungry, discouraged or dissatisfied.

Perhaps you long to fit into the social scene, so if your friends are having pizza that's what you're having too.

Perhaps you make promises to yourself that are destined to fail because you make them when you're in one physical state (stuffed), ignoring how you'll feel when you're in another physical state (starved).

If you want to beat any self-defeating pattern of behavior - procrastination included - it's essential to be aware of your personality style, for ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL. Once you're aware, change is easier. Not simple, but easier.

Here now are six tips for six styles. These tips are not designed to change you into another type of personality. That would be counterproductive and rather insulting. Sure, it might be helpful if you were better organized like your sibling or less worried like your friend - but you've got some admirable traits that they don't have. Whatever your style, there's a way to DEVELOP the IMPROVED, UPGRADED, ENHANCED VERSION of YOU! No need for a personality makeover!

Tip #1 -(Especially for Perfectionists)

Perfectionists work very hard, yet they're often procrastinators. Why? Because their perfectionism intimidates them, making it difficult to either begin or complete a task.

Perfection is defined as "being flawless, the most desirable state that can be imagined." Except perhaps in a simple multiple-choice test, perfection is difficult to envision, no less achieve.

Excellence, on the other hand, is defined as "possessing superior merit, remarkably good." This is both easier to envision and more realistic to achieve. Striving for excellence is also more expansive. Who knows where your talents, desires and achievements might lead to?

Many highly successful people had no idea that they would be where they are now; they just worked hard and followed the opportunities. In contrast, striving for perfection keeps you measuring your work against some abstract standard that may be meaningful only in your own mind.

Most perfectionists were told, when they were kids, to "always do your best." This sounds like good advice, but is often impractical. Given the limited time, energy, and resources of your busy life, you simply can't do your absolute best in everything. So, choose what to devote your time and energies too. Then, aim for excellence. Shy away from perfection.

Tip #2 -(Especially for Dreamers)
*CHANGE "I'LL TRY TO" to "I WILL" (and mean it)!*

Listen to yourself speak. If you're like most dreamer procrastinators, you make frequent use of vague, hazy statements. A few examples:
"I'll try to set up a meeting with my colleagues."
"I'll try to clean up my mess of papers."

As you learn to speak more assertively, it will influence your actions. Here are the above sentences just a bit revised.
"I will e-mail my colleagues today to set up a meeting for the end of the week."
"I am tackling my mess of papers now; whatever I don't finish, I'll complete tomorrow."

Did you notice the difference in the second set of sentences? As you become more definitive about the action you will take, it becomes easier to articulate a time frame in which you will accomplish the task.

Tip #3 -(Especially for Worriers)

The more nervous you are about tackling a task, the more likely it is that you'll procrastinate. Yet, there's a fine line between feeling nervous and feeling excited. If you're the worrying type, you lean toward the nervous side of the line. To counteract this tendency, deliberately lean the other way. As you make this shift, you'll discover that worrying and excitement have much in common - the major difference is in your interpretation of your bodily experience. So, the next time you have "butterflies in your stomach," interpret it as a sign of excitement, not fear.

If this feels counterintuitive to you, take your cue from trapeze artists. Picture yourself high above ground, trying to stay upright as you attempt to keep your balance. Imagine yourself leaning too far to the left. Uh-oh! What do you do? Intuitively, your body knows. You lean to the right. You feel steadier. Once your body is centered, you move forward again.

If you have difficulty picturing yourself as a trapeze artist, let's use a different imagery, one even a young child can relate to - learning to ride a bike. At the beginning, the skill seems impossible. Someone must help you keep your balance. Or training wheels do the job for you. But then one day, with enough practice, you feel ready. You're a bit wobbly, but so what? That doesn't stop you. You're ready to go. No more training wheels. No more need for an adult to prop you up. You're on your own. And will you succeed? Oh yes, yes indeed. Now, if a young child can get excited about a challenge that initially seems impossible, so can you!

Tip #4 -(Especially for Crisis-Makers)

Putting things off often creates crises. Why? Because when you put more emphasis on how you feel, less emphasis on what you know, stuff happens. Feelings are important, of course. But so are thoughts. Hence, strive toward a viable balance of the two.

Focusing on the facts (not your feelings) means your assumptions will have a better chance of meshing up with reality. Here's how a crisis-maker might make a false assumption based on what he wants it to be rather than on 'what is'.

The meeting was called for 2 PM (a fact), but it won't make a difference if I arrive by 3 (a false assumption).
The gas gauge is almost on empty (a fact), but there should be enough gas to get to where I'm going (a false assumption).

As you shift your focus away from resistance and focus instead on doing what needs to be done - despite your initial feelings - amazing things can happen for you!

Tip #5 -(Especially for Defiers (Passive-Aggressives)

Some defiers openly defy, saying, "But why should I be expected to do it?" Others are passive-aggressive, saying "yes" to whatever others want, hiding their defiance under a guise of compliance.

Avoid saying what others want to hear just to appease them. Don't commit to doing a task if you don't intend to do it. If you do commit, then later change your mind, take responsibility for the change and tell the person involved.

For example, you might say, "I know I told you I'd take care of it this week, but I was feeling lethargic and didn't get to it." You can then propose a revised deadline: for example, "I've fallen behind in our group project. How about changing our meeting time to Wednesday after I get a chance to catch up?"

Work with your team (work, home, community) instead of always fighting the team.

Tip #6 -(Especially for Pleasers (Over-Doers)

Overdoers work awfully hard, but they don't work smart. So, the work piles up. With too much on their plate, procrastination becomes their way of 'saying no'. Here are a few tips for enhancing your time efficiency. Learn to:

ELIMINATE - Know your priorities. Know what's important to you. You don't have to do what everyone else is doing just to fit in. And you don't have to do it all just because somebody expects you to do it.

DELEGATE - Delegate and/or share the work. If you usually are responsible and automatically say "yes" to others' requests, practice saying 'no' or 'not at this time', or 'I'd be happy to do it, but I won't have time till next week."

CONSOLIDATE - Consolidate several actions into one. A little planning ahead means you can combine two shopping trips into one, two errand runs into one. As you put time into planning, your tasks, you end up with more time for yourself.

Want to take a quiz to find out what style of procrastinator you are and how you can change your pattern? Go to

Copyright 2011

Author's Bio: 


Dr. Sapadin is a psychologist, success coach and media guest. She specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. She has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and National Public Radio. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post. For more info, about her work, go to

She is the author of a self-help E-Program and 4 self-help books.

If procrastination gets the better of you, check out the "Six Styles of Procrastination" E-Program. This effective alternative to coaching will give you the Skills, Strategies and Secrets to Conquer Your Self-Defeating Pattern. Visit for a self-assessment quiz to determine your style. Are you a perfectionist, dreamer, worrier, crisis-maker, defier or pleaser?