It's About Time! Six Styles of Procrastination and How to Overcome Them

by Dr. Linda Sapadin with Jack Maguire.


Michele K wrote:

Michele musters up all the self-discipline she can, finds her copy of the book "It's About Time: The 6 Styles of Procrastination and How to Overcome Them" and begin abstracting excerpts from Chapter 2 on "The Perfectionist Proscrastinator" (note: the other styles referenced are The Dreamer, The Defier, The Crisis-Maker, The Overdoer, and The Worrier - you can be a combination of many or all of these according to the book).

Changing The Pattern

Lifestyle changes, difficult for anyone to make, are particularly trouble some for perfectionists, who dread changing from a way of life that's very familiar to an untried way that might involve awkwardness, incompetence, or failure. . . Before coming to me, Karen - in a typically perfectionist fashion - had assumed that therapeutic lifestyle changes needed to be extreme in nature and all-encompassing in scope in order to be effective. To her great surprise and relief, many of the techniques I recommended involved gradually adopting simple, almost mechanical changes in her day-to-day life.

1. Change your "should's" to "could's": Changing How You Speak

When applied to yourself, the word "should" indicates a command that originates from outside yourself. It suggests that you bear some sort of responsibility you're reluctant to fulfill, as in "I should take care of that right away," or "I should change the last part of my speech so it's even better." In effect, the statement says, "I feel somehow obligated to do this, but I'm not quite ready to declare that I will do this."

To avoid imposing unnecessary pressure on yourself, strike the word "should" from your vocabulary and substitute "could," as in "I *could* take care of that right away," . . . The word "could" reminds you that you *always* have the power to choose.


2. If you're not able to set time limits for yourself, ask others to help you set them.

As a perfectionist and procrastinator, you may not always be the best judge of how to spend your time. If you're confused, get some help from someone who may be more qualified -- or at least more objective.


3. Make a daily "to do" list that's short and practical.

As a PP (perfectionist procrastinator), you need to guard against either trying to do everything at once or concentrating all your attention on only one thing, to the exclusion of everything else you need - or want - to do. In other words, you should get your priorities in order. Don't put everything you'd ideally like to do, or you'll be putting too much pressure on yourself. Instead, just write the thing that are most important for you to do -- your top prioritiesz. And don't write too many top priorities. Each and every day, you need to allow yourself some "down" time to relax and enjoy life!

(I think this one is one of the tough ones!)

4. Get others involved, letting them do things their way.

PP's often wind up taking on too many chore and obligations in the first place, certain they can handle them better than others can (note from me: wow! this is me big time!). As a PP, you need to overcome the fantasy that you can - and should - do everything all by yourself. Instead, you need to learn to seek help before you're feeling pressured by too much work. Periodically, look over all the things that you feel you need to do at home, at work, and elsewhere, and identify individual tasks (or parts of tasks) that could be done by other people. Then start delegating some of your workload to the appropriate people.

Just be sure when you turn over *responsibility* for a task to another person that you also give that person *authority* over the task. As a perfectionist, you may hate to give up any of your control, however, if you delegate the job to someone else, it's unfair to expect that person to do it exactly your way.

(skipped 5 - had to leave *some* stuff out)

6. Reward yourself for your achievements.

Let yourself celebrate your accomplishments. There's always something else waiting to be done and PP's feel they should get started on it as soon as they can. To make sure you do take pleasure in your successes, commit yourself to a reward system. It doesn't matter whether the reward you give yourself is big (a vacation), medium (a new piece of clothing) or small (an ice-cream sundae), as long as you give yourself something!


End of excerpts.

If everyone *really* wants me to, I will take on the project of abstracting the other procrastination styles.

Answer - Yes Yes Yes Please Please Please


It's About Time - Chapter 5 excerpts

The ongoing complaint of DP's (defier procrastinators), whether or not they express it verbally or even realize it consciously, is, "I could do it, BUT why should I do it?" The specific meaning of this complaint differs, depending on the situation. In some cases, it questions the importance of the task involved: ". . . BUT why *should* I do it?" In other cases, it implies that the task has been unfairly imposed upon them: ". . . BUT why should *I* do it?" Either way, they feel victimized and respond oppositionally.

DP's tend to perceive any outside demand on their time and energy as a threat to their individuality. Depending on what type of personality they have, they may respond to that threat with outright indignation or with passive acceptance -- as well as with procrastination.


Now let's consider what characteristics *all* DP's have in common:

1. DP's see life in terms of what others expect or require them to do, not in terms of what they themselves want or need to do.

DP's are ever on the alert to avoid, resist, or fight against doing anything that someone else seems to be compelling them to do. This self-protective attitude keeps them focused on other people instead of themselves. As a result, they have a very poor sense of what, specifically, wuld make them happy or improve the quality of their day-to-day life.

What DP's fail to realize is that many of the tasks that appear to be "unfairly" imposed upon them from the outside are in fact things they authentically need to do to lead a happy, productive life.


End Part I


It's About Time - Chapter 5 excerpts - Part II


2. In order to appear nice or cooperative, defier proscrastinators often avoid expressing negative feelings directly and, instead, convey them indirectly by procrastinating.

3. Defier procrastinators resent authority and use procrastination as a means of challenging it.

DP's get upset whenever they think that another individual - or society as a whole - is trying to tell them what to do. They take it as a threat to their self-importance.

Sometimes DP's perceive their resistance to authority as an exciting battle against boring confirmity. Thus, they complain that social obligations or rituals are actually contemptible efforts to make them just like everybody else, when they want to be special. Mitch (a story about 'Mitch' was cited earlier in the chapter) scoffs at following company rules - or even paying his bills - for just this reason. (Note from me: boy, I'm guilty as charged! :))


4. DP's are pessimistic by nature, which undercuts their motivation to do things in a timely, effective manner.

Always feeling put upon, DP's view life in general as "unfair." This attitude gives them a right to rebel, and a rationale for procrastination.


End Part II







The most important single step toward overcoming DP lies in shifting your concern away from what other people might be doing to you and toward what you might be doing to yourself. Self-assessment exercise to help you start making this shift:

1. Recall at least two different occasions when you were faced with a project or activity that you *wanted* or *needed* to do BUT *never did* out of defiance.

For each occasion, ask yourself these questions:
  • Whom was I defying, and why?
  • What were the consequences to myself of not doing it?
  • What were the consequences to others?


2. Recall at least two different occasions when you *finished* something BUT wasted time or got it done late because you were caught up in defiance.

For each occasion, ask yourself:
  • Whom, specifically, was I defying, and why?
  • What were the consequences of my wasting time or being late? How did it make me feel?
  • What effect did it have on my relationships?

The solution to your personal defiance-related procrastination problems lies not only in cultivating greater self-awareness, on an ongoing basis, but also in translating what you learn into more constructive, self-nurturing thoughts, words and deeds.


End Part III



(sorry this is so long everyone)


Changing How You Think


1. Practice creative visualization

(cut for brevity and space)

2. Learn to view what someone else wants or expects as a request, not a demand.

DP's are inclined to look upon every message from the outside world as an attack on their right to remain completely independent. As a DP you probably find it difficult to accept directions from others and view them as intrusions on your freedom. For your own peace of mind, you need to train yourself not to be so defensive right from the start. Instead of unwittingly reacting with rebellion whenever someone asks you to do something, deliberately enlarge your options by saying to yourself "Okay this is a *request* from someone else. How shall I respond?

3. Generate multiple options for response to each situation you encounter.

Example: Your supervisor assigns you an additional report to prepare every month. Here are just some of the more positive options you might generate:
  • Investigate with your boss the possibility of composing a shorter, less complicated report than originally requested.
  • Discuss turning in the report bimonthly instead of monthly.
  • Figure out parts of the report that you might be able to delegate effectively to others whom you supervise (including possible part-time or temporary help authorized by your boss)

Above all you need to be *solution oriented* rather than *gloabl and resistance oriented* in your response to an outside directive. This means curbing your immediate predisposition to overreact.


(skipping some stuff)

5. Pick your battles carefully, weighing what's really worth fighting for according to a scale of priorities.


End Part IV






Break time!




Sorry, folks, but I'm beat - didn't sleep well last night - will post the next part (will finish up with the Defier Procrastinator) as soon as

I can.



Trying to wrap up abstract on DP's:


Changing How You Speak

1. Mean what you say.

When it comes to talking about what you'll do and when you'll do it, don't just say what other people might want to hear in order to get them off your back. Instead, give importance to what you say by being careful to state only what you truly inted to do and by silently pledging your commitment to that intention once it's been spoken. If you later feel the need to modify what you've said, then take responsibility for the modification in a direct statement to the person or people involved.
(Note from me: This one has also helped me a lot at work. Often if you let people know in advance that the deadline you set needs to be moved back, they are cooperative - as opposed to just letting the deadline come and go with no communication or update from you.)

2. Avoid words of blame or attack.

One of the major lessons that a DP needs to learn is not to be so quick to use confrontational language to deflect unwanted requests or criticism. It may make you feel temporarily powerful to hurl accusations at the other person, but it only escalates the conflict.

3. Minimize expressions of indignation or self-righteousness.

Examples: "How dare you. . . ", "You can't expect me to. . . "


4. Be aware of your tone of voice, and try not to sound confrontational.

Listen to yourself when you speak. Regardless of the *words* you say, does your *voice* sound hostile, challenging, condescending?





Changing How You Act

1. Always strive to act rather than react.

Take pains to "decide and do" rather than "complain and defy." The former approach puts you in charge, while the latter leaves the other person in control. To remember this guideline more vividly, associate it with a "powerful adult" vs. "impotent child" analogy.

2. Take a course in assertiveness so that you can learn better negotiation skills.

At first, it may sound absurd: If you're so prone to defiance, won't taking a course in assertiveness make you even more aggressive? In fact, such courses are designed, in part, to make headstrong people *less* aggressive by teaching them more constructive methods of pursuing their own self-interests. They are also called "negotiation" or "conflict-resolution" courses.



Hmmmm, which procrastination type next? I think maybe the "Crisis-Maker".



"I work best under pressure."

Do you often hear yourself thinking or actually saying these words? If you're a crisis-maker procrastinator (cmp), the chances are good that you do. What's more, you probably take pride in this statement, as if you believed you could summon up marvelous powers of sudden courage, speed, and endurance that other people lacked. It's no wonder that when these "less gifted" people urge you to develop steadier work habits, you reply, ". . . BUT I only get motivated at the last minute!" Your BUT factor involves your fundamental sense of who you are and what makes you special.

Unfortunately, this sense of identity is only half true and almost always self-defeating. CMP's tend to overlook one very significant fact: In addition to *weathering* last minute crises, they are also responsible for *creating* those crises. . . And how does it affect their sense of self if they fail in their last-minute efforts to accomplish something important, or when they shrink from undertaking something important in the first place because they fear they might fail?

CMP's live by their feelings. They are addicted to the adrenaline rush of (possibly) pulling things off under emergency conditions, with chaos all around them and the final deadline staring them in the face. Their lives resemble a roller-coaster ride, sending them to thrilling highs and heroic stimulation, followed by depressing lows of lethargy or exhaustion.

Let's consider the basic characteristics that all CMP's possess, regardless of the specific demension of their problems:

1. When faced with an undesirable task, CMP's go from one behavioral extreme to the other: first ignoring the task (underreacting), then feeling intensely caught up in it (overreacting). CMP's need the pressure of a crisis to get them to do a task they don't want to do.

2. CMP's tend to dramatize situations making themselves the center of attention. (Note from me: Who me? dramatize? naaahhhhhh) CMP's are theatrical by nature. Their procrastination provides conflict (the hero vx the dreaded task): generates suspense (Will the hero do the task? When? How?): and ensures and exciting climax (a tour-de-force victory or a stunning defeat).

3. CMP's are easily bored and resist the "dullness" of doing things rationally and methodically. CMP's have trouble focusing on the practical demands of everyday life in a thoughtful, responsible and efficient manner because their attentiveness is geared towards a different type of stimulation: *crisis* demands. Every other bid for their time and energy simply registers as "not a crisis" and, therefore, "not something that requires immediate action." The absence of any strong motivation for doing something can bore them just thinking about it. (Note from me: Wow, I never actually realized it, but this is *exactly* how I look at things that need to be done - it's either a "do it now!" or not important yet and I figure I'll get to it, well, later.)


IMPORTANT NOTE: Excerpted from "It's About TIME!" by Dr. Linda Sapadin with Jack Maguire.



 From: Michele K <arwenevenstar@EROLS.COM>

Sat 22:49



Re: The CMP - Part II




4. CMP's feel a need to prove themselves by living on the edge.

Deep down, CMP's harbor feelings of emptiness, powerlessness, and self-deprecation. This is one of the main reasons why they need to have a heightened sense of drama in their lives. . . And in the absence of a healthy self-regard, they rely on these crises to make them feel like heroes battling the odds.

 Learning to Procrastinate

(excerpting small section which uses the story of Alex)

Alex's experiences as a child and an adolescent had molded him into the reluctant CMP he now was. His father, and editor for the local newspaper, worked long hours, leaving his mother to manage things at home. Frustrated by her husband's abandonment, she relied too much on her only son to bring excitement and purpose to her life. Alex had to do things her way, and every minor problem became a catastrophe.

In order to maintain a separate identity, Alex needed to create "separation crises" -- in effect saying, "I'll do things my way by *not* doing them until the last possible moment."

 (Note from me: My stepfather was *extremely* strict. I definitely think my "I'll do what I want to now" attitude was born out of my resentment for what I saw as a very oppressive childhood. Now to work on getting myself to realize that I'm not "showing him" when I act this way, but really just hurting myself.)




1. Understand that you may not feel interested in doing something until after you get involved in it.

CMP's are quick to assume that a thing isn't worth doing unless the mere prospect of doing it somehow intrigues or excites them. Coach yourself into a new, more positive frame of reference. Instead of "Something has to interest me before I can really get involved," you need to say "I have to get involved in something before it can really interest me.

 2. Identify other self-motivators besides stress.

To do this, develop a wider, more conscious variety of potential self-starters. Here's a list of possibilities to think about more specifically whenever you're faced with a task that you're tempted to put off:
  • How can I make it fun?
  • How can it improve my relationships with family members, friends, business associates or the community?
  • How can it make me more independent or free?
  • How can it enhance my physical, emotional or mental well-being?
  • How can it benefit me financially or materially?
  • How can it make me safer or more secure?


3. In thinking about a task, try to focus at least as much on facts as you do on feelings.
As a CMP, you're inclined to *feel* at the expense of *thinking*. When faced with a task, avoid your tendency to drift from moment to moment, impulsively responding to your whims or moods. Instead, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I need to do now, whether or not it might feel good?
  • What could happen if I don't take action on this matter *now*?
  • How will I feel about the situation *next week* if I don't do something now?
  • How will I feel about *myself* next week if I don't do something now?


IMPORTANT NOTE: Excerpted from "It's About TIME!" by Dr. Linda Sapadin

with Jack Maguire.







Michele K <arwenevenstar@EROLS.COM> Sat 23:26



Re: The CMP - Part III






1. Avoid overdramatic, polarized language.

Such as "incredibly exciting" "unbelievably boring". Try using more "intermediate" words or phrases like "pleasant" "amusing" "interesting" or "uneventful". Also, remember that strong negative language tends to fuel strong negative emotions in your listener and yourself, whether or not those emotions are warranted.


2. Use more "thinking" words and fewer "feeling" words.

Making a concerted effort to communicate what you *think* about something instead of how you *feel* about it will keep you focused on responding to things more rationally and less emotionally.


3. Stop characterizing yourself in conversation as incompetent or victimized.

Once you declare to someone else - or yourself - that you are helpless or put upon, you've set in motion a belief that's difficult to alter, whether or not it's really accurate. Therefore, avoid making melodramatic, self-martyring statements like "I've totally screwed this up," "This is the worst possible thing that could happent to me".

Instead, talk yourself - and others - into a more positive, constructive point of view, with statement like "I've made a couple of mistakes, but there are things I can do now to get myself back on track" or "This particular aspect of the situation concerns me, but I plan to figure out a good way to deal with it."




1. Keep a record of repetitive crises in your life.

In a daily or weekly journal reserved especially for this purpose, identify those occasions when:
(1) a crisis arose *because* you procrastinated about doing something, or

(2) you failed to address a potentially problematic situation *until* it became a crisis.

Devote a few sentences to each incident, so that later, when you reread the entry, you can clearly recall what happened. Include statements about *why* you procrastinated, *what triggered* the crises itself, and *how* you responded to the crisis.

At the end of the month, review your journal and identify two or more times when the crisis was similar in nature. . . You will then have a list of the particular kinds of crises in your life to which you need to pay extra attention.


2. Create your own motivators to change a boring task into a more interesting one.

As a crisis-maker you tend to be oriented toward fun and excitement. Make a contest or a game out of a task that seems too dreary. If you want to clean your kitchen before settling down to read a book, set your kitchen timer for fifteen minutes (or however long seems reasonable, with a slight "stretch" factor). The rush around trying to do as much as you can do within that period of time, trying to make sure that at least the most important things get done. When the timer goes off, stop, and reward yourself for what you did manage to do by going on to your reading!


End of The Crisis-Maker Procrastinator excerpts


Next up. . . The Dreamer Procrastinator (The DM)


IMPOTANT NOTE: Excerpted from "It's About TIME!" by Dr. Linda Sapadin with Jack Maguire.



These excerpts were posted to the deCluttr maillist by Michele in June 1998. They are reproduced here with her permission.


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