New Ways to Think About Procrastination – Part 2

Click here to read part 1 of this 2-part series. 

Explore your WHY

We procrastinate for all kinds of reasons. Understanding the reason or the WHY behind your procrastinating habit is another great strategy to help you make change. Since we procrastinate on all kinds of things, in all kinds of situations, your WHY might vary or change from one thing to the next. Taking the time to explore and reflect on your WHY can help you better strategize how you make changes.

Dr. Linda Sapadin, in her book How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age, defined six procrastination styles. These styles are one helpful way to uncover your why. Think of something you are currently tempted to procrastinate on and see if any of these resonate with your reason why:


Sees all the parts necessary to make something excellent. Tends to set unrealistic expectations and is worried about not meeting them. Finds it difficult to finish, or even begin something. Tasks feel overwhelming and burdensome. Heard saying things like: “But I want it to be just right” or “I have to…” or “I just have one last thing to do”

Strategies for change:

  • Write down all required steps or parts into one master list. Each day copy only a few onto your daily list, so it isn’t so overwhelming. Aim for steps that take less than 5 minutes.
  • Set time limits for tasks or ask others to set them
  • Focus on progress towards your goals, not the end
  • Practice positive and empowering self-talk
  • Seek help setting more realistic expectations
  • Change your “have to” to “want to”
  • Practice “good enough” or even deliberate mistakes!


Great at brainstorming and thinking big picture. Finds it difficult to follow through. Frustrated by the practical reality of sitting down to work. Wants things to be easy. Heard saying things like: “I’d like to…” or “I wish I could” or “When I get the chance…”

Strategies for change:

  • Allow yourself time to dream and time to act
  • Practice setting specific, concrete times and deadlines
  • Seek accountability from others
  • Plan large tasks or projects in writing with a timeline
  • Use a calendar to track the small steps needed to get to the big thing
  • Keep two lists: one to-do and one to think about
  • Use alarms or timers to remind yourself to work
  • Remember: you can work even if you don’t feel like it when you begin. Also, some things feel difficult or challenging and that’s ok too!


Can study something from multiple angles and anticipate challenges and pitfalls. Plagued by these “what ifs” and therefore avoids making decisions. Uncomfortable with change. Wants to remain in comfort zone. May lack confidence in their own abilities. Heard saying things like: “I can’t” or “I don’t know how to begin” or “That would require change…”

Strategies for change:

  • Turn nerves into excitement
  • Catch yourself when you are tempted to catastrophize or think negatively
  • Remind yourself of times when you have handled things well before
  • Practice planning for your “what-ifs” with concrete action
  • Break things into small pieces
  • Force yourself to balance your thinking by considering what is positive and exciting as well
  • Change “I don’t know” to “One thing I do know…”
  • Push yourself to try things that make you a little nervous
  • Surround yourself with optimistic people


Thrives on thrill and excitement. Convinced that does best work under pressure, even though this isn’t actually possible. Likes the attention that last minute drama brings. Resists “dullness” or doing things systematically or methodically. Heard saying things like: “I work best under pressure” or “I don’t feel like it” or “This is so boring”

Strategies for change:

  • Balance out your tendency to overemphasize feelings by also considering facts
  • Understand that your interest may not come first, but may happen after you begin
  • Identify things that do motivate you, other than stress
  • Focus on the positive or active parts of task
  • Keep a record of repetitive crisis in your life – to see where patterns exist
  • Use physical activities to get your adrenaline running


Appreciates keeping the peace and/or their own individuality. Fights against being “made” to do something, whether overtly or in a passive-aggressive way. Avoids expressing negative feelings directly. May use procrastination to challenge authority. Heard saying things like: “You can’t make me do this” or “I’ll do this my own way, on my own time” or “This isn’t worth my time”

Strategies for change:

  • Practice reframing what someone else wants as a request, not a demand
  • Own up to what you are and aren’t doing
  • Strive to be proactive instead of reactive
  • Choose something that you can do in your own way to satisfy yourself
  • Practice assertive behavior
  • Negotiate when possible, but choose your battles and consider the consequences
  • Protect time for the things you enjoy


Enjoys serving others and being helpful. Has difficulty with saying no, asking for help, or setting a boundary. After assuming so many roles and tasks, finds it difficult to set priorities and focus. Feels its selfish to focus on personal needs. Heard saying things like: “I’m so busy” or “Why did I agree to this” or “I don’t want to let them down”

Strategies for change:

  • Remember that no one can do everything. You’ll need to make choices and prioritize.
  • Clarify what is and isn’t in your control
  • Practice saying no
  • Replace “I should” with “I want”
  • Avoid self-talk that characterizes you as powerless
  • Keep a journal of how you spend your time to look for patterns
  • Plan specific ways to relax and rest

Make this your own: Think of a task you are currently procrastinating on.  How would you characterize your procrastination style? Review the strategies for change and choose 1-2 you can implement today to begin to make changes. Or, come up with your own! Tell a friend or family member what you discovered about yourself and the 1-2 strategies you are trying out. Ask them to hold you accountable. Saying things out loud helps!

Parting words:

The point of this post is not that you are always striving to do more and more. Instead, my hope is that this information and these strategies help increase your self-awareness, and restore your agency to make deliberate choices, balancing your time between things that require discipline and further your goals with things that restore you and bring joy and fun.

Contributed by Christy Rotman, College Life Skills Coach, 3/23/2020

By Christy Rotman
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