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The 3 Kinds of Procrastinators

Are you a self-saboteur or an adrenaline junkie?

Key points

  • Procrastination is often dismissed as laziness, but it tends to be rooted in fear, shame, or poor self-image.
  • Understanding why we procrastinate can help us choose more effective interventions.
  • The most common reasons include perfectionism, self-sabotaging tendencies, and last-minute adrenaline.
 Annie Spratt/Unsplash
Source: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

It is sometimes difficult to recognize the exact moment when your harmless habit of procrastination mutates into a full-blown compulsion.

If you have been asking yourself the following questions, it might be time to slide your procrastination habit under the microscope:

  • “Why do I never end up checking off anything on my to-do list?”
  • “Why do I never know where my days are going?”
  • “Does everyone feel a sense of failure at the end of the day like I do?”
  • “Why do I repeatedly put myself in stressful situations?”
  • “Why don’t I ever plan ahead, even when I know it will benefit me?”

To pick an effective intervention, one must understand the origin of the problem. While procrastination is usually brushed off as “laziness,” it usually has roots in fear, shame, resentment, or even a negative sense of self.

Here are three ways to identify your brand of procrastination—where it comes from and what you can do to resolve it.

1. The perfectionist

Have you ever wondered why people with self-proclaimed “type-A” personalities can sometimes fall off their own pedestal? Why do perfectionists sometimes struggle to perform the most basic tasks without going down a procrastination rabbit hole?

This happens because perfectionism as a process leaves no room for error, gradual progress, or experimentation. Perfectionism does not allow for a learning curve. The impossible demands of perfectionism can make life feel like hell and make procrastination feel like a safe haven.

One study found that perfection-based procrastination can, in the long run, negatively affect your level of life satisfaction.

Put simply, procrastination and perfection are two nodes of the same circuit. The perfectionist procrastinator can only break this circuit by treating themselves with respect and self-compassion. Taking baby steps towards your goals and celebrating the small wins can counteract the urge to procrastinate because you fear failure.

The journey to becoming better each day is far more beneficial to you than the irrational expectation of immediately being the best.

2. The self-saboteur

The self-saboteur feels a relentless discomfort about uncertainty and change and, therefore, procrastinates to avoid it. Most times, it is to avoid stepping out of their comfort zone, robbing themselves of the opportunity to grow or succeed.

In this scenario, procrastination becomes a self-soothing technique—a non-challenging and non-threatening activity with the familiarity of a comfort blanket. Self-saboteurs indulge in “productive procrastination” to ease the sting of delaying an important and more urgent task (e.g., rescheduling a therapy session to deep clean your room).

The self-imposed victimhood of the saboteur procrastinator comes from the vague fear of the unknown. The antidote to it resides in clarity. Avoidance is easy when the stakes, as well as the spoils of the quest, are unclear.

The next time you find yourself procrastinating on a task for the sake of your comfort, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the opportunity cost of the choice I am making?
  • When I push something off indefinitely, what exactly am I protecting myself from?
  • Do I want to go through the temporary pain of growth or the permanent pain of stagnation?

Challenging your core beliefs and thought patterns by observing and questioning your behavior will gently chip away at your habit of procrastination.

This method of changing your thought patterns to change your behavioral patterns has been derived from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a popular psychological intervention proven to be effective in addressing procrastination, according to research published in Behavior Therapy.

3. The adrenaline junkie

If you always leave every project right until the last minute because you “work best under stress,” you likely fall into the adrenaline junkie sect of procrastination. Some people do it because the last-minute stress feels good; others do it because that’s when the consequences of their actions feel real to them.

This is a particularly covert form of procrastination as, more often than not, the adrenaline junkie ends up completing the task or action they intended to. The costs here lie in the quality of their work and, more importantly, the toll it takes on their mental and physical health.

The root of this type of procrastination usually lies in an individual’s personality and, precisely, their tendency towards impulsivity.

According to a study published in Personality and Individual Differences, people who break into action at the eleventh hour are usually low on conscientiousness and easily influenced by their moods and short-term gratification. Self-regulation is an important characteristic of conscientiousness, and procrastination is essentially a self-regulatory failure.

The solution for the adrenaline junkie lies in hitting the pause button at crucial moments and assessing the gravity of their situation. This can often be achieved effectively by practicing mindfulness through journaling, meditation, and/or talking to someone who holds you accountable.

Facebook/LinkedIn image: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV/Shutterstock

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