Six Kinds Of Procrastinators, and How to Help Them Deliver

by  Nathan Regier  |  Workplace Issues
Six Kinds Of Procrastinators, and How to Help Them Deliver

In college I used to put off studying, often until the night before the exam. Why? You might be surprised. Not because I was worried. Not because I was lazy. Not because I didn’t like studying. Not even because I had more interesting things to do. Nope. I did it because it didn’t get exciting enough until time was running out. Call me crazy, but I did my best work under the gun.

Observe several people procrastinate and they may look similar on the surface. They put off making decisions or completing important tasks, and that’s a problem. It delays progress, holds others up, and increases the chance of mistakes. Why do people do this?

It may be easy to jump to the conclusion that procrastinators are lazy or lack discipline. Very often nothing could be further from the truth.

Procrastination is strongly influenced by personality type. Why should you care? Because knowing this can help you understand your own procrastination tendencies and have a better idea what to do about them. As a friend, parent, leader, mentor, or coach you’ll be better equipped to help others in the most constructive ways.

In no particular order, here are the six kinds of procrastinators along with tips for how to help them deliver on time.

Type #1: Pleasers

Pleasers procrastinate for fear of conflict, disapproval or rejection. If they run out of time, maybe you’ll feel sorry for them and give them a break.

How to help the Pleaser: Reassure these people that you care about them regardless of the decision they make or the outcome of their efforts. Affirm that even if they make a mistake, mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow and you will be with them through it all. When conflict-avoidant Pleasers know they are unconditionally supported and OK they are more confident to move forward, even with difficult decisions and actions.

Type #2: Perfection-Seekers

Perfection-Seekers procrastinate until there is more data or more evidence. These people suffer from analysis paralysis and fear the loss of control that comes with making a decision or taking action.

How to help the Perfection-Seeker: Affirm the Perfection-Seeker’s thinking ability and problem-solving skills. Help them weigh pros and cons, anticipate consequences, and develop a “Plan B.” Ultimately, Perfection-Seekers need support to face the sadness and loss of control that comes with making decisions. Encourage and support them to let go and move on when more information will not help them feel any more secure.

Type #3: Responsibility Avoiders

Responsibility-Avoiders procrastinate to avoid taking ownership or having to live up to expectations. If they run out of time, it’s not their fault.

How to help the Responsibility-Avoider: Above all, avoid judging or preaching about responsibility. They key is to balance a “chill” attitude with clarity around what you want them to do. Let them know you’ll accept them unconditionally regardless of the outcome and affirm their creativity in finding their own way from point A to B.

Type #4: Thrill Seekers

Thrill-Seekers procrastinate until the stakes are high enough to make it exciting. That was me in college! If they run out of time, they’ll try to pin it on someone else.

How to help a Thrill-Seeker: Play to their strengths – make it thrilling. If you want them to meet a deadline, make it exciting by issuing a dare or prize. Challenge them to “pull it off” or make it a special assignment that only they can do. I once had a Thrill-Seeker working for me in training support. When I tried to plan ahead with her, it ended up in procrastination. I learned to wait until the last minute to give her assignments and it worked like a charm.

Type #5: Hostage Takers

Hostage-Takers procrastinate on giving approval or being satisfied. They confuse high standards with unrealistic expectations and hold others hostage with their chronic discontent. Pleasers and Perfection-Seekers are particularly vulnerable to the Hostage-Taker’s traps.

How to help a Hostage-Taker: Recognize that beneath it all is a noble desire for excellence and high-quality. Hostage-Takers are natural protectors and want to help others be more perfect. Replace this negative energy by affirming their convictions and dedication to quality. Ask proactive questions about their standards and expectations, and invite their opinions along the way.

Type #6: Passive-Avoiders

Passive-Avoiders procrastinate because they don’t feel potent enough to make an independent decision.

How to help a Passive-Avoider: Avoid questioning their intentions or commitment. They are externally motivated and greatly appreciate clear direction. They are more responsive than responsible, more directable than self-directed. Use clear, concise commands to find out what they have on their plate, and then direct them towards clear action steps.

I am a Certifying Master Trainer in the Process Communication Model (PCM), a behavior-based framework for understanding different personality types and how to communicate more effectively with them. This article was inspired by the PCM science around how different personalities are motivated, prefer to communicate, and sabotage themselves in distress. At Next Element we are passionate about the science behind human behavior and using this intelligence to help teach more productive communication skills. To get trained in PCM, or for information on becoming a certified PCM Provider, click here for more information.

Have you struggled with procrastination or managing a procrastinator? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.
Photo Credit: Pixelbless/123RF

About The Author

Articles By nathan-regier
A former practicing psychologist, Regier has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. He is an expert in social-emotional intelligence and leadership, positive conflict, mind-body-spirit health, neuropsychology, group dynamics, interpersonal and leadership communication, executive assessment and coaching, organizational development, team building and change management.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Jane  |  06 Jan 2017  |  Reply

This is very interesting. I have seen much procrastination and never thought about procrastination as anything except ambivalence or just don’t want to do it. When I read #4 about how you waited till the last minute to assign something, it made me realize how important it is to really know people and what motivates them. What if you had taken cues from her and assumed her best work is done under pressure, only to find out she crumbles or gets paralyzed by pressure? This gives me a lot to think about.

Nate Regier  |  06 Jan 2017  |  Reply

Terrific. Glad you found value.

Mona Andrei  |  06 Jan 2017  |  Reply

Love this! I used to chastise myself for procrastinating. Having gotten to know myself better, I now know that the reason I procrastinate is usually because I’m uncomfortable with something or am not sure how to tackle a task. Now, instead of chastising myself, I take a deep breath and ask myself, “Okay. What’s REALLY going on here.”

Nate Regier  |  06 Jan 2017  |  Reply

I hear ya! It took me 27 years to figure this out for myself!

Lois Hoffman  |  06 Jan 2017  |  Reply

Great article and suggestions. I’d like to add that part of “thrill-seeking” isn’t just because people need it to be exciting. If you have ADHD, part of your brain is under functioning. The thrill (deadline, pressure, anxiety, challenge) of the last minute activity helps to stimulate the brain enough to accomplish the task.

Nate Regier  |  06 Jan 2017  |  Reply

Great observation Lois. A distinction I didn’t make clear in this article is that “Responsibility-Avoiders” are motivated by contact, which is about kinesthetic movement, real or imagined. They are called Rebels in the PCM model. Playful movement/activity is different from thrill and excitement, and is what helps ADHD people focus. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but the research is pretty strong. Thrill-Seekers are called Promoters in the PCM model. To learn more about this model, check out a free app called PocketPCM, available for Apple or Android.

Jennifer Dunham  |  06 Jan 2017  |  Reply

This is super interesting and I find so much truth in it! I would definitely say that the majority of my procrastination lies in seeking perfection in accomplishing my tasks.

Nate Regier  |  09 Jan 2017  |  Reply

Thanks Jennifer!

Mike Henry Sr.  |  09 Jan 2017  |  Reply

Nate, thanks for a great post. I can see my own procrastination tendencies in a number of the styles above. But I most appreciate the ideas for noticing those styles in others so I can change my approach and interactions. Very helpful. Mike…

Nate Regier  |  09 Jan 2017  |  Reply

Thank you. So often we mistake procrastination for laziness or lack of motivation.

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