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