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Many people thrive under pressure, or at least they think they do. You know the type (maybe you are the type), they know of a deadline three weeks in advance, promise to themselves and their co-workers that they’re going to begin work immediately, schedule an internal deadline for a final review and arrive to the deadline empty handed. The sadest part is three weeks ago that person whould have had the time to complete the project, but now their schedule has filled up so completely that they need to make the choice of pulling an all-nighter or  passing ownership of the project along to someone else (and effectively disrupting that person’s schedule).

Procrastination is not an isolated act. When you neglect to properly fix the flush handle on the toilet at home, it breaks off in a guest’s hand, not yours. When you neglect to call a partner regarding a teaming opporunity, that would-be-partner teams with someone else, weakening your advantage in winning the job. And when you neglect internal deadlines, you put unnecessary stress on your co-workers.

Why is it then that people procrastinate? Joseph Ferrari Ph.D and Timothy Pychyl Ph.D. point to three types of procrastinators (read more of their finding here):

Arousal Types or Thrill Seekers – they procrastinate to feel the rush
Avoiders – they fear failure or success
Decisional Procrastinators – they just can’t make a decision, regardless

Pegging what type of procrastinator you’re dealing with can help you to navigate around the procrastination or at least lessen it. For the arousal types, give them fake deadlines, for decisional procrastinators make the decisions for them and for avoiders, well, I have no advice for them. Fear is one of those things that can sink us all. If there’s a way to make the person feel safer in their environment that’s probably your best bet – or perhaps something better left to their therapist.

If adaptability is one of your strengths your likely not as bothered by the procrastinator. But if you’re not adaptable, it just might be time to find a new work environment.

image credit: Flickr user Sonrisa Electrica

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