If your head hurts, it's helpful to know whether you have a hangover, a migraine, a sinus infection, or a brain tumor before you start treatment. A couple of aspirin and a Gatorade won't do much for cancer and a decongestant isn't going to cure your migraine.
In short, it doesn't take a doctor to know that a more precise diagnosis leads to a more effective cure.
And what's true of bodily ailments is true of common productivity problems, according to psychologist and author Neil Fiore. An expert on how to overcome procrastination, he insists that we don't all put stuff off for the same reason. In fact, he breaks down procrastinators into five subtypes, according to a fascinating recent Fast Company article on the subject.
1. The perfectionist
This is an extremely common subtype of procrastinator in my experience. "This procrastinator is trying to avoid being embarrassed by mistakes or judged, Fiore says. They may spend too much time on one component of a project, failing to manage their time properly, or avoid the project altogether, then rush to finish it at the last minute," writes Fast Company's Gwen Moran.
2. The imposter
If you're this type of procrastinator, the root cause of your problem is a bad case of imposter syndrome. "Afraid of being revealed as unqualified or inferior, this procrastinator puts off doing anything to avoid that risk," explains Moran.
If this sounds like you, at least you have someone else to blame for your perpetually missed deadlines. "Often this type of procrastination is learned when the person is surrounded by people who are difficult to please," notes the article.
3. The dread-filled
I'd call this type the rational procrastinator -- you're putting off doing stuff because the stuff you have to do genuinely stinks. "If you hate what you're doing or you find it mind-numbing, it's tough to get motivated to take action," says Moran, stating the obvious.
4. The overwhelmed
A very contemporary subset of procrastinators: "Sometimes, there's just too much to do, and it's hard to figure out where to start--so we don't do anything, Fiore says."
5. The lucky
These are the folks who have learned to procrastinate without fear. "Some people believe they do their best work under pressure, so they procrastinate until their back is up against the wall. If they have a history of doing this without consequence, they've essentially been rewarded for procrastinating," writes Moran. You could wonder if this subgroup even needs to bother trying to quit, though some would warn that their luck is bound to run out some day.
Curing your procrastination
OK, if you've pegged yourself as one of these styles of procrastinator, what's next? The Fast Company piece offers a few suggestions to help you overcome each sub-type of the problem, or you can try one of the many scientifically validated approaches to beating your procrastination.
Which type of procrastinator are you?