Generally speaking, procrastination isn't your friend if you want to be a success. But according to Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, there are just three main types of procrastinators. If you know which one you are, it might be easier for you to take charge of your agenda and finish tasks when you should.

1. The Avoider

You put things off just because they make you feel bad, whether the specific emotion is anxiety, boredom, overwhelmedness, or sadness. This is based in the pleasure principle outlined by Sigmund Freud, which says that people have a natural drive to seek what feels good and to avoid whatever's painful. This strategy isn't always completely successful, according to Hendriksen. You can feel negative emotions because of the procrastination, such as stress from having to squeeze the job into a shorter time.

You're probably an avoider if

  • You schedule undesirable tasks far out in the calendar or convince others there isn't time on the agenda for them.
  • You put items related to the job where you can't visually see them.
  • You get anxious when others talk about the job you're avoiding.
  • You make excuses about why the work isn't done.
  • You make lots of to-do lists to convince yourself there are other priorities.
  • You have trouble coming up with concrete plans, as they make completion feasible.

You might fix the behavior if you

  • Break the job you dread into smaller steps that don't seem so scary.
  • Find a buddy to encourage you and offer positive accountability.
  • Self-reflect about the specific reasons the job isn't attractive to you.
  • Outline all the pros of having the job completed.
  • Identify all the skills or knowledge that qualifies you to do the job.

2. The Optimist

You consistently think a task isn't going to take as long as it does, or that you have more time to finish the job. Research by Jeff Conte, psychologist at San Diego State University, identifies optimism as a key trait among those who are chronically late. The research also suggests that some people actually perceive time differently and feel like it passes more slowly than it does.

You're probably an optimist if

  • Others tell you that you're overconfident (or less kindly, delusional).
  • You brush off warnings from others about deadlines or consequences, assuming that those consequences won't happen and therefore aren't worth the worry.
  • You fail to see the pattern of times where your procrastination produced a negative result.
  • You almost never create a Plan B.
  • You initially impress others with your attitude, only to have them eventually quit following or recommending you because of your lack of follow-through.

You might fix the behavior if you

  • Set some unobtrusive alerts at regular intervals so you stay more aware of your pacing.
  • Ask for scheduling input from others; create your daily agenda using their assessment of required time rather than your own.
  • Use time logging or other tools to produce metrics that can verify your track record or where time is leaking away from you.
  • Identify specific "points of no return" on the calendar where certain consequences no longer will be avoidable; create a SMART action plan to avoid each consequence.

3. The Pleasure Seeker

You don't do what you're supposed to do until you genuinely feel like doing it, which doesn't always happen. Here, it's not so much about avoiding a job as it is deliberately choosing something you like better. As Hendriksen notes, this is bad news because others can get frustrated and pick up your slack, which can breed resentment and earn you a reputation as a slacker.

You're probably a pleasure seeker if you

  • Regularly shoot down ideas or ask for alternatives.
  • Have little patience when jobs aren't what you enjoy.
  • You accept a live-in-the-moment mindset and therefore don't spend much time in reflection or planning.
  • You often pivot the conversation to something else you're enthusiastic about.
  • Others describe you as lazy or inconsiderate, but not as incapable.

You might fix the behavior if you

  • Reward yourself each time you do the job you rather would put off.
  • Home in on what's best or most beneficial about the process.
  • Give yourself small breaks throughout the job to do something you like so you don't see one long period of torture ahead of you.
  • Be honest with yourself that you might never be in the mood; focus on how you will feel after getting it off your plate.                                          
  • Find ways to incorporate what you find enjoyable into the job, such as using a specific tool or working in a certain location.

No matter what type of procrastinator you happen to be, being able to do what's required when it's required is a fantastic goal. If you're realistic and invite others to keep you on track, reaching that objective will be no sweat at all.