Motivated or Procrastinating – What’s Your Style?

Do you ever spend more time trying to motivate yourself to do something than the thing itself will actually take you or is that just me?  Cleaning is probably at the top of that list for me, as is academic study.  I’m a geek and I love to study but flippin eck I can faff about for ages before I finally settle myself down and get on with it.  And the really daft thing about the faffing is that within about 15 minutes of studying I usually think “oh, this is really interesting!”.  Dopey!  What’s your style? Are you motivated to get on with things or do you procrastinate, put things off and faff about like I do?

How We Behave

There are a number of factors which can influence our behaviour but in general I think we procrastinate for two reasons; either the task is something we don’t want to do or we know it’s going to be difficult.  I don’t like cleaning, I’m allergic to dust so it’s never going to be something that I skip towards happily.  And studying will require me to use my brain and life is really much easier if I don’t bother to do that!!  Motivation is an interesting aspect of psychology as it’s a very personal thing, what will motivate one person won’t make another lift a finger so thinking about what motivates you to do something is a good way of pushing yourself past procrastination but sometimes the offer of some chocolate, a soak in the bath, a drink with friends or another motivator of your choice is not enough to spur us into action.  Why might that be I wonder?

How We Learn and Live

I think procrastination and motivation can be linked to our learning styles.  The Honey and Mumford learning styles questionnaire (link here) defines the learning styles of activist, theorist, pragmatist and reflector.  The University of Leicester (article here) describes the each of the learning styles as:

  • Activists are people who learn by doing. They need to get their hands dirty, to dive in with both feet first and have an open-minded approach to learning, involving themselves fully and without bias in new experiences.
  • Theorists like to understand the theory behind the actions. They need models, concepts and facts in order to engage in the learning process and prefer to analyse and synthesise, drawing new information into a systematic and logical ‘theory’.
  • Pragmatists need to be able to see how to put the learning into practice in the real world. Abstract concepts and games are of limited use unless they can see a way to put the ideas into action in their lives. They are experimenters, who like to try out new ideas, theories and techniques to see if they work.
  • Reflectors learn by observing and thinking about what happened. They may avoid leaping in and prefer to watch from the side lines and prefer to stand back and view experiences from a number of different perspectives, collecting data and taking the time to work towards an appropriate conclusion.

My less academic descriptions of the four types are:

An activist is more likely to jump into some steaming water and coming out saying “ooh, that’s hotter than it looked!”.  The theorist will have gone back inside to find a reference book which tells them about water temperature.  The reflector will look at the skin colour of the activist and think “I’ll probably leave it a while before I try that” and the pragmatist will ask the activist if they’re in much pain!

It All Makes Sense!

We all learn differently and have different preferences for how we do that but the learning styles can also inform how we live too.  I completed the learning styles questionnaire a few years ago and my scores were:

Activist – 2 (very low preference)

Reflector – 14 (moderate preference)

Theorist – 18 (very strong preference)

Pragmatist – 15 (strong preference)

Do those scores make sense of how I live my life and run my business?  Totally!  Do I need to ‘just flippin do it!’ more often?  Oh most definitely!  Do I need to understand that the motivation reward is only meant to be had once the job is done?  Absolutely! 😉  If you read the first paragraph of this blog and had no clue why I would be reluctant to just get on with something then you probably have a more activist preference.  That might mean you get into hot water more often than most (literally!) but it might also explain why you can feel frustrated with other people who are more reluctant to share your active approach to life.  As with personality types, our learning style preferences are not wrong, they’re just different and there will be pros and cons to each style and combination of style

Knowing Your Style Can Help Ease Anxiety

The strongest preferences, in my opinion are activist and theorist so if you have high scores for either preference, that might explain your procrastination or your frustration with others.  If both of those scores are high you might find that the preferences battle with each other and you never feel that your achieving what you feel you ‘should’ be.  You might start lots of new projects, driven by your activist preference but feel frustrated that you struggle to finish them as your theorist preference struggles to keep pace with your new ideas.  Identifying your learning style can help to diffuse your anxiety and it can be useful to have an imagined conversation with each preference.  You might say to your activist preference “I’m not going to start anything new yet, because I want to understand my current projects a bit more”.  Your activist preference won’t like that approach as it’ll be keen to start new things but by acknowledging the frustrations of that part of your psyche, you can manage the battle between the two preferences.

You might say to your theorist preference, “I am going to start another new thing but I understand that you’ll want more time to understand the other stuff too.  I will make time for that as well.”  Your theorist won’t be happy with that but at least you’ve consciously managed your preference instead of just letting frustrations build up inside of you.  By identifying and managing your learning style, which can underpin your levels of procrastination and motivation you can manage your stress levels and feelings of anxiety when you’re struggling to understand why you and other people are reluctant to get things done.  There are other aspects of our psyche which can contribute to our behaviour of course.  One of mine being that I can be really flippin lazy when it comes to doing household chores!!  So please give me advanced notice if you’re going to pop round, because the dusting and hoovering will almost certainly need doing!  Sunday, I’ll do the cleaning on Sunday.  Probably!! 😉 

Take good care please, have a great day and enjoy what you decide to do and not do.

Best wishes, Karen