My name is Jayne Thompson and I’m a procrastinator.
To the outside world, I am the model of efficiency. I have the discipline to perform tasks in a quick and organized manner. I do things systematically and I get projects done on time.
On the inside, it’s a different story. I habitually procrastinate. I dither and put things off for ages, often to the point where priorities have shifted and the job no longer needs to be done.
I struggle to get started on tasks, especially creative projects. My mantra is “Why do today what can be put off ‘til tomorrow?”
And yes, I'm a Judger on the Myers and Briggs scale.
Surprised? Many people are. Judgers are defined by their ability to take charge of their environment, make decisions early and get the job done. Perceivers are the ones who keep their choices open and make decisions only when they are necessary. These traits have somehow morphed into a misconception that Perceiving types procrastinate, and Judging types do not.
In reality, both personality types procrastinate. Judgers just do it differently, and for different reasons.
1. The quest for perfectionism
Of all the types, Intuitive Judgers are considered to be the most likely to slip into perfectionist tendencies. These types tend to obsess about the ideal solution; about how things “should” be and how they can remove flaws in the system. As such, they want to control the quality of the work they put out.
If something is not working, NJs will delay the task until the result is better, or they have better-quality facts on which to base their decisions. Sometimes, they put off the project indefinitely because they know the result will not be good enough.
“Getting it done” provides plenty of rewards for a Judger – but for Intuitive Judgers, accuracy is more important. In fact, their desire for accuracy is a chief contributor to their propensity for perfectionism. Failures and inaccuracies can seriously rattle their ego, so they won’t go for closure until all the answers are in place.
2. They need the security of deadlines
Judgers are motivated by deadlines so if there isn’t one, they can put off starting a project for a very, very long time. Most Judgers need some form of structure to help them focus and motivate them to get the job done. Knowing a deadline in advance helps us take care of everything efficiently and make sure we have enough time to complete work to our own high standards.
While most Judgers can put deadlines on themselves and create their own time restraints, it helps if those restrictions are put in place for us and enforced from the outside. Otherwise, we may get pulled away by other distractions that we deem far more important, and then start panicking when we don’t have enough time to perfect our work. Cue: more procrastination.
3. If it's not important, we won't do it
Perceivers need to be inspired by a task or an idea before they will commit to it, whereas Judgers will commit to tasks that are worth their time. If the task is not important, then a Judger will procrastinate with the best of them.
Take laundry, for example. No one likes to do laundry, and until you’re down to your last pair of underpants, you’ll still remain a productive member of society if you leave the laundry for a few days. Delaying this task hurts no one….so we’ll put it off until we have finished the more valuable tasks at hand.
The problem here is that everyone has a different value judgment about what’s important. As an INTJ, I regularly procrastinate over things that I don’t think matter. I can leave an item on my to-do list forever if it’s not important to me. Luckily, I don’t have a boss to satisfy, but if my employer had different priorities to my own, you can see how that clash of values could become a problem.
4. We find it really hard to change direction
Judgers, and especially Sensing Judgers, are like a juggernaut thundering through the countryside. Ask them to do something, and they’ll pursue it with a single-minded focus crushing all obstacles in their path.
But like a juggernaut, Judgers change direction very slowly. They get overwhelmed when you ask them to make large changes to almost-completed projects, or you make last-minute changes to their schedule. Pivoting in a new direction requires a great leap into the unknown. That’s scary for Judgers, especially if we have not been given a heads up about the change or enough time to restructure our environment in order to prepare for it. So we bury our heads in the sand, hoping the problem will go away.
5. We are bored, stressed or burnt out
Everyone gets bored, stressed or burnt out. When it’s habitual, and there’s not much interesting going on in our lives, then Judgers may get really lethargic and stop doing anything. This is due to the activation of our shadow functions—the repressed and opposite sides of our personalities that take over when we’re stressed.
For example, as an INTJ my usual function stack would be:
- Dominant Function: Introverted Intuition (Ni)
- Auxiliary Function: Extraverted Thinking (Te)
- Tertiary Function: Introverted Feeling (Fi)
- Inferior Function: Extraverted Sensing (Se)
Reverse that, and you get the function stack Extraverted Intuition, Introverted Thinking, Extraverted Feeling, Introverted Sensing: Ne-Ti-Fe-Si. My shadow function stack is the regular function stack of an ENTP—who coincidentally, are among the biggest procrastinators of all the types.
This means that under stress, I look exactly like a Perceiver. I have a really hard time staying focused and finishing what I start.
6. We’re being pulled by our introversion
It’s often said that Extraverted Judgers are the purest Judgers—fast to act, decisive and opinionated. ESTJs and ENTJs commit to doing and doing and doing.
For Introverted Judgers, their dominant function is Introverted Intuition (INTJ, INFJ) or Introverted Sensing (ISTJ, ISFJ). Ni and Si are perceiving functions. So regardless of how decisive the IJ may seem outwardly, on the inside they're open-ended, curious, and fixated on an inner world of experience, patterns, choices and consequences.
If you are friends with an Introverted Judger, then you may have noticed how hard they struggle when it comes to starting tasks or finding the inspiration to begin a new project. The reason is that on the inside, they're keeping all their options open. It’s really easy for these types to slip inside their own heads and get stuck in a state of perpetual information-seeking and analysis, without ever turning all that inside work into an actionable decision.
7. Our present bias is showing
Procrastination is a type of present bias—the tendency to prioritize short-term needs ahead of long-term ones, even if the long-term reward is more beneficial than the immediate one. If you choose to take $100 today instead of $120 in four week’s time, for instance, that’s your present bias showing.
Present bias can explain a few of our bad habits, and procrastination is one of them. For Perceivers, present bias is hard-wired into their personalities. "P" types are short-term, will adapt immediately in response to something, and are driven by their inner impulses. These factors push the Perceiver towards activities that are important or urgent in the here and now, with far less concern for longer-term goals or deadlines.
Judgers are often seen as having more impulse control but really, they are just as susceptible to present bias. What Judgers seek is control over the plan. Action lists, schedules and structure in all it forms gives comfort to a Judger, to the point where they will (a) spend more time creating the plan than achieving the plan and (b) pick the low-hanging fruit from their to-do list just so they can say they’ve completed 3, 6 or 10 tasks that day. The importance of the task is not as important as getting the task done. There’s nothing long-term about this process: in fact, it’s completely focused on achieving quick wins and meeting the most pressing deadlines, which is the very definition of present bias.
Judgers can be so rigid about time, structure and routine that they will keep reorganizing their to-do list to prioritize the easy tasks over the difficult tasks; the doable stuff over the stuff that takes a lot of effort and time. The more time-pressured they are, the more they get fired up to do something. In this sense they are no different from Perceivers—which is why procrastination is an equal-opportunity trait.