Procrastination & Perfectionism: Pair made in heaven

Are you procrastinating?

Perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand. Perfectionism is defined as the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection; a doctrine holding that religious, moral, social, or political perfection is attainable… It’s when you strip it down, the idea that perfection exists and nothing else will do. 

This assertion, that perfection is achievable, makes taking action very intimidating because it implies that anything short of perfect is garbage. Perfectionists justify their obsession by saying, “I am just striving to do my best.” “I strive for perfection in the name of growth and achievement.” or my personal favorite, “This is me motivated to do my best!”. Yikes! What a standard to hold yourself to!

In reality, perfectionism is unforgiving. It is a defense mechanism against failure, shame, vulnerability, and judgment. In a nutshell, it’s a response to fear tied to self-deprecating behaviors. Think about it. When something isn’t perfect, what is the internal dialogue that follows? It’s probably not very nice. The thing is, we are built to avoid suffering. When we procrastinate, it’s often because our bar for acceptable output is perfection, and perfection does not exist and we avoid it.

So what can we do as recovering perfectionists to stop procrastinating? Lucky you! I have some tips to support you.

Stop Procrastinating, Start Doing!

  1. Lower your expectations. I know, I know… Blasphemy! But think of new experiences as a dress rehearsal. The fact is, most experiences have many opportunities to get it “right. So, give yourself some space to create a first, second, third draft of something.
  2. Set your goals up for success. Start with making them SMART and go from there. If you want more details about this, checkout my blog on setting your goals up for success.
  3. Break down your task into bite-sized pieces. If you have to move, switch your goal from “pack up the house” to “pack my bedroom up today”. And then… Celebrate the small successes along the way! 
  4. Use bridge thoughts to move those self-deprecating thoughts that come with being a perfectionist to a neutral place. It’s naive to think that we can move them from negative to positive BUT we can move them to neutrality. Bridge thoughts recognize the limiting belief and help you shift your thought patterns by adding a neutral (or positive thought). It helps you move to a neutral place or positive place before you truly believe it. A good one my fellow perfectionists can start with is, “Even though this is not perfect, I did my best.” Because you DID do your best and that is ENOUGH!
  5. Start recognizing your perfectionism when it presents itself. This really should be the first tip because honestly if you can’t name it, you can’t tame it. This is the first step to changing your behavior. So, take note when you are procrastinating and ask yourself, “Am I putting this off because I expect it to be perfect?”

Let’s say goodbye to unreasonable expectations of ourselves. Starting with challenging procrastination by recognizing it is just a symptom of perfectionism is really powerful! So, give yourself a pat on the back. Consider this your first celebration for a small win (see number 3). 

Cheering you on!