Perfectionism & Procrastination

by | Oct 13, 2022 | Leadership Coaching

Do you ever feel trapped in perfectionism? Like your work must be perfect, and that perfectionism is something to strive for?

Sure, striving to do great work is a good thing. Don’t we all want to do great work?

But what if that striving leads you to aim for perfectionism, not just greatness or goodness?

I talked to a coaching client recently who has struggled with perfectionism. She’s excellent at her craft. I’ve known her for years and have recommended her to others.

We talked about how perfectionism can lead us to procrastinate on something. We don’t want to be less than perfect, so we avoid the uncomfortableness of starting something we don’t know if we can pull off.

It normally happens when we feel anxiety or dread about an important task. We want to avoid discomfort.

As many as 20% of adults are true procrastinators, and they procrastinate in ways that negatively affect their daily lives and produce shame or guilt.

It’s so easy to get stuck ruminating about a project. Will I perform well? Will I fail? Will the client be happy? Do I know what I’m doing? How can I do a better job?

Dwelling on something isnt great for our peace of mind. 

Procrastinating has nothing to do with time management. It’s self-defeating behavior and leads to us undermining our best efforts. 

According to researchers, mood regulation is a huge part of procrastination. Beneath an outer layer of feeling better when we avoid an unpleasant or challenging task, we feel guilt and dread.

Why do we procrastinate? 

People procrastinate for many reasons, including an aversion to a task, a fear of failure, frustration, self-doubt, and anxiety. 

Our thinking can get stuck in a negative whirl. We seek ways to make ourselves feel better in the short run. If you’re overly focused on how you’re feeling now and you feel better while procrastinating, you’re missing out on developing ways to learn correct behavior and avoid those unpleasant feelings in the future.

A few years ago, I was caught in a swirl of procrastination. I don’t remember the project, but I remember thinking that I just needed to get out of the office and do something productive, like organize the kitchen junk drawers in our new condo.

I went to Bed Bath & Beyond and spent an hour looking at all the various types of stackable boxes, bamboo silverware holders and other kitchen organizers. I sorted through all the junk and threw out the old takeout menus and the tools I never actually use. My drawers looked great! But what was I accomplishing on my project? The dread was still there even after I cleaned up my spoons and spatulas.

If perfectionism or procrastination are tendencies of yours:

  • Do they help you do your best work, or do they ultimately get in the way of you doing your best?
  • Do you find that your thoughts and emotions around completing a task are getting in your way? 
  • Have you identified any irrational thoughts that are slowing you down?
  • How can you gain awareness of your thoughts and then make space to change your thinking?

Let’s tackle your procrastination together. 

Need someone to help you break through your procrastination? Reach out and schedule your free call with me today.