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The vicious circle of procrastination and perfectionism

Split Tech City

Split Tech City


In today’s fast-paced world, time is a precious commodity. We often find ourselves juggling multiple responsibilities, deadlines, and expectations.

If you often find yourself putting tasks and projects off until the last minute, struggling to find the motivation to start or finish something, or encountering paralysis about doing an important assignment until the deadline, you might be a procrastinator.

Even though procrastination is usually associated with laziness, it is, surprisingly, caused by perfectionism.

These seemingly unrelated traits are often linked in a destructive loop, creating a vicious cycle that can hinder personal and professional growth. This article will explore the concept of procrastination and perfectionism, understand their connection, and provide practical tips to break free from their grip.

Understanding procrastination

Procrastination is the habit of postponing tasks that require attention, often replacing them with non-essential activities. According to Dr. Marnie Rogers-de Jong, procrastination involves putting off or delaying an assignment that we would be better off doing now.

The doctor explains that procrastination can appear in different areas of life – from work or university to home. The reasons for procrastination can vary, including fear of failure, lack of motivation, overwhelming workload, or simply an unwillingness to confront challenging tasks.

The most demanding tasks are usually the ones we procrastinate on the most.

If a deadline is not fixed or is far away, the chances of procrastinating increase since instant gratification is far more alluring than reaching a long-term and distant goal.

The perfectionist’s dilemma

Perfectionism is the relentless pursuit of flawlessness and the fear of making mistakes. Perfectionists set impossibly high standards for themselves and those around them. Longbottom defines perfectionism as a personality trait where one sets unrealistic expectations for oneself, strives for faultlessness, and indulges in extreme self-criticism.

Perfectionists usually judge their self-worth based on their accomplishments leading to fear of failure or making mistakes.

Fear of inadequacy often causes procrastination as a symptom of perfectionism. Since the bar is usually set too high, perfectionists cope with the risk of underperforming tasks by avoiding them or by putting them off as long as possible.

In other words, the fear of not meeting one’s self-expectations triggers procrastination as a coping mechanism to deal with stressful tasks.

While a desire to excel and deliver exceptional results can be a positive trait, extreme perfectionism can be debilitating. Perfectionists often find themselves trapped in an unending cycle of self-criticism and doubt, leading to indecisiveness and a fear of taking action.

Breaking the cycle

The procrastination-perfectionism cycle is mentally draining and leads to anxiety, stress, and depression. Even though procrastination is usually an integrated pattern, some tips might be helpful for most people.

So, how do we stop holding onto unrealistically high expectations and take action toward success?

  • Break down the task into smaller pieces: Set specific, achievable objectives for each project and break them down into smaller, manageable steps. Celebrate the progress you make, even if it’s not flawless.
  • Prioritize tasks: Tackle the most challenging tasks at the beginning, when your energy and focus are at their highest. Completing critical assignments at the start reduces the chances of procrastinating out of fear or lack of time later.
  • Create a to-do list: Write down your daily, weekly, or monthly tasks clearly. Once you complete them, cross them off one by one. Ticking off your to-do list increases productivity, provides motivation, and reduces stress.
  • Use the ‘Two-Minute Rule’: When a task takes less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately. This simple practice helps clear small assignments quickly and prevents them from piling up and becoming overwhelming.
  • Manage distractions: Identify and eliminate distractions that contribute to procrastination. It may include turning off notifications, creating a dedicated workspace, or setting specific times for checking emails and social media.
  • Seek support and feedback: Reach out to colleagues, mentors, or friends who can offer constructive feedback and support. Sometimes, an outside perspective can help you gain valuable insights and overcome self-doubt.
  • Reward yourself: Acknowledge your achievements and progress, regardless of how small they may seem. Treat yourself to a reward when you complete a challenging task, reinforcing positive behavior.

The article was written by: Ana Knezović


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Split Tech City

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