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The Perfectionist – A Perfect Procrastinator

The perfectionist procrastinator
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Today, “you don’t feel like it.” You think, “I’ll do it tomorrow.”  Delay, delay, delay.  We all know when we are procrastinating and putting things off. 

Still,  what is the official definition of procrastination?  Procrastination is the act of unnecessarily and voluntarily delaying or postponing something. And you delay, despite knowing that there will be negative consequences for doing so. 

Because of this, procrastination is problematic to success and general well-being. And yet, we have so many questions and things to learn about procrastination.

So, here at Blue Lotus Living, we are aware of how procrastination can affect the creative process. Not only that, procrastination can affect your well-being and personal growth journey. With this in mind, we want to explore ways to overcome it.

Thus far, research shows that procrastination is not a matter of having poor time management skills. Rather, procrastination has more complex underlying psychological reasons. We have outlined some of those reasons in “Overcome Procrastination Through Emotional Management Skills.”

Duly, the deeper we explore the subject, the more we realize how much these dynamics are worsened in industries that constantly evaluate and compare you to others.

You see, procrastination is often a self-protection strategy but it’s also an act of self-deception. For example, if you procrastinate, then you always have the excuse of “not having enough” time or “not enough money and resources.” 

Therefore, if you fail, it won’t be a question of ability. On the other hand, it can be attributed to some outside force working against you. These outside forces may be time, money, resources, the“right people,” and so on.

Procrastination is a common problem that affects people of all ages, wages, professions, and backgrounds. While there are many different types of procrastinators (and we will be sharing traits and strategies of each type with you here at Bluelotusliving.com), one particular type we’d like to explore here is the perfectionist procrastinator. 

Why is Perfectionism a type of Procrastination?

Perfectionism is a type of procrastination. Perfectionism is procrastination because while relentlessly pursuing perfection, you delay and put off work and projects that matter. The excessive focus on trying to get every detail exactly right can overwhelm the most talented.  

Furthermore, perfectionism is procrastination because it can cause you to hesitate or avoid starting tasks altogether. Such hesitation will hinder your progress and productivity in the long run.

Yes, there are times when we all push things back for a later time or date, but procrastinators chronically avoid difficult tasks and may deliberately look for distractions.

Yet, this type of procrastinator puts forth excessive amounts of time and energy to make sure that everything they do is perfect. They tend to put off starting tasks due to a fear of failure or doubts about doing it the “right way.”

The Perfectionist As a Procrastinator

Additionally, perfectionist procrastinators often hold themselves to incredibly high standards, accepting nothing but perfection from themselves. 

When you put this type of pressure on yourself, you will procrastinate.  I know from first-hand experience. 

Yes, I have struggled with perfectionism.  As Carmellita would often say about herself, “I am a recovering perfectionist.” 

Perfectionism is a vicious cycle

Perfectionists will often procrastinate and not start a project or task because of the fear of not achieving perfection. And sometimes, a perfectionist will start a project, and while attempting to do everything perfectly, they burn out or lose sight of the goal.  Hence, they either hesitate to return to the project or abandon it altogether. 

Unfortunately, this causes a vicious cycle where the perfectionist procrastinator becomes increasingly anxious and stressed about their inability to start or complete tasks. 

And this only exacerbates their procrastination.

Most procrastinators are perfectionists

According to Psychology Today, most procrastinators are perfectionists.  When constantly demanding perfection from yourself, it can become more acceptable to never tackle a job than to face the possibility of not doing it perfectly. 

They may be so highly concerned about what others will think of them that they put their futures at risk to avoid judgment. This can create a self-perpetuating cycle where the fear of failure and judgment leads to further procrastination, which only increases the anxiety and stress associated with the task.

To break this cycle, perfectionist procrastinators need to learn how to manage their perfectionism and develop strategies for overcoming their tendency to procrastinate. 

Perfectionist Procrastinator

Strategies for Perfectionist Procrastinators

Indeed, having strategies for overcoming perfectionism will help break the cycle of procrastination.  And fortunately, there are several strategies that perfectionist procrastinators can use to overcome their tendency to procrastinate. 

It will never be perfect. Accept it.

I know, this doesn’t sound like a strategy but just give me a moment.  If you can accept that perfection is subjective, then you will understand that your idea of perfection isn’t everyone’s idea of perfection.

With this acceptance, the perfectionist can ease some anxieties and fears about others’ judgments.   

“Done and done with excellence is always better than elusive perfection,” I say.  

The perfectionist must learn to set achievable goals.

What doesn’t work as a strategy for perfectionists is the battle between what’s “realistic” and what’s “ideal”–especially for artists and creatives.  For a creative individual, “realistic” is in direct opposition to the work we do every day.

The real problem isn’t “idealism” or lack of being realistic.  The real problem is setting goals that are not just challenging but damn near impossible.  

If an artist or creative approaches projects with an “all or nothing, it has to be perfect” attitude, that’s a lot of pressure. 

Instead of “all or nothing,” perfect, or even realistic, it is better to set achievable goals and standards that align with your vision and message. From this perspective, perfectionist procrastinators can reduce the pressure they feel to be perfect, which can help them overcome their fear of failure and start tasks easier.

From “have to” to “want to”

Another strategy for perfectionist procrastinators is to change their “have to”s to “want to”s. Instead of seeing everything in life as what has to be done, see it through the lens of things you want to do. 

Refraining from “have to can help you feel more motivated and engaged in your tasks, which can make it easier to start and complete them.

Time limits and deadlines for the perfectionist

Of course, you need time to complete the work and the time should be respectable to the work that’s being done. But, to overcome perfectionism procrastination, you need a time limit or a deadline. Giving yourself a time limit for completing a task can also be helpful for perfectionist procrastinators. 

Hence, by setting a specific deadline for when a task needs to be completed, you can create a sense of urgency that can motivate you to start and finish the task. This can also help prevent you from spending excessive amounts of time trying to make everything perfect.

Shorten the to-do list

I know all the “hustle hard” gurus tell you:  “You need to get more shit done! Rest when you’re dead.  F*ck sleep!”

And I say, “Burn out. Die early. Age fast.  But why?”

As the saying goes, “All too often, people overestimate what they can do in one day and underestimate what they can do in 5 years.”

Friends, you must break it down.  Making a daily “to-do” list that’s short and practical can be helpful and more empowering to perfectionist procrastinators than a big long list of stuff that will have to be pushed back or reprioritized.

If you break down the list into smaller tasks and prioritize those tasks, it’s more manageable and less overwhelming. Again, this approach returns the power to you and will make completing your work much easier.  

Restore Your Time and Energy for Happier Work and Play

Procrastination takes time and energy–time and energy you can use for work and play.  And no one knows it better than a perfectionist. Perfectionist procrastinators tend to put forth excessive amounts of time and energy to make sure it’s all perfect. They often put off starting tasks due to a fear of failure or doubts about doing it the “right way.” 

However, there are several strategies that perfectionist procrastinators can use to overcome their tendency to procrastinate, including accepting it won’t be perfect, striving for excellence rather than perfection, setting achievable goals, ditching the “all or nothing” thinking, changing their “have to”s to “want to”s, giving themselves a time limit for completing a task and making a daily “to do” list that’s short and practical.

Ultimately, we must remember, our vision and goals. When our work is fulfilling and inspiring, we display the genius within because perfect isn’t actual anyway.