4 Steps To Overcoming Procrastination Caused by Perfectionism

Personal Development

Is your worth dependent on other people’s approval?

Do you put things off for fear of failure even though you consider yourself a high achiever?

Therein lays the irony of perfectionism- the greatest perfectionists are often the greatest procrastinators.

While perfectionists typically strive for excellence and stretch themselves thin to please others, they also have the tendency to become so paralyzed by their need for excellence that they cannot take action to accomplish their goals or tasks.

Breaking free of perfectionism is not easy. However, it is possible to manage the need for obsessive excellence and social approval.

Break down your big goals into mini goals

Do you have an important upcoming presentation but you just cannot get yourself to start preparing for it?

Wanting to make an impressive presentation is a noble and worthwhile goal. However, if you are feeling too overwhelmed with the prospect of getting down and preparing for it, try to break the task at hand into mini-goals.

As you get down to work, remind yourself that this is only the first draft, so you will have a chance to polish it up to make an impressive presentation.

Often, perfectionism stems from the idea that you only have one chance to get it right.

But think about it: if you get on your task sooner rather than later, you will have plenty more time to thoroughly go through your presentation, practice and eliminate errors.On the other hand, putting it off until later means you will not have any time to error-proof your presentation, which could result to a poor presentation on the actual day.

“The rule of thumb is to break down your tasks into manageable chunks, start early and know that you have time to eliminate errors.”

Manage the process, not the outcome

The problem with perfectionists is that they are so disproportionately fixated on the outcome that they overlook the process.

The result of focusing entirely on the outcome is that you become too freaked out to do anything because you anticipate failure.

It is important to see what you are doing and who you are as work in progress. Managing the process entails getting yourself to work and reminding yourself that there is room for adjustment.

For example, instead of focusing so much on what your boss and colleagues will say about your presentation, the compliments, praises or judgments they will make, allow yourself to focus on getting down to developing a presentation that will add value to your company and will showcase your expertise.

The point is to focus on excellence as opposed to fixating on perfectionism.

The more you do, the better you become

Perfectionists, just like procrastinators often spend most of their time planning or dreaming instead of doing.

perfectionismYet, it is in doing that you perfect your skill. It is in doing that you move your goals forward.

For example, a lot of writers get caught up in perfection paralysis so much so that they end up not writing at all. In other words, their need for utter perfectionism prevents them from pursuing and accomplishing their goals.

On the other hand, if a writer spends more time writing than planning, they tend to become better writers. They also feel more fulfilled and less anxious because they are pursuing their passion.

Adopt a pluralistic view of yourself

Perfection paralysis emanates from the skewed perception of the self. Perfectionists usually see themselves as just a single self, so if they do not do well in one area, they perceive their entire existence as a failure.

Adopting a pluralist perception of yourself allows you to see that you are good at certain things and not too good at others. You have many different attributes, some of which are perfect while others are imperfect.

Learn to work through this realization of a pluralistic self and you will be able to accept failure as part of the journey towards excellence.

12 Comments

  1. Rob Williams says:

    This is an extremely painful post for me to read, because you have summed up everything about me in the first 4 paragraphs!

    I have started so many things in my life and not completed them because I never believed they were going to be good enough or I wasn’t going to attain 100% in it or some other excuse.

    Sometimes, I haven’t even made a start on something I really want to do fo the same reason….fear of failure! I’ve made all the preparations; bought the course, the kit, the books or whatever was needed, and then thought about it and put it on the shelf to do at a later date…l tell myself! And there they’ve sat, collecting dust as very expensive bookends!

    I’m glad I found your website Andrew, if just for this article alone. I will certainly be taking a different approach to my new venture this time around.

    • Andrew Spence says:

      Hey Rob!

      It’s really common so you are not alone!

      The fact is that nothing is every going to be perfect. So, it’s best to just do the best you can in the time you have. In online marketing particularly many people feel that they just can’t put themselves or their content out there until its perfect. But, it’s better to be out there than not out there, and in any event, we can all learn and improve as we go along.

      Enjoy the day!
      Andrew

  2. Oh dear Andrew! I have created an entire vido training on fear and procrastination and you certainly hit the nail on the head with this perfectionist fear article.

    The funny thing is (OK, not so funny) that people who are willing to just do it and be comfortable with “imperfect action” tend to not only get more done, but are happier doing it. A friend years ago told me that she never ever used the word “perfect” with her kids when complimenting them, because she didn’t want them to ever think that’s what they had to be.

    On a more Zen-like perspective , we are all perfect just the way we are, doing the best we can do at each moment. Part of that is trusting that mistakes and even failures are part of the journey and just getting on with it opens up so much more energy for all sorts of positive outcomes, than sitting and worrying while doing nothing productive!

    Great suggestions for moving forward Andrew!
    Warmly,
    Deborah

  3. Hi Andrew.,

    All are brilliant tips!

    I am big on managing the process. I’m not really doing to get, i’m doing to give, if that makes sense. Sure I accept royalty checks or payments for my eBooks yet my energies are largely focused on creating something that will help folks retire to a life of island hopping through smart blogging. It’s simple; focus on the process, by doing the best job possible, and keep on creating to fine tune the process….which leads us to….

    …doing more, and more, and more, to become your best self.

    LOVE this point because it sums up my recent blog post about writing thorough content through a variety of channels. You were about the only commentator on my blog who truly got the point, which is, you gotta put in the work to create something worthy, and the more you practice, in public, the more your skills will improve.

    Perfectionism is large a fear of criticism. People hate being picked apart so it feels safe to wait on the sidelines, creating a “perfect post” in private, yet no great achievement, ever, was private or safe.

    Remember folks, you’re not taking a chance. You’re giving yourself a chance. Keep creating, and you’ll improve your game, AND you’ll detach from the fear of criticism masquerading at perfectionism.

    Fab post Andrew.

    Tweeting soon.

    Have a great weekend 🙂

    Ryan

    • Hey Ryan, seriously valuable insights!

      We have all heard the saying ‘practice makes perfect’. It’s true to some degree but my take is that perfection is in essence, an illusion. It’s merely a label that another person places on something. Nothing is ever perfect, there will always be room for improvement and even if we do complete something that in our mind we view as perfect, somebody else won’t think so 😉 Best thing to do is lose those inhibitions, keep striving for the best and day by day you will become a person of value and will gain immense satisfaction from that.

      Thanks so much for the comment!

  4. Manidhar Devineni says:

    Most of us recognise themselves in the description. Good and Interesting article.

    • Hi Manishar, it’s true that there are some very common traits amongst us humans 🙂 Not all humans, but many. I’m glad you liked the article. Do stop by again or subscribe to receive updates via email. Have a great day!

  5. Elena Rif says:

    Thank you for this most interesting article. I think many people will recognize themselves in the description. It could help them overcome the obstacles on their way to perfection.

    • Thanks for taking a look Elena. I’m hoping it will help. I was a former perfectionist myself and found it challenging to complete any task without making a big deal out of it! Thanks for the comment 🙂

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