Home » Blog » The Procrastination-Perfectionism Loop: Why Most Perfectionists Handle Deadlines Poorly

For this blog, I jumped straight into the word ‘Procrastination’ etymology. The word procrastination came into existence in the late 16th century. It is derived from Latin procrastinat– ‘deferred till the morning’, from the verb procrastinare, from pro– ‘forward’ + crastinus ‘belonging to tomorrow’ (from cras ‘tomorrow’).

The term gained popularity in 2019 and became commonly addressed by teens. Since then it has been a part of the trendy vocabulary. 

There is a substantial correlation between perfectionism and procrastination, which may surprise you. First, it seems a little strange, doesn’t it? Isn’t it understandable that perfectionists would like to escape the last-minute rush?

The following is our theory on why these two traits are so frequently intertwined: Having a tight schedule can explain why your actual outcome isn’t as polished as you’d like. If you have plenty of time, but your work isn’t perfect, the logical conclusion is that you’re not good enough. Overall, procrastination is a way to deal with the stress and anxiety that comes with trying to do everything perfectly, as well as the accompanying guilt.

Perfectionism and procrastination are commonly seen together. Perfectionism is the obsession with doing things exactly, while procrastination is the practise of putting off duties until later. You may find yourself paralysed from taking any action because of this worry of not being flawless. Procrastination and perfectionism go hand in hand, as we’ll see in this blog post, and we’ll offer some concrete strategies for overcoming perfectionism and getting things done.

This article is addressed to all those individuals who often wonder why they dabble with deadlines especially when it comes to a task. Are they lazy? Is there another lens to view the problem? 

There might be a case of procrastinating perfectionism with you. Hope you are not lazy enough to read through it. 

What is Procrastination?

Procrastination is putting off doing something that you know you should do. Anxiety disorders, lack of desire, perfectionism, fear of failure, and burnout are all common causes of this.

Avoiding tasks or situations that cause worry is a hallmark of procrastination, an anxiety condition. In order to prevent feeling uncomfortable or upset, those who procrastinate tend to put off critical activities.

Making a habit of procrastination can be detrimental to one’s professional as well as personal goals. Delays, poor quality work, and lost productivity might result from it. Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety can be caused by procrastination.

As a result of procrastination, people may feel apprehensive or overwhelmed by the task at hand. In order to be happy or successful, they may believe they must perform flawlessly, or they may feel unqualified to do the work at hand. Stress and pressure are common side effects, making it difficult to get started on projects. People who are exhausted or demotivated as a result of burnout are more likely to put off important tasks. Finally, procrastination can be exacerbated by the feelings of helplessness that accompany worry and sadness.

The Vicious Loop of Procrastination and Perfectionism

Procrastination Is Really Perfectionism!!!!

Do you often put off starting a project? Do you have a project that you know you should start but find it difficult to find the drive to do so? Are you putting off tasks that are critical to your career or education? Alternatively, do you begin projects but never seem to complete them?

Despite the voice in the back of your mind telling you that you should be working on a task or project, you may find it difficult to find the motivation to do so.

Your “inner critic” may be berating you for your procrastination, and you may feel guilty about it. However, even if you feel guilty and are mentally berating yourself for your laziness, it may not be enough to spur you on to action.

If procrastination has been a lifelong problem for you, have you ever wondered why? Often, procrastination stems from a deep-seated need for perfection.(It is going to come up frequently in the blog)

Both procrastination and perfectionism are extremely common mental health issues. Perfectionism is the obsession with doing things exactly, while procrastination is the practise of putting off duties until later. If you’re paralysed by a fear of not being flawless, you won’t be able to take any action. Perfectionism is a common underlying cause of procrastination, therefore addressing it is essential if you want to break the cycle. Learn more about how these two states are linked and what you can do to get yourself out of their grasp in this blog.

As many as 30% of people suffer from chronic procrastination and up to 20% suffer from perfectionism. There’s a strong possibility that one or both of these conditions affects you or someone you know. And, regrettably, they are frequently found together.

Psychology Behind Procrastination Perfectionism 

One study found that procrastination and perfectionism are significantly correlated, with procrastination being a predictor of perfectionism. In other words, people who tend to procrastinate are more likely to also be perfectionists. It is estimated that procrastination affects around 80% of high achievers due to their high personal standards.

Why procrastination and perfectionism are so closely related has a few potential causes. First, a fear of failing is a common cause of procrastination. You might put off starting projects if you’re terrified of making mistakes because you think you won’t be able to do them flawlessly. This happens frequently in perfectionists because they frequently spend more time thinking about how to accomplish a task effectively than actually doing it.

Another factor that contributes to procrastination is a lack of confidence. You could be more prone to delay if you don’t have confidence in your capacity to finish a task. This is frequently the case with perfectionists, who frequently harbour self-doubt and believe that they must be flawless in order to succeed.

Lack of motivation can also be a factor in procrastination. You are more likely to put off starting a task if you lack motivation. This is frequently the case with perfectionists, who may lack the motivation to begin projects they are unsure they can do flawlessly.

A demand for control is a common motivator of perfectionism. We might try to make up for a lack of control in our lives by striving for excellence in other areas. Additionally, procrastination may result from the never-ending and exhausting pursuit of perfection that we experience when trying to live up to our own high standards.

What is the Perfectionism-Procrastination Loop?

The perfectionism-procrastination loop happens when we let our perfectionism stop us from starting a task and then put it off until later because we think it won’t be perfect. This may develop into a difficult to escape the vicious cycle.

As an illustration, let’s say you have a paper due at school that you have been putting off writing because you fear it won’t be good enough and you’ll receive a low mark. However, the longer you wait to begin, the more pressure you feel to complete it perfectly, which only increases your propensity to put it off. The cycle continues indefinitely. Ironically, the shorter deadline for completion increases the likelihood of receiving a substandard mark.

The adage “Do it correctly or don’t do it at all” may be familiar to you. Well, perfectionists frequently choose to “not do it at all.” Perfectionists have extremely high expectations for themselves and only accept the finest from themselves. Because they place so much pressure on themselves, perfectionists frequently put off starting a project or task out of worry that they won’t be able to attain perfection.

They would rather not even begin if things can’t be done precisely. In their subconscious minds, they would prefer to refrain from doing something than to execute it and receive outcomes that fall short of their extremely high expectations. They don’t want to take a chance on an unsatisfactory result. The perfectionist believes that it is preferable to refrain from doing anything than to take the risk of producing something that falls short of the standards they have set for themselves.

Additionally, because they desire everything to be “exactly so,” perfectionists frequently take an excessive amount of time to complete tasks. They may become physically or mentally exhausted due to the length of time they devote to jobs and initiatives. Due to their intense attention on doing the word “perfect,” they will take their time preparing before beginning and move laboriously slowly once they begin. The job or assignment thus seems to require constant revision, completion, editing, correction, modification, and proofreading… It is perpetual.

Perfectionist doesn’t start because they are aware of how much mental or physical effort it will take to complete the work flawlessly. Or they begin, but give up or stall out because the effort of attempting to achieve perfection drains them. They simply can’t continue to exert the amount of effort they are. Stopping is simpler than taking the chance that the conclusion won’t be what they had hoped it would be.

If this describes you, you may have just gained a profound understanding of who you are. And you might be asking how you can break out of this pattern if you want to become a perfectionistic procrastinator.

The Deadline Crisis With Procrastinating Perfectionists

There are two types of procrastination: procrastination with deadlines and procrastination without deadlines. Deadlines can be intimidating and tend to make people anxious. They postponed it till the night before the deadline in order to deal with the tension and anxiety. A person’s brain will typically then tell them not to wait until the last minute the next time they have a deadline, as this just increases stress. Now, this isn’t true for all procrastinators because those that procrastinate frequently never learn their lesson and keep doing it nonetheless. They keep doing this because “that feedback loop seems perpetually out of service,” and they never understand why they shouldn’t put things off.

The second type of procrastination that results from this is procrastinating without a deadline. Certain assignments, whether they are for work or a decision in the future, can make a person feel like they have an endless amount of time to finish them. They are in trouble because they repeatedly put off finishing the work since they believed they would have time to do it after finishing other tasks. Saving money for retirement or for college would be two examples of this. A person will fall behind in their savings efforts and won’t be ready if they put off accumulating money for a financial decision. These kinds of assignments, especially essays and projects, are frequently put off because the person wants it to be flawless. In actuality, perfectionism is one of the most prevalent causes of procrastination.

Because so many individuals are frightened of failing at whatever they are trying to do, the perfectionist procrastinator is the most prevalent. They become so terrified that it will be difficult to match their standards and those of others that they ultimately decide against doing it due to the sensation of dread and anxiety it instills. These perfectionists place an unhealthy amount of stress on themselves. Procrastinators had higher stress levels and lower well-being, according to research. (Jaffe Wait Why? The Science Behind Procrastination) 

The health of those who engage in this habit is negatively impacted; however, there are solutions to break this habit.

Procrastinators who are perfectionists can benefit by decreasing their expectations by being less precise with their job. They could benefit much from this because they are only concerned with finishing the project and aren’t trying to complete everything in a particular way. Accepting what has been written can help reduce the stress that comes with completing a project because trying to find flaws in a piece of work is mentally and physically draining for perfectionists. The most important thing to keep in mind about procrastination is that it will stress you out more the longer a project is delayed.

Perfect is an unreachable standard that cannot be met by anyone; “Perfect is the enemy of progress” (Winston Churchill).

How To Overcome Being A Procrastinating Person

The first step towards overcoming procrastination is lowering your standards. You’re unaware that your expectations are “above and beyond.” Therefore, if you decrease your expectations, you will perform at a “normal” level in comparison to everyone else who isn’t dealing with perfectionism.

Start with something simple and lower your standards. You might always make your bed in the morning. Don’t make your bed the next morning. The universe won’t end.

Move on to something more significant after you’ve tried being “imperfect” in a few simple ways. If you need to prepare a presentation for work, set aside a particular period of time that is realistic (and far less time than you would typically spend on it). You’ll be surprised at how much you can do in that brief period of time.

Find out what is required as the “bare minimum” to complete a task or activity that you have been putting off. Then, begin that task or endeavour and complete the very bare minimum necessary for success as soon as possible. While working, remind yourself again, “This doesn’t need to be perfect. It must be just adequate enough.

Your procrastinating tendencies will gradually disappear if you work in this manner frequently enough. Every time you complete a task or project “good enough,” you are breaking your ingrained perfectionistic impulses.

You’ll come to the realisation that you were expending much too much time and effort on chores and projects, and that by taking on fewer commitments, you’re actually more driven to begin and complete your goals. And you’ll be considerably more motivated and content rather than a procrastinating perfectionist.

Perfectionists may believe that in order to be happy, they must have total control over every area of their lives. This can cause a lot of anxiety, tension, and a sense of overload, which can start a perfectionist cycle.

There are several options for assistance if perfectionism is a problem for you. In order to address the underlying causes of perfectionism and assist you in creating healthy coping mechanisms, counselling and therapy can be highly beneficial. There are numerous books and articles that provide insightful guidance for overcoming perfectionism. 

10 Tips to Overcome Perfectionism and Procrastination

The fact that procrastination and perfectionism frequently reinforce one another is one of their biggest issues. Procrastination might result from perfectionism since you may put off things out of fear that you won’t complete them precisely. Additionally, putting off tasks till the last minute may result in perfectionism since you will feel inadequate as a result. This may lead to a vicious cycle that is challenging to escape. The good news is that you can do a few things to combat perfectionism and procrastination.

Here are some actionable methods you can use to break free from the procrastination-perfectionism loop:

  1. Acknowledge The Problem: It’s critical to become conscious of your propensity for perfectionism and procrastination. You can begin to work on changing them once you become aware of them.
  2. Develop a Growth Mindset: A growth mindset is a conviction that, with hard work and practise, one can improve one’s skills and abilities. The opposite of this is a fixed mindset, which holds that knowledge and abilities are permanent and unchangeable. By seeing errors as chances for growth and learning, a growth mindset can help you battle perfectionism and procrastination.
  3. Baby Steps, Captain: It can be beneficial to divide a challenging activity into smaller, more manageable chunks while you’re facing it. You’ll gain momentum and confidence by setting little goals, which will motivate you to keep going. A task’s successful completion might also boost low self-esteem and make the next one simpler to finish. The work tracking and project breakdown features in our habit tracker book are fantastic.
  4. Make A Plan: Planning ahead can assist you in gaining clarity and moving forward with a project if you suspect that you are putting off work because you don’t know where to begin or are uncertain of how to complete it. Set reasonable objectives for yourself and focus on improvement rather than perfection. 
  5. Embrace Mistakes: Permit yourself to make mistakes and accept your imperfection. This can be difficult, but it’s critical to keep in mind that errors are not fatal. Recall that progress is preferable to perfection. Nobody is flawless, and learning from mistakes is a crucial part of the process.
  6. Have Confidence in Self: Boost your self-esteem and strive for growth rather than perfection. Even if you aren’t flawless, you should always keep in mind that you are capable of and worthy of achievement.
  7. Enjoy The Process: Consider the process rather than the result. Try not to stress about the outcome while working on a task; instead, concentrate on enjoying the process and the route. If the process itself can bring you joy and meaning, you’ll be more motivated to persevere even when times are difficult.
  8. Lower Your Expectations: Realistic expectations are important since having excessively high standards for oneself is a sign of perfectionism. It makes sense that you procrastinate if you’re always striving for an impossibly high standard. Try to set reasonable goals for yourself and give yourself credit for the progress you make rather than merely the final outcome.
  9. Take Help From Your Friends: To keep you on track, choose an accountability companion or procrastination buddy. Procrastination and perfectionism can be defeated by having someone hold you accountable.
  10. Use The Pomodoro Method: The Pomodoro technique is a time-management approach that can aid in overcoming perfectionism and procrastination. It entails setting a timer for 25 minutes, starting a task, and working on it until the alarm sounds. The following phase of 25 minutes begins after a five-minute break. Once you’ve decided what has to be done, give yourself a deadline and stick to it. This will make it easier for you to get going, keep on task, and stay out of the weeds.

You’re not alone in your battle against perfectionism and procrastination, and help is available. You can start to overcome these difficulties and live a more fruitful and satisfying life by becoming conscious of your perfectionism and procrastination habits, setting achievable objectives, and allowing yourself to make errors.

By employing these techniques, you can start overcoming perfectionism and procrastination and begin leading a more satisfying life. Stop waiting and begin right away!

In Conclusion

Procrastination can result in missed deadlines, lower quality work, and a drop in productivity.

It might be time to think about getting professional assistance if you frequently find yourself putting things off. This is particularly true if procrastination is interfering with your ability to meet deadlines, upsetting you, or impairing your ability to concentrate.

There are numerous possible causes of procrastination, and it is not always simple to identify the main one. They can not know what they need to perform, not know where to begin, or just not be interested in the task. It might be a means of coping for certain persons with stress or worry.

If a deadline is approaching and the individual lacks confidence in their ability to finish the assignment, they may put it off in order to avoid feeling bad. A side note: It’s important to notice that this procrastination loop is not more likely to be triggered by bigger projects than by smaller ones. It is quite simple to put off doing anything for a lot longer than it would take to do it. This is due to the fact that it is simpler to put off a task when we are feeling overwhelmed because it seems like we don’t have enough time or energy to finish it.

Similar to how people naturally strive to avoid situations that make them uneasy. This is due to the fact that anxiety can be crippling and makes it challenging to pay attention to anything other than the source of our concern.

It’s important to keep in mind that procrastination may be a completely natural aspect of some people’s work processes. They might perform better under duress and relish the sense of completing a task just before the deadline. There is no need to be concerned as long as it is not upsetting them or interfering with their ability to fulfill deadlines.

Remember Done is Better than Perfect!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Procrastination?

Procrastination is putting off doing something that you know you should do. Anxiety disorders, lack of desire, perfectionism, fear of failure, and burnout are all common causes of this.

Why are procrastination and perfectionism related?

Both procrastination and perfectionism are extremely common mental health issues. Perfectionism is the obsession with doing things exactly, while procrastination is the practise of putting off duties until later.

What is the procrastination-perfectionism loop?

The procrastination-perfectionism loop says that procrastination is a predictor of perfectionism. In other words, people who tend to procrastinate are more likely to also be perfectionists.

How to overcome procrastination?

Planning ahead, sticking to deadline, and have lower expectations are some of the ways to overcome procrastination.

What is common between procrastination and perfectionism?

Procrastination and perfectionism have the same motivators such as fear of failure, anxiety and lack of motivation.