Are You a Perfectionist Procrastinator?

Are you a perfectionist? Do you procrastinate? Are you afraid of failure?  Do you fear success? If so, you may be a perfectionist procrastinator!

Start the New Year right

Conquer perfectionist and procrastination habits that hinder creativity, productivity, and career advancement.

Perfectionism and procrastination often go hand-in-hand. Certain characteristics drive perfectionists to delay things. Perfectionists tend to be procrastinators when they:

  • Are reluctant to try new things.
  • Avoid making decisions.
  • Make big plans but don’t follow through.
  • Do things themselves because others can’t do it right.
  • Won’t start a project if they can’t do it well.
  • Get caught up in details so don’t have time to finish.
  • Put things off until the time is right.
  • Must always do well.
  • Feel others must approve of them.
  • Tend be critical.

Perfectionism and procrastination share the relationship of Fear of Success and Fear of Failure.

Fear of Success. Success carries with it the responsibility for continuing success. For some, this price is too high. Procrastination becomes a way of avoiding accountability. People fear success because they may:

- Be expected to continue to achieve. Because of this if fear, they hide ambition, and/or pretend they don’t care.

- Fear losing friends or becoming a threat.

- Are afraid of becoming arrogant, competitive, demanding.

- Feel guilty, they don’t think they deserve success.

Fear of Failure. The thought of failure is overwhelming. It’s a blow to the ego. We can’t fail at something we haven’t attempted. People who have this habit tend to be:

- Self-critical, feel inferior.  Not trying isn’t as painful as trying and failing.

- Set high perfectionist goals, lack confidence in abilities. By procrastinating, they avoid expected failures.

- Dread knowing their ability levels and having others know this. Think it’s wiser to postpone tasks than risk trying. 

Address fears

- Identify the fear. A person trying to find a job over an extended time period may fear rejection. Someone may refuse a promotion because he’s afraid to fail.

Don’t fear mistakes.  Ask yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?"  Note what you can do to minimize this.  Look upon something new as exciting. If you don't try, how will know if you can succeed?

- Set realistic goals and plan. Have clear goals that reflect your mission. Use your mission as your compass to keep you on the right path. Your goals and plans should flow from your mission, and daily activities should be guided by these.

Research your goal.  Know helpful resources (people, organizations, printed materials). Outline goals, strategies and time-line on a paper or electronic organizer. Modify goals as circumstances change.

- Manage time. Get up an hour earlier each day to think and plan. Periods of uninterrupted concentration can enable you to complete projects within set deadlines.

Review daily work activities over several weeks to identify self-defeating habits and patterns. Do you underestimate time needed for tasks? Identify how you can modify your schedule and tasks.

Make a to-do list. Write down everything you need to do to achieve daily goals. Prioritize tasks.

Assess what can be accomplished within a given time frame. Space tasks. Break big jobs into manageable tasks. Reward yourself for tasks completed. Allow for the unexpected. Balance demanding tasks with more relaxing ones. 

- Develop positive, opportunistic thinking patterns. Focus on opportunities, constructive ways of dealing with challenges. Emotionally believe you can control situations. Practice positive self-talk. Say, “I’d like to complete project A. I’ll do fine.”  Instead of “I must complete project A or something awful will happen.” 

Identify and confront dysfunctional beliefs. Replace them with more rational, positive ones. When adversity strikes, listen to your explanation. If it’s pessimistic, dispute it. Use evidence, alternatives, implications and usefulness. Place petty problems in larger perspectives. Don’t turn ordinary setbacks into catastrophes.

- Understand unconscious mental struggles. Many of us have internal characters that sabotage efforts. These include the “adult” who reminds us what must be done, the “critic” who tells us we’ll look foolish, and the “child” who tries to avoid unpleasant work.

Interact with each character. Visualize and value them. Help them help you. Example: The order: "You must," can become, "I want to accomplish this goal."  Attacks such as: "You’re stupid," can be converted into helpful suggestions. Your frightened child can be reassured by your adult who sees the world more realistically.

- Realize perfect situations are rare.  We’re imperfect and live in an imperfect world. Certain Native American artists deliberately put flaws in their work to remind themselves that things are imperfect. 

Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life, by Dr. Carole Kanchier, offers additional tips for managing perfectionism and procrastination. Amazon

Dr. Kanchier's web site and blog provide numerous strategies for enhancing personal and professional growth: