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Perfectionism: The Biggest Culprit of Procrastination

adhd all blogs executive function perfectionism procrastination Aug 27, 2020

Is perfectionism preventing you from making deadlines or finishing projects?

For some people, it keeps them from even getting started.

Procrastination is a symptom of something else. It’s a behavior that results from something going on in our heads preventing us from taking action.


One of the biggest culprits of procrastination



Are you the type of person who starts a project but loses steam towards the end? If so, it’s possible that you can’t see the finish line, because you’re caught up in making all the details perfect.

Or are you the type of person who never gets started, because you only want to commit and start when you are ready—and since you won’t know when you’re going to be ready in advance, you wait for that “right” time … which never comes.

You know what? It’s never going to be PERFECT. You can get close if you are invested in quality and like to pay attention to details. However, while perfection is elusive, the consequences of procrastination are very real.

Let’s say you have a report to do for work. After the bulk of the content is created, do you worry about whether the commas are in the right place or whether the font is the right size?

  • Maybe you feel a need to obtain yet more data—not because your boss requested it, but because you’d feel better about being sure—but you have to wait on someone else for it, so you set it aside…
  • Maybe the color is a little light, due to the printer running low on ink, so you’re just going to wait until that can be fixed…
  • Maybe you’re afraid of criticism, so you go back and double check the numbers. Again… 

Meanwhile, your boss just wants it done and you’re either staying way too late to work on it in order to meet the deadline, or the deadline goes whizzing past and you have to ask for an extension.

The stress a perfectionist feels in a situation like this can be incredibly intense. Submitting a less-than-perfect report goes against every fiber in your body. You tell yourself that you are a person of quality, not quantity.

You are so uneasy with choices that you feel STUCK. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

It hurts and yet you still can’t let go… What’s behind that?

For some people, perfection represents idealized feelings of safety or well-being that must be achieved at all costs. To the perfectionist, mistakes and criticism are painful and must be avoided.

The cost of avoiding them may be never finishing the things you start.

Or it may involve not getting started at all, because there is never a “right” moment.

This creates a different type of pain when you see all the unfinished work around you.


Perfectionism is a trap that keeps us striving

for something that remains out of reach.


You can shake the yoke of procrastination and still feel at peace with your efforts. 

It starts with accepting yourself just as you are. You’ve heard me say this before: You are a human being, not a human doing.


Tips to Conquer Perfectionism

When you are faced with a task and you feel your perfectionism dragging procrastination into the mix, try these strategies: 

  1. Look for the big picture and do what is necessary to achieve the best outcome, without getting caught up with little details.
  2. Focus on taking action, whatever the next right step is. You will improve as you go along by using what you learn every time you take action.
  3. Celebrate every win, big and small, and give yourself credit where credit is due.

Finally, adopt a healthy attitude — one that recognizes working to the best of your ability really is “good enough.”