How Perfectionism Leads to Procrastination


When people hear that someone else is a perfectionist, they might say, “gee, I wish I was” thinking that it’s a way to overachieve and get things done. However, many individuals who struggle with perfectionism find that it holds them back. 


If you’re hard on yourself and feel as though you aren’t good enough, but you put projects and activities, such as work, school assignments, art projects, or even household chores, off, this blog post is for you. Whether or not you identify as a perfectionist, it could be that perfectionism is the cause of your procrastination. 


So, what exactly is perfectionism, and what does the research say about the connection between perfectionism and procrastination? More importantly, how do you break the cycle and heal from the effects of perfectionism? Keep reading to find out.


What is perfectionism?


Before we get into how to stop the perfectionism-procrastination cycle, let’s define what perfectionism actually is and what it looks like in action. 


The American Psychological Association (APA) dictionary defines perfectionism as “the tendency to demand of others or of oneself an extremely high or even flawless level of performance, in excess of what is required by the situation.” On perfectionism, the dictionary goes on to say, “It is associated with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health problems.”


If you’re someone who struggles with perfectionism, you aren’t alone. Perfectionism is on the rise, according to recent research. Between the years 1989 and 2016, self-oriented perfectionism increased by 10%, socially prescribed perfectionism went up by 33%, and other-oriented perfectionism went up by 16%. 


What perfectionism looks like can differ from person to person, and for some, it can be more maladaptive than others. This can make it difficult to identify perfectionism in yourself. 


How do I know if I’m a perfectionist?


Sometimes, people struggle with procrastination without knowing that perfectionism is the cause. They see that they aren’t achieving what they want to, but they don’t acknowledge that their thoughts are holding them back. This is because many perfectionists don’t know that they are one. You might think to yourself, “I’m not good enough to be a perfectionist,” or “but aren’t perfectionists overachievers?” These thoughts are signs of perfectionism. 


Other signs that you may be a perfectionist include:


  • You avoid situations where you may fail (which can lead to procrastination).
  • You have little forgiveness or leeway for yourself when you make mistakes. 
  • You have a hard time taking even the most gentle of feedback. Similar to difficulty accepting it when you make mistakes, you may take feedback or criticism as a sign that you’re flawed rather than using it as an opportunity to improve. 
  • You crave approval from other people, even if it is to your detriment. Many perfectionists have people-pleasing tendencies. 

Alongside lack of productivity and an increased risk of mental health conditions, perfectionism can cause intense stress, which can, in turn, affect your health even further – mentally and physically. The good news is that it’s possible to recover from perfectionism and learn to work with your mind rather than against it. Many people in this process call themselves recovering perfectionists.


How to break the cycle of perfectionism and procrastination


A recovering perfectionist is just what it sounds like; someone who is working to overcome perfectionism for their own peace, well-being, and success. Here are some steps to take if you want to break the cycle of perfectionism and procrastination. 


Awareness of perfectionism


Becoming aware of perfectionism is often the first step to breaking the cycle. When you think about overcoming perfectionism, you might worry that it’ll make you less productive. The reality is that perfectionism doesn’t make you a more productive person, nor a more successful person. It can actually stop you from getting things done. It is possible to learn to use the positive traits to your advantage while letting go of the detrimental ones. 


Change your beliefs


Start to shift your internal beliefs about yourself and the need to “do it right.” Neuroplasticity allows our brains and responses to change, which is what various forms of therapy are built around. 


When a thought associated with perfectionism comes up (“What if they don’t like it?” “What if I get fired?” “What if I fail this class?” “But I’m really not good enough!”), use cognitive reframing. 


To use cognitive reframing for perfectionism, acknowledge these thoughts without judgment. Then, think of a more adaptive and realistic way to view the task at hand. For example, “It’s better if I get started now rather than later, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. I can always change it if I need to” or “All I can do is my best. Even if I don’t get it right, I’ll learn from it.”


It does take time, but as the days, weeks, and months go on, you may be surprised to find that it gets easier. 


Building new habits


Don’t allow yourself to procrastinate. This leaves room for negative thoughts and allows you to continue the cycle. 


Rather than procrastinate, get started on the task sooner rather than later and tell yourself, “it doesn’t need to be perfect. I just need to get started.” See how this and similar sentiments help you shift your mindset. Alongside self-talk and cognitive reframing, mantras and affirmations can be beneficial in this process. What works for one person may not be what’s most applicable to another, so use the mantras and affirmations that work for you. 


If you do slip up and procrastinate, be gentle with yourself. Don’t let perfectionism cross over into this process, too. Instead, remind yourself that this is something you are working on and that you can try again next time. Few make such major changes overnight, and even those who have made substantial progress face slip-ups, so give yourself a pat on the back for working on this.


How Virtue Map can help


You don’t have to work through perfectionism and procrastination on your own. Virtue Map gives our users personalized plans that help them move past procrastination and get to where they want to be in as little as five minutes per day. Click here to take our free procrastination quiz to learn why you procrastinate and get your plan today. 


You are not alone; it does indeed happen. Many people have had the desire and passion to pursue their goals most of the time but have left it left undone when procrastination sets in. In this undesirable state, you will frequently be considering and attempting to carry out a plan, but you won’t be able to do so due to willpower issues.


This begs the question of whether it is possible to overcome procrastination and what are the most practical ways to accomplish that if there are any. We go into more detail below. 

Avoiding Procrastination Is Possible


Procrastination is the condition of being slow, hesitant, and late in doing something that should be done. Almost everyone has experienced an attitude epidemic at some point in their lives.

But procrastination, like any other bad habit, can be eliminated, but only with a few practical steps. And we’ve highlighted the best of them below.


  • Divide your work into smaller chunks
  • Avoid distractions at all cost
  • Set Deadlines for each goal 
  • Prioritize your work
  • Choose practices that give proper mental rest
  • Hold Yourself Accountable
  • Reward Yourself


Divide Your work Into Smaller Chunks


Imagine sitting in your room with a cup of coffee, worrying about how you’ll finish a 10,000-word article in three days. The word count alone is intimidating, and the first thought that comes to mind is that it will be impossible. It isn’t. Have you tried breaking the work down into small segments and completing them milestone by milestone?


Depending on what you’re asked to write about, you can divide the 10,000-word task into manageable steps, such as research, outlines, revision, and proofreading. As a result, the seemingly daunting 10,000-word task will become so simple that you may be tempted to begin immediately!


So, the next time you’re overwhelmed by work, divide it into bite sizes, and you’ll realize you were worried about a non-existent problem.

Avoid Distractions At All Cost


One of the most effective practical tips for overcoming procrastination is to avoid distractions at all costs. Distractions cause a shift in focus, which is detrimental to productivity and creativity. It manifests itself in various ways, the most common of which are social media and television. These two aren’t necessarily bad, but they can provide excellent diversionary services if given enough time. It is important to remember that if you cannot separate yourself from your distractions, your distractions will separate you from achieving your dreams and living the life you desire.

Set Deadlines for Each Task


Know that if you have a plethora of unrealized goals, you will undoubtedly devolve into unproductivity. And, to live a successful life, you must regain the ability to complete tasks on time. Setting deadlines for each job is an effective way to accomplish this.


Assuming you have a meeting to attend, scholars to lecture, and a project topic to write about, you can give each task a deadline. The amount of time allotted to each assignment will be determined by its complexity. Meetings are always scheduled for a specific time, so it’s best to stick to the schedule. You can set aside two hours for your tutorials. All of your scheduling should include an overview of what you’ll be able to accomplish during that time and an assessment of whether it’s worth the allocated time and potential effort.

Prioritize Your Work


Since not all assignments are created equal, it is essential to understand which ones should be prioritized over others. Critical and mentally-challenging projects must be prioritized to avoid procrastination, especially near the end of the project’s duration.


Depending on the job nature, you can prioritize your work daily or weekly. Once you’ve made a list of your assignments in order of difficulty and completed them in that order, it will be much easier to execute tasks through the list.

Choose Practices That Give Proper Mental Rest


Taking a break is essential, but choosing practices that provide proper mental rest is even more critical. If you’ve been programming for several hours and have decided to take a break, it’s not a good idea to turn on the TV and start watching shows. Yes, it could be enjoyable and worthwhile, but your brain will not be pleased, especially when you return to your program. If you do this, you will eventually discover that you are putting additional strain on your brain.


If possible, try to get some real mental rest. Cuddle your spouse, play with your pet, go for a walk, take a nap, eat foods that have been shown to improve memory power, meditate, or take it a step further by visiting any beautiful site nearby. You’ll soon realize that any of these methods provide significant mental relief and prepare you for more productive efforts.

Hold Yourself Accountable


Most individuals are unwilling to take ownership of their mistakes. They always find a way to blame others, circumstances, or environmental conditions. You could be one of these people, and you must know the truth.


You are always accountable for your actions and their consequences. When you start blaming yourself for procrastinating, the rest of the practical tips on the list will become second nature. So how does one become more fully accountable? You accomplish this by developing self-discipline and willpower. Set some strict consequences for yourself if you fail to complete a task, and see the outcome of your actions as a direct representation of your abilities.


Assume you’re locked up in your room, working on a pencil drawing. You promised yourself that if you don’t finish on time, there will be no play or refreshment. With that promise, you’ve held yourself accountable. By making that promise and imposing consequences for breaking it, you eliminate procrastination on the set task. 

Reward Yourself


If you don’t like rewarding yourself for every task completed, you’re not doing it right. One of the most effective practical tips for overcoming procrastination is to reward yourself for each milestone reached. So, put in a good reward system for yourself.



Procrastination is a common problem that has affected every one of us. That overpowering desire to refuse to perform tasks despite knowing what’s at stake can be overcome. This article outlines the methods for eliminating them; however, you must be deliberate about eliminating this workplace weakness.

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