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If You Often Procrastinate, It's Likely You're Also a Perfectionist

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By Jaden Francis - - 5 Mins Read
Man arranging a row of pencils on a table
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Procrastination and perfectionism are two psychological phenomena that are often intertwined.


Procrastination is the tendency to delay tasks, while perfectionism is the need to achieve flawlessness in one's work.


Although they seem like opposite behaviors, they often go hand in hand with human behavior. Research suggests that perfectionists are more likely to procrastinate, as they may feel overwhelmed by their high expectations and fear of failure.


This can lead to a vicious cycle where the fear of being unable to achieve perfection leads to procrastination and even more pressure to achieve perfection.

Linking Procrastination and Perfectionism

In human psychology, procrastination and perfectionism have been found to share an intricate relationship.


Picture this: a student, eager to excel, finds themselves paralyzed by the fear of making mistakes. Their relentless pursuit of flawlessness leads them to delay completing assignments, dreading the prospect of criticism or imperfection.


Overwhelmed student rests head on a table during class

Photo | Iryna Imago/Shutterstock


Similarly, a writer, passionately devoted to their craft, hesitates to share their work, haunted by the anxiety of potential critique.


Both scenarios paint a portrait of perfectionism, interwoven with the fabric of procrastination. This nexus between the two isn't merely incidental; it's deeply ingrained within the human psyche.

The Psychology Behind the Union

Looking into the psychology of procrastination and perfectionism unveils many factors contributing to their union.


Perfectionism amplifies the fear of failure, magnifying the emotional toll of potential mistakes. This heightened emotional response catalyzes procrastination as individuals seek to evade the discomfort associated with perceived imperfection.


Moreover, pursuing perfection sets an impossibly high standard, creating a chasm between one's current state and the desired flawless outcome.


This overwhelming gap can breed a sense of hopelessness, prompting individuals to delay or abandon tasks altogether.

The Perfectionist Traits: An Exploration

Understanding the traits associated with perfectionism and its historical context sheds light on its role in procrastination.


Perfectionism isn't a modern invention; its roots dig deep into history. Ancient societies revered artisans who painstakingly crafted flawless creations.


This pursuit of excellence birthed the notion of perfectionism, albeit in different forms and under varied societal contexts.


Traits attributed to perfectionism include a pursuit of flawlessness, an intense fear of failure or criticism, and a tendency to set excessively high standards.


When intertwined with procrastination, these characteristics manifest in a cycle of avoidance driven by the fear of imperfection.

The Evolution of Perfectionism in Psychology

Perfectionism, in psychology, has undergone an evolutionary journey. Early perceptions painted perfectionism as a virtue synonymous with excellence and dedication. 


However, contemporary psychology has unraveled its darker facets, acknowledging its association with anxiety, depression, and procrastination.

Unraveling the Interplay: Four Key Exchanges

  • Emotional Amplification: Perfectionism amplifies the emotional toll of potential mistakes, fostering a fear of failure that fuels procrastination.


  • Unattainable Standards: Setting excessively high standards creates an overwhelming gap between current achievements and desired perfection, leading to procrastination as tasks appear insurmountable.


  • Psychological Impact: Perfectionism's deep-rooted fear of criticism or imperfection triggers a cycle of procrastination, where individuals delay tasks to evade associated discomfort.


  • Historical Context: From ancient societies' reverence for flawless creations to contemporary psychological insights, perfectionism's traits and historical evolution highlight its role in procrastination.

Breaking the Cycle: Practical Strategies

Acknowledging this intertwined relationship opens doors to combat procrastination fueled by perfectionism. Implementing strategies tailored to counter these tendencies can pave the way for improved productivity and mental well-being:


  • Task Switching: When stuck, switching tasks can prevent stagnation, allowing for a fresh perspective.


  • Progress Acknowledgment: Rewarding milestones achieved encourages a positive outlook and motivation to continue.


  • Optimized Schedules: Aligning tasks with personal productivity cycles enhances efficiency and focus.


  • Optimal Work Environment: Creating a conducive workspace minimizes distractions, fostering better concentration. 


  • Prioritize Rest: Ensuring adequate rest rejuvenates the mind, enhancing overall productivity.