Do you find yourself putting off tasks until the last minute, despite your best intentions to get them done early?
You’re not alone! Procrastination affects people of all ages, backgrounds and professions, but is it linked to perfectionism?
Procrastination is a common behaviour that affects people of all ages and backgrounds. Many people believe procrastination is the result of laziness or lack of motivation, but recent research suggests that the act of procrastination can be tied to perfectionism.
According to a study published in the Journal of Counselling Psychology, there is indeed a connection between the two. The study found that individuals with higher levels of perfectionism tendencies were more likely to procrastinate, often due to a fear of failure or imperfection.
“Perfectionism can be a double-edged sword,” said Dr Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago who specialises in procrastination. “On the one hand, it can motivate individuals to strive for excellence in their work. On the other hand, it can lead to rigid and inflexible thinking, which can make it challenging to get started on tasks or complete them efficiently.”
Ferrari adds that people who procrastinate due to perfectionism often set unrealistically high standards for themselves, which can result in feelings of stress and anxiety when they can’t meet those expectations. This can lead to a cycle of avoidance and procrastination, where individuals put off tasks to avoid those uncomfortable feelings.
Another expert in the field echoes the same sentiment claiming, “The fear of imperfection can be paralysing," said Dr Fuschia Sirois, a psychologist at the University of Sheffield in the UK, who studies self-regulation and well-being. ”When people are afraid of making mistakes or receiving criticism, they may avoid tasks altogether or delay them until the last minute.”
Sirois notes that while some procrastination can be normal and harmless, excessive procrastination can have a negative impact on mental health, well-being, and productivity. Therefore, it’s essential to find ways to break the cycle of procrastination and perfectionism.
According to a study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, individuals who procrastinate often fear the inability to complete a task perfectly, leading to delay or avoidance. The study found that perfectionists were more likely to procrastinate than non-perfectionists, as they set extremely high standards for themselves and fear failure.
Sirois further adds procrastination is often a maladaptive coping strategy that people use to deal with the stress and anxiety associated with perfectionism.
However, not all experts agree that procrastination is solely tied to perfectionism. Dr Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, argues that procrastination is a complex behaviour influenced by a variety of factors, such as impulsivity, distractibility, and lack of self-regulation.
“Procrastination is not just about fear of failure or perfectionism. It’s also about our ability to manage our emotions, prioritise our goals, and resist temptation,” Pychyl explained.
He suggests that individuals who struggle with procrastination should focus on developing better self-regulation skills, such as setting clear goals; breaking tasks into smaller steps; and avoiding distractions.
While the act of procrastination can be tied to perfectionism, it is a complex behaviour influenced by a variety of factors. Experts suggest that individuals who struggle with procrastination should focus on developing better self-regulation skills, and seek help if necessary.
By understanding the root causes of procrastination and developing effective strategies to overcome it, individuals can improve their productivity, reduce stress, and achieve their goals.
One helpful strategy is to reframe your mindset around productivity. For example, instead of focusing on being perfect, aim to simply make progress towards your goals. This can help reduce the pressure to be perfect and make it easier to get started on tasks.
Moreover, another strategy is to seek support from a therapist or counsellor who specialises in procrastination. They can help you identify underlying thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to procrastination and develop strategies to overcome them.
Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.