I Can't Be a Procastinator Because I'm a Perfectionist...
A high achieving, driven person who is constantly on the move, ticking things off my never ending list and determined to get sh*t done… No way do I procrastinate!
Or so I thought….
It wasn’t until I had a coaching call with the lovely Ria (you can find her on IG @riajackson_mindsetcoaching) where she dropped a few truth bombs on me. I'm not going to lie... it stung a little. I'd always associated procrastinating with being unmotivated, distracted and even lazy.
But the truth is I do procrastinate.
Not because I am unmotivated and don’t want to do the things that need to be done - because I do actually spend hours working on whatever task and project it is - for me I procrastinate when I hit that final hurdle. The last thing that needs to completed in order for the task to be signed off and classed as done and dusted. I do this when completing projects, publishing content and even with making simple decisions (just ask my husband, it drives him mad!).
I now know why I do this... it's because I fear that it won’t be perfect or I'll get it wrong. The perfectionist in me rears its ugly head and starts creating these imaginary scenarios where people are laughing at the typos I've made (because heaven forbid there’s a spelling mistake!!) or that I've made the wrong choice and will have to start all over again.
The only reason why I am writing this post at the moment is because I don’t want to publish a post asking for volunteers for a research call.
I’ve actually done the hard bit, which was writing and designing the content but there’s just something niggling at me that tells me it isn’t 100% perfect.
The crazy thing is… if this was someone else experiencing this I would gently talk them through it…
What’s the worse that can happen?
There’s no such thing as failures… it’s all learning opportunities
You wouldn’t want to waste your energy on the people who would judge you anyway!
But for some reason it’s not as simple when it happens to you.
Why does this happen?
Being a high achiever has its perks because you it drives you to want to do your very best but it does come with its faults. In fact, procrastination and perfectionism often go hand in hand. The fear of putting off a task for as long as possible stems from the fear of not achieving perfection and it's then internalised as a reflection of how bad or unworthy you are.
There is also that fear of failure that you think will initate criticism or ridicule either from others - oh and let's not forget that inner critic inside your very own head.
Our brains (especially the primitive part that acts under stress, overwhelm and anxiety) like to repeat the same behaviours – it’s why bad habits are so hard to break. If we procrastinated once then we're encouraged to do the same thing again and again. The more we procrastinate, the further we strengthens that ‘coping’ mechanism.
This then becomes a vicious cycle, also known as the perfectionism-procrastination loop.
When we couple procrastination with perfectionism we add that further pressure, beating ourselves up for not getting things done perfectly and on time, which causes further stress and frustration and guess what?? We end up procrastinating even more and it becomes part of our default setting. . This eats into our time, creativity and impacts our mental well-being.
So how can we break the loop?
It's not all doom and gloom though! We can break this perfectionism-procrastination loop and here are some tips you can try:
Be aware of unrealistic expectations that you are putting on yourself – assess the situation and determine what will be good enough' for you to achieve what you want and need to and set yourself a realistic goal.
Set yourself a realistic timeframe in which to complete the task - I know that I can spend forever perfecting my work, tweaking things, undoing what I've done and re-doing the same thing again and again. The truth is it makes very little difference and I'm actually taking precious time away from my other projects and even losing time doing things that I enjoy doing!
Develop self-compassion – remind yourself that you are human! Everyone makes mistakes. We can improve if we don't make them and learn from them.
Question and address your fears - write down your fears and address each of them. Have a conversation with yourself as though you were speaking with someone else – would you be as hard on them? Or would you be reassuring them that they are amazing at their job and no doubt the outcome will be fantastic.
Focus on yourself and not on others - remind yourself that no one actually cares that much about what you are doing – I don’t mean this in a nasty way because I’m sure your nearest and dearest do care but people are so busy wrapped up in their own problems that they won’t have time to judge your performance down to every little detail.
Remind yourself of your previous successes – when we think of previous achievements it gives us boost of feel good chemicals which help us feel happy and able to cope. You've done it once (and no doubt did a fab job at it!) so you'll be able to do it again.
Eliminate distractions – if you know you’re always tempted to scroll through Facebook to avoid doing work then leave your phone in the another room.
Get support from others – whether that’s friends, family or work colleagues. I find having someone to hold me accountable helps as I’m not someone who likes to go back on my word. I'll let my 'accountability buddy' know what I'm going to do and when I'll do it by, which stops me spending more time than I need to on the task.
Or it may be that you wish to talk with a professional about your concerns. Different therapies work in different ways but a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist can help you reframe your negative thoughts and direct your focus onto what you deem to be a priority.
So with all that said... I've done enough procrastinating for one day and I’m off now to go post that damn post (only after I’ve read it through again for typos… but only once I promise!)
Feel like you need some support getting out of that perfectionism-procrastination loop? Get in touch using the button below.