Do You Suffer From Perfectionism or Procrastination? Read This.

Do You Suffer From Perfectionism or Procrastination? Read This.

By Megan Dalla-Camina, Women Rising Founder & CEO

Perfectionism and procrastination are two sides of the same coin. Perfectionism tends to fall into two categories: excellence-seeking or failure-avoiding. If you’re an excellence-seeking perfectionist, you fixate on excessively high standards and put unnecessary pressure on yourself to go above and beyond to achieve flawless results. If you're a failure-avoiding perfectionist, you may find that you struggle with procrastination because, whether consciously or not, you attempt to avoid tasks that may not meet your unrealistic expectations.

For many people, this combination of perfectionism and procrastination can lead to roadblocks that hinder success and progress. Research has shown that both perfectionism and procrastination can have significant negative impacts on your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Setting the bar too high, working too hard, and striving to achieve an unattainable standard is incredibly exhausting, and it’s only a matter of time before this reaches a point where you can no longer bear it. Perfectionism leads to high amounts of stress to get things exactly as you want them, and similarly procrastination leads to increased stress as you continue to put off a task whilst the deadline approaches.

Very often the build up of stress caused by these behaviours can also lead to burnout. We know from our 2023 research, that a shocking 81% of women have experienced increased levels of stress in the past 18 months and 78% have felt burnt out. If you are one of these women, it’s worth reflecting on whether perfectionism or procrastination (or both) have been part of the mix of factors causing this increased stress.

Research also shows that perfectionism is associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression, while procrastination can lead to decreased productivity. In addition, the combination of these two traits can lead to a vicious cycle of self-criticism, self-doubt, and negative self-talk that can further erode confidence and self-esteem. We know that 61% of the women we surveyed say their own inner critic and self-doubt undermines their confidence and is their biggest challenge when it comes to career success.

Perfectionism is also a behaviour that stops us from being vulnerable and showing up authentically in our lives and in our careers, which impacts our ability to connect with others. As researcher Dr. Brené Brown has found in her work, perfectionism is a type of armour we wear in an attempt to protect ourselves from blame, judgement and shame. It is the false belief that if we do everything perfectly, we can avoid these uncomfortable feelings.

So, how can we break free from the cycle of perfectionism and procrastination and achieve success on our own terms?

HERE ARE SOME STRATEGIES THAT CAN HELP:

  1. Set realistic goals

Instead of aiming for perfection, set achievable goals that challenge you without being overwhelming. Break larger goals into smaller, more manageable steps that you can work on every day.

  1. Use a timer

Set a timer for a specific amount of time and focus on working on one task during that time period. This can help you overcome the tendency to procrastinate by breaking down tasks into more manageable chunks.

  1. Practice self-compassion

Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, even when things don't go according to plan. Accept your imperfections and give yourself permission to make mistakes.

  1. Embrace imperfect action

Recognise that taking action, even imperfect action, is better than doing nothing at all. Don't let fear of failure prevent you from taking risks and pursuing new opportunities.

  1. Embrace a growth mindset

When you’re in a growth mindset, you are focused on the experience, not the outcome. If you get negative feedback, or if you fail, you know that it's part of the learning that comes with progressing in your career.

  1. Seek support

Surround yourself with a supportive community of friends, family, or colleagues who can offer encouragement and guidance. Consider seeking professional support from a therapist or coach if you are struggling with perfectionism and procrastination and can’t overcome it on your own.

  1. Prioritise self-care

Make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones. Schedule regular self-care activities into your calendar to help reduce stress and improve mental health.

TIPS FOR LEADERS: EMPOWERING WOMEN TO OVERCOME PERFECTIONISM AND PROCRASTINATION:

Cultivate a Growth Mindset Culture:

  • Encourage a culture that values learning and growth over perfection.
  • Highlight the importance of taking action and learning from mistakes.
  • Share personal stories of challenges and failures that led to growth.

Set Realistic Expectations and Goals:

  • Collaborate with each individual to set achievable goals and expectations.
  • Help women break tasks into manageable steps to reduce overwhelm.
  • Celebrate progress and milestones, reinforcing the value of incremental achievements.

Promote Positive Self-Talk and Self-Compassion:

  • Encourage women to recognise and challenge their inner critic.
  • Promote self-compassion as a way to counteract perfectionist tendencies.
  • Lead by example in how you communicate with yourself and others.

Foster a Supportive Environment:

  • Create an open dialogue about challenges related to perfectionism and procrastination.
  • Offer mentorship and peer support for sharing experiences and strategies.
  • Regularly check in on workloads and offer assistance when needed.

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