Person to Person

Breaking the perfectionist-procrastination bond


It’s often true that traits that we think do not go together, somehow do. Perfectionism and procrastination is one of those strange bedfellows.

Most people picture procrastinators as lazy folks who don’t give a damn about doing things in a timely manner. If you’re a perfectionist, however, you know that’s not you. You care. You have high standards. You expect a lot, maybe too much, from yourself.

Then, how come you have a tendency to put things off? It doesn’t make sense, But in a twisted kind of way, it does. Here’s why: The same attribute that is your strength (your desire to do things perfectly) is also your nemesis.

It’s tough to start a task when you perceive it as a humongous, time-consuming undertaking.

It’s tough to complete a task when it doesn’t satisfy your high standards or the high expectations that you believe others have of you.

It’s tough when in the middle of a task, you still see no light at the end of the tunnel, despite all the work you put into the project.

Being a perfectionist does not inoculate you from procrastination. Indeed, it can actually fuel it. However, you do not need to be helpless in the face of your tendency to put things off. Instead, learn to tweak those traits that work against you. Here are three ways to do so:

1. Tweak Your Thinking by NOT Always Doing Your Best

As kids, many perfectionists were taught to “always do your best.” Sounds like a good notion, but it’s impractical and unrealistic. Given the limited time, energy and resources of our busy lives, you simply can’t do your best in everything you do. So, think it through and prioritize.

  If a task isn’t important to you, just get it done in a run-of-the-mill manner so as to get it out of the way.

  If a specific project represents something important to you, put extra effort into it to get it done well.

If it’s an undertaking that you pride yourself on, then certainly “do your best.” Even then, however, it’s better to strive for excellence than outright perfection.


2. Tweak Your Speaking by Changing “Shoulds” to “Coulds”

 The word “should” connotes the “right” way to do something. As a perfectionist, you’ve probably adopted a whole bunch of harsh and burdensome “shoulds,” making you feel more encumbered than empowered. Eventually, you may come to believe that you have no choice in much of what you do. Rather than spurring you on to higher achievement, an abundance of “shoulds” drains your energy. Hence, try substituting the word “could” for “should.” When you do, you’ll notice yourself feeling more empowered. Why? Because “could” carries the mature message that you have the right, capacity and obligation to make choices about what you’ll take care of in any given day.

3. Tweak Your Actions by Creating a Time Limit for Completing a Task

Time is finite. We each have 24 hours in a day to get things done. A hefty number of those hours are spent sleeping, grooming, working and getting to where we’re going. Include social media and digital correspondence and you’ll find that there’s only a limited amount of time left over for other tasks. So, to guarantee that you appropriate sufficient time for projects you’ve been putting off, write out a “time budget” for those tasks. To determine how much time a task will take, reflect on your past experiences. Then allow yourself 20 percent more time to deal with unexpected developments. If you’re not keeping up with your time budget it, tweak it, don’t drop it.

Looking for more ideas on how to squash your procrastination habit before it squashes your future? Check out my latest e-book, PROCRASTINATION BUSTING STRATEGIES for PERFECTIONISTS on Amazon. As an introductory offer, it’s FREE for Amazon Prime members and only $2.99 for others. Can’t do better than that!

Copyright 2013

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach who specializes in helping people overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. Contact her at or at