Procrastination and Perfectionism

There is a vicious cycle between procrastination and perfectionism. 

The more Elise believed that she can only feel good about herself based on how well she did in her studies, and believed that she had to do tasks perfectly, the more she procrastinated. Because of her procrastination, she tended to make careless mistakes or hand in her work late,  increasing her belief that she was a failure and had to work harder. However, these high standards made her feel stressed and put off doing her work for fear of failure.

Here are more examples of the vicious cycle between procrastination and perfectionism:


Perfectionism area Perfectionist thoughts Procrastination behaviours How procrastination keeps going by increasing perfectionism
Studies “I will not be able to write essays to an excellent standard" Delay writing essays Go through texts multiple time Call up friends Arrange table, clean room Not handing essays in The more she procrastinated, the less time she had to do essays, thus not doing them to the standard she would like, which increased her belief in her prediction that she would not produce essays to an excellent standard, and made her more likely to procrastinate again.
Cleaning “I will not be able to get my room perfectly neat and tidy, so I might as well not start cleaning” Put off cleaning until the room becomes very messy The more she put off cleaning, the more she believed her prediction that she would not be able to clean it to her standard, and this made her keep procrastinating


The next step toward overcoming procrastination is to consider the + and - of putting things off and the effect it has on you. 

Often people put things off because they feel some benefit for it, for example lesser anxiety; but if you have a closer look, you may find that they are not benefits at all, or that they are very short-lived benefits that result in greater costs in the long run.

For example, while anxiety may reduce in the short term, procrastination increases anxiety over a delayed task and shortens the time left to do it well. This might reduce your performance once the task begins and you can feel overwhelmed. Use this worksheet to examine what procrastination is costing you.


+ of procrastination - of procrastination Challenge the benefits: Is it really true that these are benefits? What is the impact of these benefits in the longer term?
Example: Reduces my anxiety Example: Feel like I am failing because tasks are building up Example: Procrastination only reduces my anxiety for a short period, and after I have been procrastinating I feel more anxious than before, so it actually increases rather than reduces my anxiety.