Perfectionism & Procrastination: a Love Story
It might seem paradoxical at first but, believe it or not, perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand.
Let me explain:
If you are a perfectionist, chances are that simple tasks actually become quite daunting for you. For example, sending a simple email to your boss might take much bigger proportions in your mind because of your need for the email to be *perfect* before it can be sent.
And when a task seems too daunting and complicated, what's a classic reaction? You guessed it: procrastination. Procrastination in this sense is actually just a way to cope with the anxiety of potentially not being able to deliver the task at hand perfectly.
If you've recognised yourself in the above description, then working on procrastination itself won't be helpful - because perfectionism is the source of the issue.
So how to work on perfectionism? Glad you asked.
There are 2 main reasons why we tend to be perfectionists:
We have a subconscious fear that if we stop being perfectionistic then we will stop caring altogether, become sloppy and not do our job well.
We are afraid of being judged by others for our mistakes.
Let's address these one by one:
In the first case, Alice Boyes explains in her book The Healthy Mind Toolkit that: "what drives people to behave in an extreme way is the fear that, if they don't, they'll end up going too far in the other direction. For example, you overwork because you think that, if you don't, you'll somehow become someone who underworks".
To address that, we must gather evidence that the fear of flipping to the other extreme is unfounded. For example, you might want to start experimenting with releasing the perfectionistic grip on some low-profile tasks and notice that that doesn't translate in entirely abandoning your values of hard work and ambition. The more you can prove to yourself that the fear is unfounded, the easier it will be to let go of perfectionism and the less you will procrastinate!
In the second case, here's the thing: we often fear other people's judgement when we judge ourselves. We simply project onto other people what we think about ourselves! For example, when you think: "my boss will think I'm incompetent", what you are actually saying is: "I think I'm incompetent".
To start working on that, I invite you to start practicing mindfulness of the way you speak to yourself. Simply notice the thoughts that you have about yourself all day long! And when you re-read that email for the 15th time because you need it to be *perfect* otherwise you think you will be judged, remember that your harshest critic is yourself and that you could choose to be kind with yourself.
So there you have it - 2 ways to practice letting go of perfectionism and, in turn, of procrastination:
1) Prove to yourself that you won't become a slacker by gently releasing the grip on some low-profile tasks
2) Learn to be kinder to yourself
I hope this helps!