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Procrastination-Busting Strategies for Perfectionists

Procrastination-Busting Strategies for PerfectionistsSometimes traits that we think do not go together actually do. Perfectionism and procrastination are one of those unlikely duos.

Most people picture procrastinators as lazy folks who don’t care 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 — also is 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.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 allow 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. (Perfectionists usually take longer to do things, for obvious reasons). 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.


Woman procrastinating photo available from Shutterstock

Procrastination-Busting Strategies for Perfectionists

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

Dr. Linda Sapadin, psychologist, success coach and author is proud to announce the publication of her new book, Overcoming Your Procrastination: College Student Edition – Advice for 6 Personality Styles available on Amazon. Now more than ever with remote learning, this book is a must-have. If you’re a perfectionist, dreamer, worrier, crisis-maker, defier or please, grab your copy. No longer a student? Get my book How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age – 6 Change Programs for 6 Personality Styles. Visit to subscribe to my free e-newsletter. Contact her at

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APA Reference
Sapadin, L. (2018). Procrastination-Busting Strategies for Perfectionists. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 20 Feb 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.