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Thursday, December 18, 2014
Person to Person
Breaking the perfectionist-procrastination bond
By Linda Sapadin Ph.D.
Linda Sapadin Ph.D.

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.
 

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