What is the Perfection - Procrastination Loop?
What is the root of procrastination? One leading theory is it's really perfectionism in disguise. What do you believe?
Let me share a common coaching scenario with you that entails a client who has presented an issue in a coaching session that revolves around the challenge of being in the perfectionist – procrastination loop. They identify how this has affected their ability to move forward in their career by delaying deadlines and completing business projects.
Does this sound familiar to anyone?
So, here’s the truth about it, and some exercises you can do daily to fight off the “perfectionist ninja,” whose standards are so high, even a Cirque du Soleil tightrope performer would likely think twice. Nor forget, of course, the sloth procrastinator, that frankly hasn’t anything better to do than hang out in your head.
On a regular day, these clients can be checklist kings or queens in life and take great pride in working swiftly to complete many tasks at once. Yet, on occasion, even this satisfaction isn’t enough to motivate them to finish a looming project.
Recently, I coached a client with this challenge. We worked through a series of thought-experiments and discovered that their behavior likely stemmed from a place in their past. Without getting too far into the weeds, we talked about the overall results of this behavior and how they could combat it by being overtly aware of when these behaviors popped up. From this new awareness, they could begin to challenge their behavior going forward.
It was an incredibly eye-opening idea that this mindset had been built on many years of false assumptions. For example, the rationale that although they leaned heavily toward being an action-oriented person, in reality, they had a short attention span and patience, which demanded they saw quick results. So, when things didn’t go their way, or if they thought they could short-cut a task and move it into the fast lane, it was actually causing them to have mistakes, which invariably caused undue stress.
The truth is that if they had spent a little more time working on the task, it would’ve caused them to finish their project more thoroughly and left them with a greater sense of satisfaction. Had they known to look out for this behavior by having a conscious awareness of their habit, the only thing they’d be short-cutting was the “perfectionist” tendency, aka dis-satisfaction with their performance.
The relationship with procrastination is an interesting one because initially, we think that it’s connected to a “perfectionist ninja,” but in reality, everyone procrastinates. Neuroscience researchers say it may even be a way for your brain to process complex information, especially if it’s an enormous task with many moving parts. Through coaching, we can understand that there are tangible things that can be done to make yourself more aware of the subconscious need to process thoughts and remove the judgment around that feeling.
Yes, things do have to get done in a specific time frame, that’s life, but sometimes what looks like a perfectionist – procrastination loop, may actually be a matter of a person facing a very large task. One that may need more time for the individual to mentally process to find the right approach so that they don’t jump ahead and skip over strategic details, details which invariably leave the door open for the perfectionist to come in and criticize the outcome.
There is not a single “right” solution for everyone to accommodate this new awareness. Meaning, for me, a thought journal may work, but for someone else, a sticky note they can glance at to keep them aware, or perhaps even a toy ninja in your office, maybe the right solution. What I can say confidently is that this stressful situation is not an island your brain has to live on by it’s-self and that it can be reasonably simple to step out of the perfection – procrastination loop with a little awareness and the right coach.