Perfectionism is Really Just Procrastination

Let’s explore how perfectionism is really just another form of procrastination. If you continue finding yourself locked into being a perfectionist, it will waste a lot of your time and energy. At a certain extent, the more energy you put into making something perfect, the less real productivity you’ll experience.

Everyone has some measure of perfectionism within them. We set our own high goals and then push ourselves to achieve them. We have high personal standards and integrity, and that always makes us want to do our best.

This dedication to perfection helps us get the results we want and enjoy the success that comes with achieving our goals. But perfectionism, in an extreme sense, has more negative repercussions than positive results.

Some examples of how perfectionism aids procrastination:

  1. Less Efficiency – Sometimes good enough really is good enough. When you’ve completed a given task, but then continued tinkering around to improve one thing or another, you’ll lose ten minutes… then an hour, etc. This leads to overthinking things to a point where very little additional work gets accomplished.
  2. Less Effectiveness – Again with the overthinking. You add small details without stopping to think about whether you need them or not. The project you’re working on may not receive any additional value from your additions. In fact, it may ruin the project or make it less effective. We’ve all experienced a too-cluttered website or a presentation with too much random information packed into a slide. A good rule of thumb is: simple is better.
  3. The “Perfect” Moment – Here’s a tip: there is no perfect moment. It’s not going to come, so the best you can do it get to work on your tasks right now. You can’t wait until you feel like it, or until all the planets align… just do it! This is a big way that procrastination and perfectionism work against you in tandem.
  4. Missing the Forest for the Trees – You can often only see the details, and miss the impact of the larger picture and eventual completion of the goal. You work on smaller details at the expense of the whole project. And when nothing gets done, even though you’ve been “busy”, you wonder what went wrong. Try looking at the overall bigger picture, and achieve a balance between the big picture and the details.
  5. Creating Nonexistent Problems – Worrying about things that really aren’t problems at all is a great way to waste your valuable mental energy. And, it can create an unhealthy diversion from away from the real tasks at hand. It’s a typical procrastination problem and an unhealthy one!
  6. Don’t just take my word for it – it’s science!
    We are probably all familiar with what a bell curve is and looks like.

Math shows perfectionism can turn into procrastination.

A bell curve is commonly divided into standard deviations. There are 3+ standard deviations in each curve, where each standard deviation takes the same amount of time/energy to accomplish.
So, in order to reach 70% it’s 1 standard deviation, from 70% up to 95% is the 2nd standard deviation; and the 3rd only brings you brings you from 95% to 99.7%.

With that knowledge, we can see that it will take us the exact same amount of time to get 3 products/offers to 70% completion, as it will to bring 1 product to 99.7% completion. Nothing will ever actually reach 100% complete. There will always be something you can do differently.

This is why many large companies, like Microsoft or Apple, have been shown launching products at that 70% point, and then making additional refinements and updates as they learn of different bugs or issues. I’m sure you can see why they may take this strategy!

Now, surprisingly, we’re not saying that you should stop being a perfectionist. But you should, however, be aware of when your perfectionist tendencies go overboard. Keep tabs on yourself so you can be honest when you are instead procrastinating by using the excuse of wanting to make something perfect.

Always keep a balance between perfection and productivity, and procrastination will become a thing of the past! This starts by increasing your awareness and empowering your mind. This free course is a great place to start. You may also enjoy this blog post on the power of focus.