Idaho, Iowa, Des Moines
May 4, 2024

Overcoming Perfectionism and Procrastination In the Workplace and Beyond

You’re overly ambitious, outwardly successful, and seem to have it all. But you deal with perfectionism and procrastination at work, and anxiety consumes your every waking moment. 

You’re high-functioning, so you know you can push through it, but you’re tired. You’re burned out. You’re on edge all the time. And you’re starting to feel like something’s gotta give. 

Perfectionism and procrastination are related phenomena that each fuel the other. Perfectionists are more likely to procrastinate because of the impossibly high standards they set for themselves. Likewise, the more you procrastinate, the harder you’ll be on yourself for dropping the ball. 

If you’re a high achiever with anxiety and struggle to start or finish tasks, you’re not alone. In my coaching and therapy practice, I work with millennials whose perfectionism and procrastination tendencies cause stress and burnout at work and in other areas of their lives. Understanding this workplace duo is the first step to less stress and burnout in your life. Let’s talk about it. 

Perfectionism and procrastination at work

Perfectionism and Procrastination in the Workplace

I’ve talked before about how perfectionism and procrastination are closely related. One of the main reasons is that perfectionists set impossibly high standards for themselves, which can lead to procrastination. When they don't feel like they can meet their own expectations, everything starts to feel high stakes… and so they put things off. 

Sound familiar?

In the workplace, the cycle of perfectionism and procrastination can look a lot of ways. For example, maybe you:

  • Spread yourself too thin over multiple projects
  • Stress yourself out spending an excessive amount of time on tasks, even when they are not necessary
  • Feel like you have to do everything yourself, because otherwise it won’t get done properly
  • Worry constantly about letting others down or being perceived as not good enough
  • Are afraid to make mistakes
  • Procrastinate until right before a deadline and then cram to finish everything on time
  • Feel overwhelmed by the amount of work on your plate

Both perfectionism and procrastination can lead to negative consequences at work and beyond. These include mental health problems like burnout and chronic stress and anxiety.

It also includes work-related problems (which then lead to mental health problems) such as “productive” procrastination, lower work quality, and difficulty working with others.

All of these things often bleed into the rest of your life, too, impacting your relationships, physical health, and home life. 

In a nutshell: perfectionism and procrastination impact all areas of your life: work, home, relationships, and health. 

Overcoming perfectionism and procrastination

Overcoming Perfectionism and Procrastination at Work and Beyond

Overcoming perfectionism and procrastination require challenging old beliefs and confronting fears. This is never easy: it takes dedication and a lot of practice to change old beliefs and habits. Reaching your goals requires setting more realistic goals. Luckily, the goals you set are always up to you. With patience and self-compassion, you can overcome perfectionism and procrastination. Here are some ideas you can try the next time you get caught in a perfectionism-procrastination loop. 

First, label what’s happening. 

Many of my clients are surprised to discover they don’t even recognize their perfectionist thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. Perfectionism can become so ingrained that it feels like second nature. But in order to change, you need to be aware of when it’s happening. 

Take a moment to notice your thoughts and feelings when you're stuck in the perfectionism-procrastination loop. Are you feeling anxious or frustrated with yourself? Do you sense worthlessness or avoidance creeping in? Pay attention to these signs and the way you talk to yourself. Look for any patterns that keep coming up.

Next, challenge your perfectionist assumptions.

Perfectionism says we’re worthless unless we’re perfect, and that making mistakes means you’re a failure. Mistakes are a part of life and are unavoidable, but perfectionists can’t bear the thought of making any themselves. Ask yourself what would really happen if you made a mistake. Would it truly make you any less worthy or valuable? Where did you learn that there was no room for messing up? Who are you really worried about disappointing? And if you do mess up, can you bounce back? 

Third, break the procrastination cycle. 

Sometimes, procrastination happens because you feel like you have to meet impossibly high standards. For example, maybe you're avoiding a specific work project because you know you’ll tear yourself to shreds if it feels difficult or doesn’t go smoothly. Just taking one small step can break the cycle of procrastination. Give yourself permission to start with a project outline or 15 minutes of working on it. Set a timer, and allow yourself to stop when the time's up. 

Lastly, practice being okay with uncomfortable emotions.

When you feel anxious or worthless, remind yourself that these feelings won't harm you. Take a few minutes to really sit with your emotions without trying to redirect them or push them away. Get curious about the physical sensations in your body. What do they feel like? Where are they located? Be kind to yourself and remember that it's safe to experience messy emotions.

Overcome Perfectionism and Procrastination With Therapy or Coaching

If you’re looking for help overcoming perfectionism and procrastination, consider therapy or a coaching program with me. My coaching and therapy programs, designed specifically for anxious perfectionists and overachievers, help you unlearn your perfectionist traits and become less anxious. Together, we’ll figure out what’s at the root of your perfectionism and help you work through your underlying beliefs and unhelpful habits. 

I’m here to help you:

  • Acknowledge and address underlying anxiety
  • Challenge beliefs that are keeping you stuck 
  • Redirect and reframe cognitive errors such as black-and-white thinking
  • Practice facing your fears
  • Implement healthy stress management techniques
  • Find peace in showing up exactly as you are, even when it’s less than perfect

Learn more about my therapy services (including EMDR and talk therapy) if you’re located in Idaho or Iowa. For all other locations, check out my coaching services. My coaching program offers all the same expertise, tools, and guidance as therapy in a more direct and goal-oriented approach that you can benefit from anywhere. 

Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation and see if we’re a good fit. Let’s start building a better future together. 

Meet the author

Danielle Wayne

Danielle is an anxiety therapist and perfectionism coach. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.

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Overcoming Perfectionism and Procrastination In the Workplace and Beyond

Helping millennial professionals dial down anxiety and stress, so they can perform at their best.