the relationship between procrastination, perfectionism, and anxiety
December 8, 2011 3:40 PM Subscribe
I think I procrastinate on projects as a dysfunctional way to manage my anxiety about them. Can you help me manage that anxiety more productively?
So recently I put together the following things: I am terrified of not doing a good enough job on most, if not all, projects (essays, applications, etc). I am a perfectionist, so I have a totally whacked-out sense of what counts as "good enough," because I never think anything I'm working on ever becomes good enough. Since I've never had any internal definitions of "good enough," I've used deadlines to create external definitions of it: if I procrastinate long enough that I have to work on something until 5 minutes before the project is due, then I tell myself I put everything I could into the project and that--therefore--counts as good enough.
I realized all of this because recently I've gotten organized enough that I've started finishing projects before the real deadline. Or rather, I finish 99% of a project before the deadline, but I can't convince my brain that it's okay to finish the last 1% of something and turn it in a week early. Working until the very last minute still feels like a sign that I worked as hard as I could on something, even though lately all that means is waiting until the last moment to fill out the appropriate forms rather than doing any more work on the substance of the project. And that's a problem because I end up burning time waiting for the deadline to approach when I could be using that time more productively to start on a new project, or spend more time with friends, etc.
I think part of the issue too is that the procrastinating gives me a convenient way to explain to myself why I get things wrong: I ran out of time. That is easier to swallow than: Sometimes I just make mistakes or don't think clearly enough about a problem.
So, how do I build an internal sense of what counts as good enough? How do I convince my brain that I have done everything I could on a particular project when I finish it before the actual deadline? How do I accept that I just get things wrong sometimes even when I'm not under time pressure?