Procrastination or a Vicious Cycle of Perfectionistic Panic

Tell me if you’ve stumbled upon this scenario before–you have a clear set task and deadline ahead of you, and you’re eager to start the project. Perhaps this is a school assignment or an extracurricular activity where you can really show your peers your skills and talents. You’re sitting at your desk, fully ready to begin your work, and then... you don’t.


That’s only for a minute, though–you had to check your email to see if a LinkedIn contact answered your request. Now that you’ve checked your email, you’re prepared to…


….scroll on Reddit! Creative inspiration strikes from your pursuit of r/JonasBrothers and r/beautyguruchatter posts, and now you’re ready to begin….


….checking Twitter. The r/beautyguruchatter post you read reminded you of a funny tweet your favorite guru posted the other day. Then, of course, you have to do a thorough analysis of what political pundits have tweeted, because after all, you really need to be a responsible constituent in today’s times.


This vicious cycle continues until it’s 4 o'clock on the day your HerCampus article is due. If this sounds anything like you, you know enough to fill a book (that you’ll never get around to writing) about procrastination.


In my case, procrastination has been a sinister presence lurking ever since my middle school days. I would get as close to deadlines as possible before beginning work so that I’d “create a diamond out of pressure” or “be in the right mindset when starting.” As a result, my work wasn’t up to my usual standards, often rushed or unpolished. At first, I chalked it up to laziness. I didn’t do the work I wanted to because I just didn’t feel like it.


In reality, laziness isn’t an accurate depiction of what I experience. My ways of procrastinating aren’t mindless but actually quite “productive.” I notice my room is suddenly spotless around exam time, and my laundry gets significantly more interesting when I have to get ready for an event. So why do I do it?


Psychologists suggest that procrastination isn’t about laziness but rather the avoidance of unpleasant emotions. “Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem,” says Dr. Tim Pycgyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa. In a study he conducted in 2013 with Dr. Fuschia Sirous of the University of Sheffield, researchers concluded that procrastination is part of the human tendency to prioritize short term management of needs rather than long term management of needs.


This closely resembles what I experience. I’ve personally always been a perfectionist, obsessing over anything I do to the point of not stopping until I’ve done it up to my increasingly impossible standards. So I procrastinate to avoid this–because then if it doesn’t turn out the way I want it to, it’s only because I procrastinated and not because of any personal failing.

    The crux of the solution, then, is to attend to the emotions that make procrastination possible. If you’re an impulsive scroller like me, block sites and apps that you’re prone to scroll through until you’re done with your work.  If you’re focused on the benefit of watching another episode of The Office, give your brain a bigger, better option (B.B.O. for short) of the benefit of finally finishing that chapter reading. If you’re not sure why you’re procrastinating, consider your most base emotions–are you hungry, tired or thirsty? Are you sad or jittery from your last cup of coffee?


Most importantly, be nice to yourself. Studies show that if you show self-compassion, you’ll actively boost motivation and self-worth, setting yourself up for success in the future. You’re not perfect and don’t have to be. You’ll mess up and procrastinate sometimes, and that’s okay. Pick yourself up and start over again. 

Now that you’ve got the tools to stop procrastinating, you can work on slowing down your scrolling. But don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t mastered this just yet—you can do that a little bit later.


Image sources: 1,2,3

See article referenced here.