15 Tools to Beat the Perfectionism βœ¨πŸ’―βœ¨ Procrastination Cycle

beatperfectionism beatprocrastination bestselfdoubt neuroscience Apr 20, 2023
Beat Procrastination and Perfectionism

Procrastination and perfectionism are two common obstacles that prevent us from reaching our goals, which ultimately impacts our confidence levels.  

The less success we have, the less evidence our brain sees that we should believe we are confident, so our confidence reduces.  

But don’t worry!  I see this a lot in the Executive Coaching I run from across my clients - you are not alone.  Here’s the what, why and 15 great tips to beat procrastination and perfectionism....
The What:

  • Procrastination is the act of unnecessarily, postponing decisions, or actions.
  • Perfectionism is the need to be, or appear to be perfect, or even believe it’s possible to achieve perfection

The thing is that they are often a vicious cycle: perfectionism can lead to procrastination and vice versa.

"Perfectionism is procrastination, masking as quality control”

The Why:

So what happens?  Maybe we say unrealistic standards to start off with which means then we have a fear of failure. That fear of failure drives avoidance of dealing with the issue (procrastination) which subsequently leads to guilt, stress and additional cognitive bandwidth. This can lead to self-criticism, leading to even more perfectionism and unrealistic standards, and so the cycle continues.
Ultimately, there is a greater drive for us to delay then there is a drive for us to act. And why is that?
It may be one of a few things:

 • Fear of failure 😨

 • Fear of judgement πŸ‘€

 • Lack of control, meaning we’re scared to act 😣

 • Inability to create a mental map which are brain needs to see the journey πŸ—ΊοΈ

 • A lack of social commitment, so we don’t have any kind of positive peer pressure to pushes towards it 😢‍🌫️

 • Chronic stress which can lead to mental fatigue and therefore less resources for us to think clearly about the problem we need to solve 

 • And enlarged amygdala due to greater anxiety and stress, which means we are less likely to focus on the task 🧠

In fact, when we look at the brain, the amygdala, which acts like a smoke detector and deals with motivation and emotion, is always looking out for threat.  At any point in time, information is taken from the limbic system through to the prefrontal cortex (to judge the next action intelligently) so that information should be effectively filtered to keep us on task.  If that filter isn’t working properly and we have excess activity in our amygdala, then decision-making and task management can suffer.  The amygdala is found to be larger in chronic procrastinators.
Another key driver is dopamine levels.   Dopamine is like a propeller driving us forward towards what we want, so

If you’re going to feel motivated at all, we have to have a healthy level of baseline dopamine in our system. 

If we have used up our dopamine, it takes time, effort, good sleep, nutrition, exercise, and even cold water immersion to help us replenish it.
Here are 15 other great Executive Coaching practical tools to beat procrastination and perfectionism:

  1.  Start with the hardest task first, in the morning (you have more neurochemicals associated with action)
  2.  Take one step. Even if REALLY TINY. 🚢‍♀️
  3.  Decrease the Activation Energy - make it easy to start e.g. by putting out your gym clothes 🎽
  4.  Create a to-do list and set specific deadlines πŸ“ƒ
  5.  Use time-management techniques e.g. time blocking ⏰
  6.  Eliminate distractions 🧭
  7.  Increase your energy e.g. by taking necessary breaks πŸ’†‍♀️
  8.  Identify and address your fears - what advice would you give to a friend? πŸ€”
  9.  Improve your environment e.g. adding goal reminders, run streaks 🎯
  10.  Pick your "Champagne Moments" (don't try and be perfect all the time, just when its needed πŸ₯‚
  11.  Develop self-efficacy by reflecting on your successes every week - write them down πŸ₯³
  12.  Develop self-compassion - everyone makes mistakes! 
  13.  Don't strive for perfection, focus on progress and the positives of what you have done
  14.  Reward yourself after completing each step to release dopamine & reinforce positive behaviour.
  15.  Adopt a Growth Mindset - celebrate the effort of the process, not just the result.  Make the friction the reward by focusing on what you are learning, how you are growing by going through the struggle.  🌱 

Which one can you try today?  I'd love to hear how you go!  Hit reply and let me know...

Best wishes


Do It Today: Overcome Procrastination, Improve Productivity, and Achieve More Meaningful Things, Darius Foroux
Atomic Habits, James Clear
Leverage Dopamine to Overcome Procrastination & Optimize Effort | Huberman Lab Podcast



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