The Truth about Perfectionism and How to Overcome Procrastination

The truth about perfectionism and how to overcome it Perfectionism is not excellence, it is procrastination based in fear.

What are you waiting for?

Are you waiting for the time to be right?

Are you waiting for the moment you feel you have all of the puzzle pieces?

Are you waiting for the phase when you have enough uninterrupted time?

Are you waiting until you feel like it?

Or are you going to keep waiting, all the while feeling bad about not doing anything?

When you chase perfection, you set yourself up for disappointment, and all too easily it is used as a form of procrastination. (Tweet it!)

There’s never a perfect moment that you will feel completely ready.

No one feels completely capable and has unlimited funds, time and energy to achieve their goals. And everyone is terrified of failure, looking foolish, and letting others down. 

It’s not about waiting for the time to be right. It’s about taking action because your vision is worth it. (Tweet it!)

Today I want to share with you 5 ways to curb perfectionism

1. Do something.

And if it is not perfect, focus on the fact that you actually took action. The crucial step in breaking the cycle of perfectionism is to simply start doing things and be gentle to your yourself in the process.

Perfectionism2. Re-examine your standards.

My guess is that you are overly critical of yourself. Do this exercise often- pretend your friend is asking your opinion about his performance at a certain task or her project results. What would you say? I bet if your same results or performance where someone else’s you would not be so critical.

3. Look at the big picture.

Ask yourself if what you’re worry about really matters. Will it matter next week, next month, next year? Probably not. So criticizing yourself over the situation won’t help you either.

This is also a great way to look at tasks and judge if they are important. Because we want things done perfectly, even small tasks that aren’t important can get treated like critical matters we must attend to. Ask yourself, “Is this really that important?” if not, let it slide.

4. Share your works in progress.

Yep, that’s right. Share the drafts that have mistakes and typos, just make sure it says DRAFT. Consider this therapy that will help you fight the urge to make everything perfect before anyone sees it.

Just two weeks ago, my draft of  ‘30 mistakes entrepreneurs make‘ was published and I didn’t notice for hours. When I did, I published the most recent version in WordPress and all my typos and unfinished sentences disappeared. Of course, when I noticed what happened the room started spinning and I was tempted to change my name and run away. Guess what? It’s over. I survived and it doesn’t matter. I had to just let it slide.

5. Set more realistic goals.

Instead of having the goal of  ‘I will write a NYT bestseller” and then getting overwhelmed with the big dream and freezing up, I work with my clients to break down the big dream into manageable steps. When looking at your big dreams, reverse engineer them and define what you need to do at each stage to achieve your goals.

Often I lead my clients through a process of defining large goals and breaking them down into weekly action steps. I do not give huge overviews of all the concepts and strategies we will tackle ahead of time because that can trigger an onslaught of worry and overwhelm and can risk the business owner getting frozen anticipating so much work in her future.

6. Break the addiction to comparing yourself to others.

From a psychological standpoint, people compare their lives to those of others, leading to unhappiness, jealousy and envy. Dan Ariely describes this in his brilliant book, “Predictably Irrational” with “the more we have, the more we want.” Instead of focusing on the success and seemingly perfect life of someone else, focus on what gives you joy, what you feel proud of and makes you feel content in your work.

Side note- This is yet another reason to stay off Facebook. Don’t compare your real life to anyone else’s curated image of life.

7. Do a gut check.

Ask yourself daily. “Am I striving for excellence or demanding perfection?” Excellence is a worthy goal that energizes and inspires, perfectionism wraps us in guilt and ends progress.

(Tweet this) Ask yourself “Am I striving for excellence or demanding perfection?” #PerfectionismLies

Ending the cycle of being unreasonable hard on yourself is a process. As a perfectionist, you may be tempted to write a to-do list that looks like this:

Perfectionist, how to overcome perfectionism


Work these steps into your life. Here are some ways that have worked well for entrepreneurs I’ve worked with:

1. Write the above questions and tips out on a note card or sticky note where you will see it often.

2. Set a reminder to check in with yourself daily and ask, “Am I focusing on the 20% that provides 80% of benefit or am I trying to make the details perfect?”

3. Team up with a fellow recovering perfectionist and share drafts with typos and share examples that will help you re-examine your standards.

4. Break down big goals into manageable sections. Each quarter, each month and each define what needs to be done. This will keep you focused on constant progress and decrease feelings of overwhelm.

Last point.

Do not bookmark this post (like a gazillion others) and think you will read it later when you have time. Make the time to invest in yourself to stop the cycle.

Print this, make notes, and set some reminders to keep you focused on progress and not perfection.

Now, take a deep breath and start taking action. Every masterpiece started out messy. (Tweet it!)


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  • Melanie Sheridan

    This is me to a T.

  • Alli Worthington

    It’s a huge part of the world. The problem is we are all human. :)

  • Laughlinl

    Oh, how I resemble these remarks :)

  • lucrecer

    I admit perfection, or the illusive pursuit of it, has stopped me from moving forward many times. Not anymore. Even small steps of action are better than none.

  • Alli Worthington

    Do it, Lu!!!

  • Carol Jones

    Shut Up. You don’t know me.

  • Alli Worthington


  • Mandy Boles


    My name is Mandy and I am a procrastinating perfectionist. I can relate to SO much in this post…

  • Ellen Delap

    Love this! I would add this tip. Think about the smallest, shortest, easiest step you can take and do it. You will be amazed at how LITTLE time it took!

  • Karen Main

    I continue to get caught up in the details, every single tiny little one. Letting go and knowing it is great, really great is an on going challenge for me,

  • Melissa AuClair

    Great article Alli- thanks. Your point, “am I focusing on the 20% of activites that provide 80% of the benefits.” I think I need to dig deeper in to this!

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