Reduce Anxiety by Ending the Perfectionism-Procrastination-Paralysis Cycle
Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: You have a big and important task to complete, but you’re afraid you can’t do it correctly. So, you delay it. You clean your room or watch a Netflix show instead. Later that day, you find yourself feeling too anxious as you try to beat the nearing deadline for that big, crucial task.
If the scenario above often happens to you, there are three P’s that hold you back: perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis. Getting things done is difficult if you’re always stuck in that cycle. Worse, you often feel anxious and less confident about your ability to deliver quality projects promptly.
Break the perfectionism-procrastination-paralysis cycle by taking these small, actionable steps:
1. Lower the bar.
The first step to breaking that cycle is recognizing that accomplishing a task through a slow, imperfect process is normal and acceptable. It’s OK to commit mistakes along the way. Say, you’re a writer. You can’t aim for the Pulitzer Prize for every assignment. Because if you do, nothing will ever get done in time. You’d likely nitpick every sentence or paragraph you write, and you’d procrastinate and freeze once you realize your work wasn’t Pulitzer material. But in reality, you just set the bar too high. So before you dive into a new task, make a conscious decision not to be too hard on yourself, and lower the bar.
2. Break down a huge task into smaller pieces.
It’s easy to put things off if they seem too challenging to accomplish. So, why don’t you break down these huge tasks into smaller pieces? It doesn’t only make the tasks manageable. But it also leads to a great sense of accomplishment every time you cross one small task off your list. Small victories can help build momentum, making you feel more confident to tackle the next activity or step in your to-do list.
3. Track your time.
When a task seems overwhelming to complete, we often overestimate the time needed to complete it. In turn, we end up forgetting we also need time for self-care or any social activities during the day or a week. That leaves us feeling more stressed about work, which can harm our work-life balance and mental health. So what can you do? Start by tracking your time for any important task you need to accomplish.
Use the Pomodoro technique, for instance. Break down a task into smaller pieces, then choose a small part to finish in 25 minutes. Say, you’re working on a renovation project. Take on your first small task: researching epoxy wall coating solutions. Set a timer for 25 minutes and devote the entire period browsing websites and forums that offer information about wall coating. Work until the timer goes off. If another task pops into your head during that time, write it down and return to the task at hand. Once the timer rings, take a five or ten-minute break. Then, set the timer again and go back to researching or get on with a new task. After four 25-minute sessions, take a longer break to relax and socialize with others.
4. Learn to say “no.”
Sometimes, we feel the need to please everyone, even if we don’t have the time or resources to take on a project. Learn to say “no” and delegate tasks to others instead. Taking on too many responsibilities can leave you feeling overwhelmed and ending up in the perfectionism-procrastination-paralysis cycle again.
Now that we deal with too many stressors, —from the threats of the coronavirus pandemic to the challenges of remote work—we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. It’s OK to make mistakes, and it’s completely fine to say “no” to too many responsibilities. We’re all trying to survive each day, anyway.