The Seven Stages of Procrastination | BU Today | Boston University

Procrastinating is nothing more than someone acting out their fear of failure. For a perfectionist, this act takes twice as long as everyone else. That’s because perfection does not exist and if it does humans don’t have access to it. But also because perfectionists only go after extremely dense and intricate goals with a thousand moving parts. How can perfectionists finally tackle their ambitious goals without becoming martyrs or hurting themselves?

1st Solution: Stop Overcommitting

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Unless a small group of employees chases after you five days a week, it’s unlikely that you will successfully: work out, wake up at six am, be a full-time student, have a side hustle, have a full-time job, be a mother of three, get drinks with your friends, buy a house, monitor the stock market, travel. It’s just TOO MUCH, and, it is not as easy as some people make it out to be.

Between online personalities like Gary Vee and the Grant Cordones of the world…

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to the opposite end of the self-help spectrum with extreme “that girl” aesthetics promoting labor-intense self-care rituals.

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Yes, you deserve everything you’ve ever dreamed of, however, you can have it all but not all at once. Life is full of tradeoffs that don’t feel fair.


Commit to doing a few things well, and work to make incremental strides there before you just keep piling extracurriculars unto your plate. Extracurriculars that aren’t even valuable to you for anything but for the sake of flexing. Make smart goals!

2nd Solution: Assess your Emotional Bandwidth

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Alright here’s goes the big word I learned in therapy. Emotional Bandwidth is exactly what it sounds like it describes your ability effectively solve problems while they tug at you emotionally. If you are prioritizing an emotionally draining situation, your procrastination could be a devil in disguise. This draining task could be caring for a sick loved one, an overwhelming work deadline, an ongoing disagreement with your spouse, or a court hearing. Procrastination chimes in as a way to protect you from burning out.  To prevent you from adding more responsibilities to your plate that you can’t manage right now and you can’t endure any more emotional harm. 

Take a step back and ask yourself is there a way I can take some things off of my plate so that I can focus on prioritizing some of my other goals. See if there’s a way you can delegate some of your responsibilities, talk with a therapist/spiritual advisor, or take a break.

Are you actually procrastinating or just putting too much pressure on yourself?   

Is your environment optimized for you to succeed, or is emotionally draining you? 

The best way to create habits and create as little friction as possible.

3rd Solution: Self Sabotage and Imposter Syndrome

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For perfectionists tackling their self-image makes all the difference when they’re trying to stop procrastination.  Imposter syndrome and Self Sabotage are two things that can lead habitual procrastinators into an unhappy rut. If you do not believe you’re deserving of perfection you won’t act on it. If you don’t like the person you face in the mirror why would you do something nice for them by working hard towards their goals?

The first thing we can do is patch up our self-esteem by exposing ourselves to our own successes. This idea is from the hidden brain podcast. In the episode about self-doubt, Shankar Vedantam has guest Psychologist Kevin Cokley describe feeling like an imposter among his colleagues. To combat his own feelings he googles himself as a type of exposure theory. This allows him to see his accomplishments and build the case against his own inner critic that he deserves to occupy space here.

Something they recommended on the show is to keep a notebook of your “work wins”. Remember the day everyone called out, the dinner rush was crazy, but you somehow kept up with your tables and got shoutouts from the customers. WRITE THAT DOWN. Write down the moments in your life at home, at school, when the wifi was down, or you ran out of storage but manage to hold shit down and adapt on the fly.

fear of failing is what holds talented people back from realizing their goals. Developing more self-esteem can help combat procrastination before it starts.

4th Solution: Forgivness

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Give yourself some grace. This is your first time in this body, this year, on this day. You live every single day of your life for the first time. Allow yourself space to learn and recover from your mistakes. Every day is a new opportunity to move the dial a little bit forward.

Incremental Progress is still Progress!

You can stress that you have a thousand things to do and that you waited till the last minute again. But you did it. It wasn’t perfect, and if you never learn to stop shaming yourself for being “less than”. Your entire life will be lost in supposed hierarchies that don’t mean anything. Focus on achieving the process and less about getting to a result. The result isn’t something you have control over. But showing up every day for your goals in whatever way is attainable for you at that moment, is where the real magic lies.


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To my perfectionists out there trading in productivity for a reason to be nice to themselves, it has got to stop. Stop treating your body like an undervalued employee. Your soul will not thrive in an environment that makes complete oversight after oversight of its contribution towards the good in your life. Take a break from time to time. Take inventory of the situation and the people you’re involved with are they draining you?  Remember that you are capable. No matter how to cards are stacked against you. Dont listen to any of the noise, keep going.  Perfectionists procrastinate because of low self-esteem, and bad relationships with themselves. When perfectionists remove their ego from the outcome shit gets done. 



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