Procrastination and Perfectionism INTRODUCTION

Procrastination and Perfectionism


Dawson Trotman the founder of well-known NGO called The Navigators, once said: “The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started”. (Trotman, 2018)
In a particular phase of life we humans have faced procrastination i.e. delaying things or leaving things till the last moment, and this could be due to various psychological interdependencies. Academic procrastination amongst all is the most common type among college students, certain estimates show that about 50-80% college students tend to procrastinate. Perfectionism is related to psychopathological activities, having negative outcomes like procrastination. (Benson, 2003) The following report is going to present a correlation between procrastination and perfectionism.

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Procrastination is the phenomenon of delaying important tasks in hand for tasks that are easier, enjoyable and less important. According to Piers Steel a speaker and researcher, 95% of population procrastinates to some degree. (team, 2018)
Procrastination as seen through stats is increasing almost every year, making it a rapid phenomenon among all type of people but generally found more in university students as mentioned earlier.

Academic procrastination:

This procrastination is related to delaying academic tasks like preparing for exams or projects till the last minute for attaining temporary comfort and out of fear of making errors. (Daniel E. Gustavson, 2017)
Students nowadays pay more attention in looking for an easy escape from all situations which is why they delay their important work and this leads to procrastination. Different studies show that academic procrastination comes from lack of goal management skills. Students have high self efficacy and set high level and unrealistic goals which makes it difficult for them to achieve such goals and hence they start delaying in starting or finishing the entire task itself.

Self Efficacy- This can be defined as an individual’s belief in their own abilities. Many psychologists consider self efficacy to be an essential element for achieving success. For an individual it is very important to ensure they pay enough attention to their self efficacy when setting goals , so as to make sure their efficacy works in line with their goals and not against them.
According to Albert Bandura the originator of self efficacy theory, there are four sources of efficacy out of which the factor of emotional state relates very well to the topic of procrastination, because this factor states that the emotional condition we experience influences our efficacy, for example when we start stressing over things our efficacy reduces, whereas when we are happy our efficacy increases and we become more motivated to achieve our goals. This factor relates to procrastination because we tend to set goals for ourselves we assume we high efficacy and hence set high level goals, such high level goals can become burden and lead to stress and this reduces our efficacy. This means that self efficacy is important but higher efficacy can lead to our efficacy working against our aim and hence a person starts procrastinating in doing the work because now they think they don’t have enough abilities to reach the goal.

What is Self-Efficacy? Bandura’s 4 Sources of Efficacy Beliefs

A study by Nader Hajloo on relationship between self efficacy, self esteem and procrastination among graduate students, found that there is a mediate relationship between the three factors.
Unrealistic Goals- Goals that are not attainable or far from reach. For eg: An individual’s goal of becoming a Dean of a university without any experience is an unrealistic goal. Goals that are too far from reality puts immense pressure on a person and this leads to the person procrastinating in finishing the goals, because he is well aware that it is not possible even if he tries hardits, which is why he starts delaying it further until the last moment. Setting SMART goals is important to overcoming procrastination.


Perfectionism is usually defined as a necessity of seeming to be perfect. Brene Brown a research professor at University of Houston says, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best”. She is trying to convey that perfectionism isn’t always a positive trait, rather people are using it as a shield for protecting themselves from judgments and shame. (Benson, 2003)

Perfectionism has two dimension; 1) Personal Dimension- which focuses on a person setting high standards for themselves, evaluating one’s behaviors and performance while at the same time trying to avoid errors. (Hewitt ; Flett, 1991; Flett, Hewitt ; Martin, 1995) 2) Interpersonal Dimension- This type of perfectionism involves critical assessment of performance and behaviors of others, which leads to one accusing others, and having opposing feelings against them. (Hewitt ; Flett, 1991; Flett, Hewitt ; Martin, 1995).

Hesitation: It is a phenomenon of one delaying their tasks because of anxiety and fear of uncertainty of being able to deliver upto your expectations.
A study on perfectionism and anxiety

Perfectionism and its relation with Procrastination:

There have been researches conducted and also authors indicated that procrastination has some relation with perfectionism. The common characteristics between the two are high standards, fear of failure and unrealistic beliefs. Perfectionists usually tend to set very high standard goals for themselves and exhibit procrastination because of their fear of making errors and not being able to reach those high standards. Ferrari believed that procrastinators usually have a perfectionist attribute regarding how others assess them. Such people can’t complete their tasks because they set unrealistically high standards as they think about how others will view them if their task is not perfect. This indicates a somewhat relationship between perfectionism and procrastination.

A study conducted by Martin, et al. in 1993, made with university students indicated a positive correlation between procrastination and the interpersonal dimension of perfectionism and indicated a negative relationship between procrastination and personal dimension of perfectionism. Another study conducted by Lay in 1986 indicated a correlation between personal perfectionism and academic procrastination, and a study by Busko in 1998 concluded that personal perfectionism negatively influenced academic procrastination. Going through the different study results we say that there is definitely a relation between academic procrastination and perfectionism.
(Eraslan, 2007); (Seo, 2008)


In a study conducted by Bahtiyar Eraslan Capan, a faculty of Anadlou University Turkey, titled as “Relationship among Perfectionism, academic procrastination and life satisfactions of university students” he collected data from students of each department of university for the spring semester of 2007-2008. The Scatter diagram of SPSS program a statistical software program that allows quick evaluation of your data, was used to investigate whether a linear relationship occurred amongst perfectionism, academic procrastination and life satisfactions. A linear relationship was determined between the three traits in consideration. The study resulted in saying that there was a negative as well as a positive correlation between self-oriented or personal perfectionism and academic procrastination.

(Eraslan, 2007)
Relating the topic with subject:

The personal management course we studied that high standards or goals challenges and motivates a person to do better, but too challenging can lead to causing a burden on the person which is a common obstacle that prevents people from setting goals. Unrealistic goals are another trait of perfectionists and procrastinators and this issue arises when a person has lack of knowledge about setting SMART goals.


The report focused on determining a correlation between academic procrastination and perfectionism. It was found that a large percentage of students tend to procrastinate due to fear of making mistakes, setting unrealistic goals and high standards for oneself, which also happens to be a common characteristic of perfectionism. Examples indicate positive and negative correlation between academic procrastination and the two types of perfectionism. I being a procrastinator myself believe my procrastination too is related to me trying to do things perfectly and this does leave a positive impact i.e, highly motivated work and good grades but it also leaves a negative impact, me procrastinating my work until the last moment which puts pressure for completing the work in the due time frame. Hence it is important to understand the thin line of difference between doing things perfectly for better outcomes and expecting perfection all the time leading to delay in tasks.