perfectionism and procrastination

Perfectionism & Procrastination: How Both Extremes Stifle Others’ Participation

Hi, friends. In today’s post, we’ll look at how being a procrastinator or a perfectionist with planning/preparation can stifle others’ participation (or, in ministry, the Holy Spirit).

What Inspired This Post

The issues discussed here can apply to anything that involves teamwork (such as a business or secular organization), but as I wrote this, I was thinking in particular about lay servants and clergy. They generally collaborate during the week to prepare for the Sunday worship service. The pastor usually plans scripture, sermon, and other readings/prayers; lay servants who work with the pastor may include a choir director/worship leader/musicians, a person who does something for the children (like a children’s sermon), a sound/lights/technology director, the person who composes the bulletin, or any other job completed by congregation members.

This topic came to mind when I interned with Lay Servant School this year. As I shepherded my students in leadership, each person teeming with spiritual gifts and a willing heart for God, I realized how vital it is that pastors lift up lay servants in the church. Of course, pastors need to have that encouragement reciprocated; they are still human beings with needs, fears, talents, dreams, and flaws like all of us.

The Two Extremes

In the context of planning/preparation, the two extremes are perfectionism and procrastination (yay for incidental alliteration!).

Perfectionists tend to over-prepare, fretting excessively over their presentations. They also struggle with relinquishing control.

Procrastinators tend to “fly by the seat of their pants” or leave most of their presentation to the last minute and/or chance. Procrastinators do not leave themselves (and others) ample time for preparation.

Why the Extremes Are Stifling

Perfectionists discourage others because they don’t want help (If I want it done right, I have to do it myself). Some perfectionists accept the offer of help but micromanage everyone, which can feel insulting to the ones who are helping. This is a controlling, arrogant attitude in general, but it is sinful in a Christian context because it stems from pride. We are all important parts of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27), and no one is perfect.

On the flip side, procrastinators put unnecessary pressure on others by failing to give them reasonable notice of what they need to do. That constant stress can discourage people who want to do their best. This is annoying and inconsiderate in general, but it is irreverent in a Christian context; we should respect the importance of a thoughtful, cohesive worship service where lay servants and clergy are prepared.

How to Address the Extremes

Perfectionists: You don’t get to pull all the strings!

If you struggle with perfectionism, ask yourself why you cling to control. Has discord with certain people caused you not to trust them? Have you become overly arrogant in thinking you always know best? Are you too anxious of others’ opinions?

In the Christian context, are you so worried about others’ salvation that you feel like the service has to be earth-shattering (in other words, are you so worried about “the bottom line” that you won’t just trust, obey, and play your role)? Reflect, then take your anxieties to God in prayer, remembering that you are just one imperfect person in the big body of Christ.

Procrastinators: How much time are you spending on this?

If you struggle with procrastination, ask yourself why you put things off to the last minute. Are you managing your time unwisely, or have you taken on too many burdens? Are you apprehensive about completing the task you are putting off? Are you so confident in your ability to “wing it” that you are short-changing yourself?

In the Christian context, are you taking church for granted, perhaps getting so clouded by life you forget that your role in the Great Commission is one of the only things in this world that truly matters? Reflect, then take your struggles to God in prayer, remembering that God deserves more than the last minute.

Finally, if you are struggling to work with a perfectionist or a procrastinator in your organization, whether secular or religious, here is my tough but straight-forward advice: talk to them. Don’t let feelings of resentment fester. Be gracious yet honest. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Thanks for reading! Have you ever had to work with a perfectionist or a procrastinator? Which of these do you lean towards? Let me know in the comments. I’m closer to a perfectionist than a procrastinator, but I hope I’m not a micromanager!

20 comments

      1. True. lol I find many things are more important than housework, washing and fiddling constantly. (yes, I fiddle with things sometimes.)

        Liked by 1 person

  1. It depends on the situation for me. If it is something like do laundry, I am a procrastinator. If it is something like studying language I am a perfectionist. In relation to others I have learned to extend grace πŸ™‚

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  2. I’m more of a perfectionist, I think. I recently heard someone explaining the ’80/20′ rule. When you’re working on something creative and you get 80% done, you’ve basically finished, but many people spend aaaaaaages fiddling around with the remaining 20%, which adds little value (that was the theory, anyway!).

    I don’t procrastinate much for the simple reason that I find procrastinating more stressful than getting things done. Limiting stress is important to me as someone who is prone to panic attacks. I am sometimes a bit extreme though β€” for instance I can’t rest if I know I have unread messages in my inbox…

    Thanks for a great post, sorry if this comment is too long but you got me thinking! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, I’ve never heard of that theory before but, as a perfectionist, that definitely seems to apply to me, especially with final tweaks and making images on Canva! I’m not prone to panic attacks per se, but the only time I ever had one was the night before a big project was due in college and I’d put it off to the last minute. I think that was the last time I ever procrastinated that badly. Others claim to work well under pressure, but I just seem to crack under pressure, haha. Not that I can’t deal with being in the spotlight (I actually like public speaking) but I need time to prepare to feel confident in myself or my work.

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  3. Due to a very intense job and a lot of responsibilities, some may see me as a procrastinator because i did not put THEIR request as my top priority. When it comes to presentations, I lean more toward perfectionism because I want to do MY best.
    With doing children’s sermons, there is a delicate balance; I don’t want to steal the pastor’s ‘thunder’ from the sermon, but I want to tie into their message . I love to use objects to illustrate/emphasize the point, but i have to get creative and I can’t do that on command, ha ha! “My best” means that i read the scripture by mid-week from 2 or 3 versions along with commentary. Then i meditate on it trying to determine an idea, props and objects to make the point that kids can grasp, and make it all happen in about 3 minutes on Sunday. As i write this, it sure seems like a LOT of work for 3 minutes time, but i LOVE it ! And i love those kids! ❀

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  4. I lean toward ‘extreme’ by nature, which I guess means that I can be both a perfectionist and a procrastinator. And doing either one really ups my stress levels!! Finding Jesus in that narrow middle way (balance) is key. I also had a thought — sometimes in ministry we are so geared at ‘saving the lost’ that we forget about edifying one another and treating one another within the body with the gospel example we are shown. In my opinion: if we shift our focus back to loving and caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ rather than too much focus on making fresh converts, I think it’s easier to let go of perfectionism and/or procrastination. Just my two bits!! Great post Lily!!

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  5. I tend to somewhat be a perfectionist! When it comes to group work, that’s a different story because I make sure everyone has a part in it and if there’s not someone who gives each person a role in the project, then I have to step up to be that person. I love the questions you asked and hopefully, I don’t come off as the control freak to other people!

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  6. This is good Lily. I often struggle with one because of the other. I used to have to have everything just right which would make me procrastinate to get things done because of the great details I was going to have to put into everything. I am working on organizing myself so that I am not so last minute these days, and I have been praying for God to help me prioritize.

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  7. Procrastinator, but certain things, especially like organizing, cooking, etc I like done certain ways. I know in my marriage I have worked on holding my tongue just because I would do things differently than my husband. Appreciate the blessing of when he tries to help me. I love how you pointed out being a procrastinator can hinder others and take away time for them to prepare. Good point!!!!! ❀

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