Skip to content

How to overcome imposter syndrome and stop procrastinating

by Niamh Moynihan on

Is imposter syndrome preventing you from getting things done? Imposter syndrome occurs when you don’t believe you’re doing a job well and are worried that people will think you are a fraud. Procrastination is when you put off things that you intend to do.  Two ways that imposter syndrome contributes to procrastination are perfectionism and self-handicapping. 

Perfectionism and Procrastination

If you spend hours refining, tweaking and redoing your work, then you have fallen into procrastination through perfectionism.  This causes multiple problems;  you spend more time than you need on a task and might “over-perfect” and end up with poorer results than if you had stopped sooner. More worryingly, getting good feedback on your results will reinforce your belief that you must put in all that work to succeed.

If this sounds familiar to you, seeking regular feedback is one of the best ways to get more done with less stress. When you are working on a task, ask a colleague or manager for feedback when you are 70% complete. At this point, you haven’t yet reached the perfecting stage. An outside perspective could reveal that you have already achieved the desired result, or perhaps there are only a few minor changes that you need to make. This is instead of you putting in hours of extra effort at the end. 

A second way to reduce procrastination from perfectionism is to set time limits. Decide the maximum amount of time you will work on something.  When you do this, you focus on giving the task its best effort for those few hours. When the time is up, down tools and step away. Look for somebody else’s opinion before investing more time.

Procrastination and the fear of failure

Imposter syndrome can also lead to procrastination through self-handicapping. This happens when you continue to avoid a task, leaving you with very little time to complete it. You then complete the work, thinking that if you don’t do well or if the result isn’t as good as you wanted, you can blame the lack of time. 

Related Reading: Getting things done

Self-handicapping causes unnecessary stress due to the time pressure it creates. Also, if you deliver outstanding results, you might not believe you can achieve that standard a second time. If you have imposter syndrome, you might think your success was a fluke.

To help break this habit, you can set up milestones for your work and share them with someone. Every time you reach a milestone, you can share the progress and stay on track. Allow yourself to do the job without the time pressure and see what you can create.

Build your confidence and feel less like an imposter

Some other ways to reduce those imposter feelings are to adopt a curiosity mindset and to teach others what you know.

When you have a curiosity mindset, you ask yourself questions like “I wonder what would happen if I did this”, and “ I wonder how far I could get if I try to do this”.  Be more curious and willing to experiment, and see how far you can go.  

You can also teach others what you know by speaking to people who don’t work in your field. You will soon realise that you know more than you thought you did!

Finally, make sure you track your progress. I recommend using a timeline or calendar view to visualise your growth and achievements easily. Take a step back, look at how far you have come, and then get stuck into your next project.