There are times when I think that anything worth doing is worth doing later. Then again, I hate like hell to have tasks stacking up on my plate, especially if everything has to be Just So. The link between procrastination and perfectionism has often been been explored, though this is the first explanation I’ve seen based on construal level theory:
When you picture getting started straight away the close temporal distance puts you in near mode, where you see all the detailed impediments to doing a perfect job. When you think of doing the task in the future some time, trade-offs and barriers vanish and the glorious final goal becomes more vivid. So it always seems like you will do a great job in the future, whereas right now progress is depressingly slow and complicated. This makes doing it in the future seem all the more of a good option if you are obsessed with perfection.
Unfortunately, I can’t figure out a good way to exploit this phenomenon in my own life. If the target date is T, I can’t persuade myself to focus on, say, T plus 2, when all this, thank God, will be behind me; I tend to think in terms of “How can I do this in half the time with half the sweat?” and spend roughly 50 percent of the allotted time trying to figure out a way to save 50 percent of the allotted time. This works about as well as you think it does.