Completion Anxiety: How to Overcome Procrastination & Perfectionism

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Struggling to finish tasks on time? You’re not alone. Completion anxiety, driven by procrastination and perfectionism, is a common challenge many people face. Whether it’s a work project, a school assignment, or even personal goals, the fear of not being perfect can paralyze you, leading to stress and missed deadlines.

What is completion anxiety?

Completion anxiety is the intense fear and stress that arise when facing the prospect of finishing a task or project. It’s closely linked to procrastination and perfectionism, creating a cycle where the fear of not meeting high standards leads to delays and avoidance.

Completion anxiety isn’t just about being lazy or disorganized; it’s a psychological hurdle that many people struggle with. It can affect anyone, from students and professionals to creatives and homemakers. 

Symptoms of completion anxiety

Completion anxiety can manifest in various ways, often affecting both your mental state and your ability to perform tasks. Common signs include:


  • Repeatedly delaying tasks, often until the last minute, is a hallmark of completion anxiety.
  • You may find yourself putting off important projects even when you know they must be done.


  • Setting unrealistically high standards and being overly critical of your work can lead to restlessness about getting the job done.
  • This can lead to excessive time spent on minor details and dissatisfaction with the outcome.


  • Feeling paralyzed by the sheer scope of a task is a sign of completion anxiety.
  • You may become so overwhelmed by the thought of completing it perfectly that you can’t even start.


  • Finding excuses to avoid working on tasks, such as prioritizing less important activities or getting distracted easily.
  • This avoidance can increase stress and a growing backlog of unfinished work.


  • Frequently doubting your abilities and fearing that your work won’t be good enough can lead to a lack of confidence and hesitation in starting or finishing tasks.
  • This leads to indecisiveness, difficulty making decisions, or second-guessing your choices. 

Physical symptoms

  • Experiencing physical signs of stress, such as headaches, muscle tension, or fatigue, particularly when thinking about or attempting to complete a task.

Causes of completion anxiety

Completion anxiety often stems from a combination of psychological and environmental factors. Common causes include:


  • This is one of the most significant contributors to completion anxiety.
  • Perfectionists set exceptionally high standards and fear they won’t meet these expectations. This fear can paralyze them, making starting or finishing tasks difficult. 1

Fear of failure and judgment

  • A deep-seated fear that your work won’t be good enough or might lead to rejection or criticism.
  • This fear can create a mental block, preventing you from making progress.


  • Analyzing every detail and potential outcome can lead to decision paralysis.
  • When you overthink, you become stuck in a loop of “what ifs,” and the fear of being judged for your decision overwhelms you, making it hard to move forward.

Low self-esteem

  • Doubting your abilities and feeling inadequate can undermine your confidence.
  • Starting or completing tasks is challenging when you don’t believe in your capabilities.

Previous negative experiences

  • Past failures or negative feedback can leave a lasting impact, making you more anxious about future tasks.
  • These experiences can reinforce the fear of failure and lead to avoidance behaviors.

High expectations from others

  • External pressure from parents, teachers, bosses, or peers can add to your anxiety.
  • When you feel that others have high expectations, the pressure to meet them can be overwhelming.

Lack of skills or knowledge

  • Feeling unprepared or lacking the necessary skills for a task can lead to anxiety.
  • When you’re unsure how to complete something effectively, procrastinating can be easier than facing the challenge head-on.

Unclear goals or instructions

  • When tasks lack clear guidelines or objectives, knowing where to start or how to proceed is challenging.
  • This uncertainty can contribute to feelings of anxiety and avoidance.

Mental health conditions that could cause completion anxiety

Completion anxiety can be closely linked to various mental health disorders. Some of these conditions include: 

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

  • People with GAD often experience excessive worry about various aspects of their life, including their ability to complete tasks.
  • This constant state of anxiety can lead to procrastination and fear of not meeting expectations. 2

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors characterize OCD.
  • Perfectionism and fear of making mistakes are common in OCD, leading to significant anxiety when attempting to complete tasks.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

  • Individuals with ADHD often struggle with focus, organization, and time management. 3
  • These challenges can contribute to procrastination and anxiety about finishing tasks.


  • Depression can lead to feelings of hopelessness, low energy, and a lack of motivation.
  • These symptoms can make it difficult to start or complete tasks, worsening feelings of anxiety about unfinished work.

Social anxiety disorder

  • People with social anxiety disorder may fear judgment or criticism from others.
  • This fear can make completing tasks, especially those involving public performance or scrutiny, particularly anxiety-inducing.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • PTSD can result from experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
  • Individuals with PTSD may struggle with concentration and motivation, making it hard to complete tasks and increasing anxiety.

Panic disorder

  • Frequent panic attacks and the fear of having another one can interfere with daily activities, including finishing tasks.
  • The anxiety about possible panic attacks can make it hard to start and complete tasks.

Bipolar disorder

  • Bipolar disorder involves mood swings between manic and depressive episodes.
  • During depressive phases, individuals may experience low motivation and energy, while during manic phases, they may start many projects but struggle to complete them.

How to overcome procrastination & complete tasks

Beating procrastination and finishing tasks involves practical strategies and changing your mindset. Here are some helpful techniques to tackle your to-do list and ease the anxiety around getting things done:

Break tasks into smaller steps

  • Large tasks can feel overwhelming, leading to procrastination.
  • Breaking them down into smaller, more manageable steps makes the task less intimidating and gives you a clear path forward.
  • For example, start with an outline and draft each section instead of writing an entire report in one go. This approach makes the task seem more doable and helps you maintain steady progress.

Set clear goals and deadlines

  • Define specific, achievable goals for each task and set realistic deadlines.
  • Clear objectives and time frames help you stay focused and motivated.
  • For instance, instead of vaguely planning to “work on a project,” aim to “complete the introduction by noon.”
  • This clarity transforms abstract tasks into concrete actions, making tracking your progress and staying committed easier.

Prioritize tasks

  • A prioritization method like the Eisenhower Matrix can help you categorize tasks by urgency and importance. 4
  • Focus on high-priority tasks to ensure you’re working on what matters most.
  • This method involves sorting tasks into four categories: urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important.
  • Doing this allows you to allocate your time and energy efficiently, ensuring critical tasks are completed promptly.

Create a schedule

  • Plan your day or week in advance, allocating specific time blocks for each task.
  • A well-structured schedule can help you stay on track and avoid last-minute rushes.
  • For example, dedicate the morning to high-concentration tasks and the afternoon to meetings or routine tasks.
  • Consistently following a schedule helps build a routine, making it easier to manage your workload.

Use the Pomodoro Technique

  • Work in short, focused intervals (typically 25 minutes), followed by a short break.
  • This technique, known as the Pomodoro Technique, can boost productivity and prevent burnout.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes, work without interruption, then take a 5-minute break. After four cycles, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
  • This method helps maintain high focus and productivity levels while allowing regular breaks to recharge. 5

Eliminate distractions

  • Identify and minimize potential distractions in your work environment.
  • This might include turning off notifications, setting up a dedicated workspace, or using website blockers.
  • Creating a distraction-free environment helps you concentrate better and complete tasks on time. 

Practice self-compassion

  • Be kind to yourself if you encounter setbacks or don’t meet your expectations. Self-criticism can make you procrastinate, while self-compassion can help you stay motivated.
  • Acknowledge your efforts and understand that it’s okay to make mistakes. Instead of dwelling on failures, focus on what you can learn from them and how you can improve in the future.

Reward yourself

  • Set up a reward system for completing tasks. Small rewards can provide positive reinforcement and make task completion more enjoyable.
  • For instance, after finishing a task, treat yourself to a favorite snack, a short walk, or a brief relaxation period.
  • These rewards create a positive association with completing tasks, making it easier to stay motivated.

Seek accountability

  • Share your goals and progress with a friend, family member, or colleague.
  • Accountability partners can offer support, encouragement, and a sense of responsibility.
  • Regular check-ins with your accountability partner can help you stay on track and committed to your goals.
  • This external support system provides additional motivation and helps you overcome procrastination.

Visualize success

  • Take a few moments to visualize yourself successfully completing the task.
  • Positive imagery can boost your confidence and motivation. Imagine the satisfaction and relief you’ll feel once the task is done, and use that mental picture to drive you forward.
  • Visualization helps reduce anxiety about the task and builds a positive mindset toward achieving your goals.

Use tools and apps

  • To stay organized and on track, leverage productivity tools and apps, such as to-do lists, project management software, and time-tracking apps.
  • These tools can help you keep track of your tasks, set reminders, and monitor your progress. Apps like Trello, Todoist, and Toggl can streamline your workflow and make task management more efficient.

When to seek mental health support for completion anxiety

If completion anxiety starts affecting your daily life, it may be time to seek help. Here are some signs that you might need professional support:

Persistent anxiety

  • If you constantly feel anxious about completing tasks and this anxiety doesn’t get better with self-help strategies, it may be time to consult a mental health professional.
  • Ongoing anxiety, despite your efforts, suggests that underlying issues need to be addressed with professional guidance.

Trouble with daily life

  • When anxiety about completing tasks starts interfering with your work, school, relationships, or overall well-being, it’s a sign that you might need support.
  • Struggling with daily activities can lower your quality of life, making it important to seek help.

Physical and emotional symptoms

  • Experiencing physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, or trouble sleeping related to task anxiety is a sign that professional help might be needed.
  • These physical symptoms often accompany emotional distress, such as frustration, hopelessness, or sadness about one’s inability to complete tasks. 

Avoidance behavior

  • If you find yourself frequently avoiding tasks or situations because of your anxiety, it can lead to a cycle of putting things off and increased stress.
  • This behavior can make your anxiety worse, creating a negative feedback loop.
  • A therapist can help you break this cycle and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Low self-esteem

  • If anxiety about completing tasks is causing you to doubt your abilities and lower your self-esteem, seeking help can provide you with tools to rebuild your confidence.
  • Low self-esteem can be both a cause and a result of task anxiety, and addressing this with a professional can help restore your self-worth.

No Improvement with Self-Help

  • When self-help techniques and productivity strategies don’t ease your anxiety, professional guidance can offer more tailored solutions.
  • Persistent anxiety, despite your best efforts, suggests that more specialized intervention may be necessary to address the root causes of your anxiety.

Other mental health issues

  • If you have other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, ADHD, or OCD, these can make task anxiety worse.
  • Professional support can help address these underlying issues, providing a more integrated approach to your mental health.

Severe anxiety

  • If your anxiety is so severe that it stops you from functioning normally in your daily life, seeking immediate help is essential.
  • Severe anxiety can paralyze your ability to perform everyday tasks, making it crucial to get professional support to regain normalcy.

Concern from loved ones

  • If friends, family members, or colleagues express concern about your anxiety and its effects on your life, it might be worth considering their perspective and seeking help.
  • Loved ones can often see the effects of your anxiety more clearly than you can, and their concern can be a valuable indicator that it’s time to seek professional support.

Final thoughts

Completion anxiety can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to face it alone. Recognizing the signs and seeking help when needed can make a big difference in managing your anxiety and improving your daily life.

If you’re struggling with procrastination and perfectionism, our anxiety treatment program in Arizona offers the support and tools you need. Reach out to us today to take the first step towards a more balanced and fulfilling life. We’re here to help.

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  2. 2. Beesdo-Baum, K., & Hilbert, K. (n.d.). Generalized anxiety disorder. In K. Beesdo-Baum & K. Hilbert (Eds.), Anxiety disorders and gender (pp. 1–29). Springer.
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