I’m definitely an expert in procrastination. I’ve been meaning to write this bloody blog post – yup, on procrastination – since November of last year, but never quite got round to just getting it done. Had written it in my head a few times though. But putting it on paper (well, computer screen) means commitment to the cause. And then having to prove myself. Which brings out my inner perfectionist: “what if it isn’t good enough?” Which then triggers me to remain suspended in a state of delay and all of a sudden I find I’m ‘busying’ myself; Instagramming my lunch or watching a video of a pug having a bath. Anything except the very thing I should be doing. That I KNOW I should be doing.
I haven’t written a definite list of new year’s resolutions (see, I HAVEN’T GOT ROUND TO DOING THAT YET, WHAT IS LIFE), but if I do, ‘stop fucking procrastinating over EVERYTHING’ (or: ‘get shit done’, for short) must surely get the top spot? In fact, if it doesn’t, it’s pointless adding anything else to the list as the chances are, none of them will happen, right?
But why this tendency for procrastination?
Note: Whenever I type the P-word, in my head, I sing it to the tune of 80s hit Imagination by Belouis Some – which I obviously just spent a good ten minutes Googling, because I wasn’t sure if it was by Bryan Ferry or not, to distract myself from writing the rest of this post, GAH!).
I think I hit the nail on the head in my opening paragraph. For me, procrastination has everything to do with that other painful P-word: PERFECTIONISM. It goes hand-in-hand with procrastinating, I find. Because if you’re a perfectionist like me, you want everything you do to be perfect. If you start something – a task, a chore, a blog post, whatever – you have to make sure you release it ‘into the wild’ in a perfect state. So what’s easier (although, it actually isn’t in the long run, but bear with) is to put off doing that thing (or ALL THE THINGS) because then it’s trapped in a state of limbo, where you don’t need to worry about perfecting it, because you haven’t started it yet, ergo it doesn’t exist. Ya get me? Good.
It’s like procrastination and perfectionism are sleeping with each other, yet THEY SHARE THE SAME GENE POOL. Ew. Anyhoo.
Another P-word also comes into play (I’m starting to hate these pesky P-words, aren’t you?), and that’s PARADOX. Because, even though you think you’re being really clever by not feeding your inner perfectionist and putting off whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing, all that’s actually happening is you’re creating an ongoing low-level feeling of (cue next P-word) p-p-p-pressure, as well as guilt. And shame. So these dirty P-words all end up having a threesome together, the filthy bastards.
And you want to know the really STUPID thing about being a professional procrastinator (as if I don’t sound like enough of a lunatic already)? I USUALLY END UP HAVING TO DO THE VERY FUCKING THING I’VE BEEN PUTTING OFF ANYWAY. But in a massive rush. At the last minute. With seconds to spare. While working up a sweat. See? One big fat paradox, right there.
So, if you ultimately end up having to do the damn thing you were avoiding doing, is the procrastination part worth it? Is there any benefit to delaying (what’s usually) the inevitable? Particularly if you’re only putting it off to avoid an imperfect outcome?
I think we all know the answer (it’s ‘no’ btw). And striving for flawless results isn’t only pointless, it’s extremely detrimental to productivity and creativity. Perfectionism isn’t really even the desire to be amazing all the time, it’s actually a coping mechanism to avoid feelings of inadequacy. Ring any bells? But these high standards of perfectionism are sadly impossible to reach – ‘cos no one can be perfect 100% of the time – so, somewhat ironically, you end up feeling inadequate ALL of the time instead. The very thing you were trying to swerve. Oh.
Aspiring to be Little Miss Perfect all the time is an addiction of low self-worth.
So, on my (currently imaginary) resolutions list for 2015, I’m going to embrace being imperfect, and stop straining (like a bad bowel movement) for a perfect outcome all of the bloody time. Honestly, it’s an exhausting state of mind to be in, and just allowing myself to be imperfect is already very refreshing indeed.
Here’s how I plan on being perfectly imperfect, ha:
Where appropriate, I’m going to let people know what I’m working on, as the majority of my procrastination is often done in private (that sounded seedy). But I’m my own worst enemy. If I let others know my plans, and when they need to be done, that’s half the battle won, as I know I’ll have to deliver on the goods – and on time.
Going against the clock
This is two-fold:
1. If there’s a deadline for something, I usually take one look at it (whatever the timing may be) and think: ‘oh, I’ve got plenty of time; I’ll start that later blah blah blah’ then put it off repeatedly until I literally have no choice and am forced to spring into action at the last minute.
2. Then, when I finally do start the damn thing, I usually give my self the luxury of taking as long as it needs to get whatever it is I’m working on ‘just right’ i.e. perfect. NO MORE!
From now on, I’m going to decide how long something should reasonably take and then simply STOP when the time’s up. This will help me to start embracing perfect work, and realise that a) no one will probably notice any different and b) even if they do, the world isn’t going to end just because I haven’t used the fanciest, most impressive word available or exactly replicated the colour of a bride’s bouquet in a custom portrait.
Going out of my comfort zone
My inner perfectionist will often put me off starting something I’m not sure of; be it something I’ve not done before (fear of the unknown) or something that scares me. I’m really going to have to embrace the ol’ cliché of feeling the fear – of failure – and fucking well doing it anyway. When I look back over the years, my worst fears have never, EVER been realised and the super scary things I lost many nights of sleep over were… well, never that bad at all, really. Oh (again).
Being mediocre more often
To try and get used to producing work that’s ‘good enough’ on the daily, I’m going to spend a day actively operating at, say, 65% of my ability. Seriously, I even get stressed when doing a tea round at work, in case people are judging the colour/consistency/strength of my brew. So for one day, I’m going to see where doing a ‘good enough’ job gets me. I’m pretty sure everything will be OK.
Rewarding myself on completion
Or at least, enjoying the satisfaction of completion and not having to listen to the shameful whisper of my inner-voice nagging me to do ‘that thing you haven’t done yet – and will probably cock up when you do!’ But if I do get my arse into gear and get shit done, I can reward myself appropriately. Can you say ‘Mulberry Bayswater’? *cough*
This is the year Little Miss Perfect can jog right on. I have come to realise that you can spend so much time trying to make your life perfect, you leave little time to actually enjoy LIFE. Perfection leaves no room for acceptance, or happiness. News flash: Your sanity is more important than being perfect.
How much of our lives is frittered away by our neurotic insistence on perfection? Life really is too short – and it certainly ain’t perfect, but it’s YOURS. Live it.
I can’t remember where I read this but it resonated with me: When God finished creating the Universe (a pretty impressive feat, I think you’ll agree), even He stood back, admired his work and pronounced it, not ‘perfect’, but ‘very good.’ So good really can be enough. Worth remembering that next time Little Miss Perfect tries to come out and play, eh?