Perfectionism and Procrastination — Two Sides of the Coin

These two traits go hand-in-hand for me.  It has to be perfect. But I am afraid it won’t be perfect. So I stall. If I never start, I can’t say I tried my hardest and it still wasn’t very good. I can pretend that once I get started I will whiz through it and it will turn out . . . perfect.

Unfortunately, I don’t quite believe this. If I had only taken pre-med courses, I would have gotten straights A’s, been admitted to the top medical schools, once again gotten straight A’s, and by now would be beloved by thousands of grateful patients and adoring students, right? I sorta doubt it. And I know for sure it’s not true that if I hadn’t dropped piano lessons after three weeks I would now be a famous concert pianist. I dropped them for a sensible reason: I couldn’t tell which note was higher than another. Glenn Gould didn’t have to overcome that handicap, but I did, and more besides, like little sense of rhythm and uncoordinated fingers.

So even though I know better, I continue to procrastinate because, “I don’t know how to do it.” “I might make a mistake.” “It’s so hard, and I will feel stupid.” And then I feel stupid and defective for procrastinating. That’s a lose-lose situation.

I have a running to-do list. Every day (or two or three) I check off “do the dishes.” And the next day I add “do the dishes.” Every week I check off “water plants on Sunday” and immediately add it back to the list.

You would think I’d feel like I never get anything done, but it is so much fun to check off items that I actually feel quite accomplished. As a matter of fact, I’m tempted to list doing the dishes this way:
Then I would get seven things done instead of just one.

Oh, what sophisticated tricks I play with myself!

In an attempt to tackle this problem in a more serious way, I thought up two little mottos and put them at the beginning of the list. I used a large fancy type face and green for one motto and purple for the other. I never check off my mottos, as they are guidelines, not tasks. I don’t want to tell myself, “Well, I did that today, so it is done, and I don’t have to do it again tomorrow.”

Better to do a half-assed job than not to do it at all
Better now than later

This means that it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be better than nothing at all. And if something is better than nothing, I can wash one dish, and it will be better than washing none. Under these circumstances, it is hard to fail miserably.

But maybe I can figure out a way to follow the guidelines and still fail . . . if I just try hard enough.

One thought on “Perfectionism and Procrastination — Two Sides of the Coin

  1. Completely true. I plan to write a little manual on what I’ve learned about this subject. Thanks for reminding me progress is never to be discounted or belittled.


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