A Procrastinator’s Guide From A to Z
“We’re all damaged in our own way. Nobody’s perfect. I think we’re all somewhat screwy. Every single one of us.”
― Johnny Depp
Procrastination and Perfectionism go together like peas and carrots. Like Ethel and Lucy. Like Sam and Dean Winchester. Sigh…
I am wired to do everything the “right way” the first time around. I don’t know if it was Nature or Nurture that made me this way, or a combination of the two, but that’s just how I am. My brain says, “Do it the right way, and you’ll never have to do it again!” Wouldn’t it be great if that actually worked? The problem is, most tasks don’t have a “right way,” I am FAR from perfect, and when I can’t do tasks the “right way,” I don’t want to do them at all! It’s all or nothing. Can’t clean the kitchen the “right way?” Then, I don’t want to clean it! I suppose I think I’ll clean it when I have more time. (Like that will ever happen!)
When I write, I write as if I’m creating a final draft, not a rough one. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be any mistakes or typos when I’m done. It does mean that I write slowly. Very, VERY slowly. Continents shifting, glaciers melting and reforming, ice-ages coming and going kind of slow. It creates a near-impossible scenario for getting a novel out of me. I might be able to eek out a short story. A blog post? Okay. But a novel…? I have been working on the same novels. For YEARS. I can’t seem to finish them or let them go. My perfectionism has crippled my writing. And now…my body is acting like an enabler, limiting the amount of time I can spend on a keyboard. Thanks old age! You’re a peach.
Is it perfectionism or procrastination that keeps me from hitting the publish button? I put off finishing my books because I am afraid that they won’t be good enough. I write slowly because I want to do it the “right way.” I understand that craptastic books get published all the time. They’re EVERYWHERE! The books that haven’t been written, or the ones that have, but never see the light of day… They don’t get published. It’s pretty simple. The problem is, how do I move beyond my fear? How do I move past perfectionism?
I have made some improvements in my fight against perfectionism. Pretty significant, actually. For instance, the dishes HAVE to get washed, everyday, whether they’re done perfectly or not. It used to drive me NUTS if I found food stuck to a plate, if they weren’t done the “right way.” I didn’t want to bother washing them if I didn’t have time do it right. I’m sure you can image how bad that was when I was busy! Yeah…not okay. Now…good enough is acceptable. They don’t have to be perfect because they’ll just have to be done again the next day. Dirty dish? Wash it again. It’s not a big deal. But it used to be.
Thankfully, our house has never been filthy enough to be featured on a reality show. I do drag out the Windex and the vacuum cleaner. I fight against my quirks. The house isn’t perfect, but it’s okay. Even if it was cleaned and decorated to perfection, yonder Hoffman Haus will never be featured in a magazine. LOL
When I watch a show like Hoarders, it scares me. I’ve never felt the need to collect thirty cats, but I understand how debilitating it is to be crushed by depression and perfectionism. I’ve tasted some of the fear that keeps people from throwing their stuff away. “I might need it someday.” I think outsiders look at these people and see someone who is lazy. I see someone who is afraid, someone whose fear keeps them from functioning in society. You don’t collect fifty empty milk jugs overnight. You start out with one or two…just in case. The rest pile up, one at a time. You might temporarily “fix” the problem with a team of super-cleaners, but unless you address the fear, nothing will change. If you watch the show, you’ll consistently notice that all of the hoarders are afraid that something important will be thrown out. They want the cleaning is done the “right way,” even if they haven’t seen their floor in YEARS. That’s perfectionism talking!
We’d like to think we’re all special snowflakes, but the same perfectionism that makes a hoarder save ALL of their magazines, is the same perfectionism that infects me like a disease. It keeps me from being a prolific writer. It’s the same stuff! It’s the same perfectionism that keeps us from pursuing our dreams. It’s the same stuff that tells us that we’re not enough. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Never enough.
I don’t have all the answers. I’m a work in progress. I have learned this: if you can move past the Fear and Perfectionism, Procrastination becomes a non-issue. Move past all three, and Depression isn’t able to gain a foothold.