Getting started to overcome procrastination and perfectionism.
Intelligent people suffer from procrastination. We put things off. We put people off. We get distracted. We don’t really want to do things we say we do, so we put those off, too. We’ll even put off things we want to do.
This emotion infects disciplined people. How many regular gym goers, when at the office look at the time at 3 PM and think, Damn, I don’t want to go the gym! So many. No one’s ever looking forward to going to the gym at 5 PM, especially on a Friday.
Procrastination even affects food selection. We typically default to what is easiest to eat. We think, What can I eat right now? The healthy part may not be in the equation. This 100% applies to what’s in view. Chocolate? That bag of Tostitos? Peanut Butter? Unless you really like to cook — and few do — you’ll default to what’s easiest to prep. What can you tear into right now?
Our motivation to eat isn’t always that we’re hungry. Our motivation to eat can be that we’re bored and looking for something to do. While that may seem like a strange combination or motivation, think about the last times you were bored: what did you think about? What resolves boredom rather rapidly? An abundance of food all around you. Food sates boredom. Strangely. Which then puts us into a state of self-loathing. If we are looking around and we don’t know what to do, well, we can always eat. It is so hard to say no to food and its tasty psychological resolve.
Those perfectionists among us also suffer from procrastination. They will put off or otherwise delay a project due to their perfectionist tendencies. They’ll say, I’d do that, but it won’t be perfect for now. Better to start later. And then they go back to doing what they were doing. Sure, I’ll create the presentation. Later. Sure, I’ll write the song. Just later. Sure, I’ll get to that book project. Later. Of course, I’ll go on camera a shoot the video. Only next week. The quest for perfection has delayed or otherwise stymied many creative projects. This is a shame because it is stealing the satisfaction from these perfectionists for creating and sharing something people enjoy. I know — I used to be one.
Writers and wannabe writers know procrastination all too well. There’s nothing more daunting or scarier than the blank page. What’s more intimidating than deciding on your prolific quality output for the year and dedicating yourself to it? There are all kinds of dodges and distractions for the writer: workshops; talking about writing; reading blogs about writing; reading about habits about writing; commiserating with other writers about the craft’s tribulations; plenty of places to hide in distraction from the doing. Even after we have written, we may hate what we wrote so we keep it from others. Or, we’re too scared to share. I know I was. The only bigger procrastinators than writers are perfectionist writers. But sharing is a large part of creativity. If you don’t share what you know or create, it is similar to stealing from yourself.
So, how to beat perfectionism? Strangely, with logic. Think it through thoroughly. Think about all the artists, athletes, and other people you hold in high esteem. Think about what they do, how they execute, how they go to market with what it is they do. Does James Hatfield have a perfect voice? Does he execute flawlessly every time he plays The 4 Horsemen? Does Eddie Van Halen play flawlessly each time he strikes a chord? How about Jack White? Does he have the most mellifluous , gorgeous, most perfect vocals on the planet? Does he play guitar as well as EVH? Does anybody care? Think about athletes. Major league baseball players strike out or are called out two out of three times at bat — and that’s when they’re good! They “fail” two out of three times. If most of us failed two out of three times we attempted something, we’d be out of the job. In the NBA, if you nail one out of every two 3-point attempts, you’re considered a star. That’s a 50% success rate. Taken to a different context, say, sales, that’s terrible.
On a different level, what does the perfect YouTube video look like? I haven’t seen it. What does the perfect podcast sound like? Heard it lately? What does the perfect Powerpoint presentation look and sound like? What does the perfect webinar look like when it is executed? Or, God forbid, the perfect email when sent? By questioning our perfectionistic tendencies, we can start to see how silly they are for holding us back from creating. Perfectionism is a self-judgment, not a market judgment.
Even more important than the earlier statements is that people don’t want perfection. They want blips, hick-ups, and otherwise imperfect creations to consume. They consider them more real. What do people want on a video? Someone who’s real, identifiable, approachable, someone who makes mistakes and even calls himself out on them. Someone who’s cool and down-to-earth. Someone friendly. But what they really want is someone consistent. Someone who will be there, who will show up, who will execute despite the feeling to hold back or procrastinate. In other words, they want people who create and share regularly. There are points for showing up.