Procrastination, Perfectionism and Fear

Procrastination Perfectionism and FearI have a confession to make. I’m a procrastinator. (I should have said that a long time ago… 8=)

Actually, make that two confessions… I’m also a perfectionist.

I suspect that you might be one or the other of these things. In fact, you are probably both as well.

The Problems

Procrastination is definitely a problem. I can’t imagine anyone denying that. You know that certain tasks need to be completed. But you put it off until tomorrow, or next week. Then, you put it off again.

Sometimes the task is one that is particularly unpleasant — like taxes. But other times it is something that you really want to do. I was always surprised by that.

I love to write. So, writing articles for my blogs, newsletters, etc. should be no problem. But do you know how often I put off writing? If you look at the history of my blogs you’ll see that it is far too common.

And if you could see the drafts I’ve started but never finished. And the ideas for articles that I’ve not even started.

It seems that Ellen DeGeneres knows a thing or three about procrastination!

Perfectionism on the other hand doesn’t seem like such a big problem. At least in theory. But in practice it is a serious problem.

You’d think that making everything perfect would be wonderful for your business and the rest of your life. But it doesn’t work out that way.

That’s because perfection is next to impossible to achieve. Perhaps even impossible altogether.

Even if it is possible to achieve perfection in something, the amount of time it takes to get from great to perfect is a high cost to pay.

Remember those unfinished drafts and ideas I talked about in the previous section? Some of them are lame, but most of them are pretty good or even great. It wouldn’t take much effort to put them out there.

You have a similar story. It affects your business. You don’t get done the things you need to get done to move your business forward — or even to get it started. You have projects sitting around at various stages of completion. Some at 90%. Some in the idea stage.

It affects your personal life too. You want to change your lifestyle — healthier diet, exercise, sleep habits. Or perhaps you’ve been wanting to get deeper into your faith but you just never seem to find the time. Maybe there is that special someone that you’ve been holding off talking to.

You don’t want to live your life this way, but what can you do?

The Root of Procrastination and Perfectionism

So, why do you procrastinate? Why are you a perfectionist? You know that these things hurt your business. You know that they interfere with your personal life. Why can’t you get past them?

You need to understand the root of these problems. And they both have the same root cause: fear.

This is the thing that pushes you to hold off on doing what you know needs to be done. It keeps you from accepting that your work is good enough. It keeps you constantly trying to make it better… make it perfect.

Sometimes I think it is a fear of failure. And I’m sure that part of the time, it is. But sometimes I feel that I’m just as afraid of success.

Success will bring changes. It will bring scrutiny and that might expose the “man behind the curtain.” You wonder if you’ll be able to live up to the success and maintain it. You may have even convinced yourself that you can’t.

Casting Out Fear

To break the cycle of procrastination and perfectionism, you need to get past the fear.

Easier said than done. I know. I’ve been struggling with it for years. Some days I do better than others. There is no simple answer to this problem, but there are some steps that you can take.

Four Steps to Break the Cycle of Fear

1) Accept Yourself. It is very important that you have a positive image of yourself. I’m not talking about ignoring your flaws or exaggerating your strength. But have an honest assessment of both your strengths and weaknesses.

And accept them.

Embrace them.

Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Encourage yourself and remind yourself that you have something of value to share with the world.

2) Accept Failure. This is really difficult for me. But until you can accept failure as normal, natural and positive, you’ll be trapped by fear of it.

And failure doesn’t hurt that much. Well, sometimes it does. In fact, sometimes it could be fatal. If you’re trying something that is potentially dangerous then precautions are warranted. But when it comes to writing that novel you’ve been talking about since college…

All great men and women fail. They fail often and sometimes spectacularly. The difference is that they don’t let it stop them. They learn from their mistakes and press on. And that brings us to…

3) Learn and Adapt. Develop a mindset that looks at failure as a way to learn what doesn’t work.

I’m sure you’ve heard the story of Thomas Edison when he tried over 2,000 ways to build a light bulb. Rather than seeing all of those attempts as failures, he viewed them as learning experiences. He learned what didn’t work so he could focus on other possibilities.

Once you look at failure as a positive experience, not to be feared, you can boldly try new things. Some will work. Most will not. But you can learn from them and continue rather than cowering in fear.

4) Embrace the Great. Let go of achieving perfection. If you look at the 80/20 rule, it tells us that 20% of your time is spent to produce 80% of the results (the actual numbers may fluctuate, the 80/20 is pretty close). That means the final 20% is costing 80% of your time.

When you think about it, 80% is pretty great. Why spend your time worrying about the 20%? Most people won’t even realize that you left it out! Get your project out there so people can learn from it and enjoy it.

The project may flop. In which case you didn’t end up wasting the extra 80% of your time and you learned some valuable lessons.

It may be a success. In which case you didn’t end up wasting the extra 80% of your time and you learned some valuable lessons 8=)

Now, move on to the next project.

Get ‘Er Done!

Procrastination and perfectionism are enemies of your time. They prevent you from accomplishing that which you want to accomplish. The steal your precious time. Look again at the motto here: “Time is not money… it is far more valuable!”

Procrastination and perfectionism are masks for fear, wanting to pull you down and out. Don’t let them do it!

Tell us your story. Share in the comments how you struggle with these problems. Let us know what helps you keep them at bay. Or maybe you’ve never had these problems.

And make sure to let your friends know. Hit the sharing buttons to get the word out. Do it now! Don’t wait! And it’s okay if you don’t hit them all… nobody’s perfect 8=)

Image by brainloc at stock.xchng

Bill (LoneWolf) Nickerson

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