Two afflictions that have more in common than they might seem. Perfectionism is a form of procrastination via excuse. Hiding behind “having to be on the hook” as Seth Godin would say. I’ve been “wanting to” start a blog for years and years. This is the first time I’ve ever posted 3 days in a row, and the only reason is that I am intentionally ignoring my inner demons telling me it’s not good enough. Perfectionism is my form of procrastination. Formatting, pictures, SEO, keyword research, mission statements, spreadsheets. Maybe some of this is striking a chord with you…
How to overcome perfectionism and procrastination
Not an easy question to answer. But knowing your particular affliction can get you started. Perfectionism can hide behind habits that go by many other names. Preparation! Research! Quality Assurance! Focus groups! Field testing! You get the point.
Let’s explore some of the ones I personally battle:
Preparation has always been my bugaboo. For all the million creative and entrepreneurial ideas floating around in my head, I never want to launch until I’ve set myself up for the highest possible success. Until the spreadsheet is perfectly organized. Until the portfolio is world class.
The obvious flaw is that a perfectionist can find ways to putter forever…I have some beautiful spreadsheets I could show you. You would take one look, and you would know that I had no energy to actually do…whatever it was I’m supposedly preparing for.
Approval seeking and good impressions
Another variation of this is “wanting to put my best foot forward.” You only get one chance at a first impression, I tell myself. The fact that it’s true makes that thought all the more insidious because I’ve always been able to use it as a get out of jail free card. An excuse to hide behind. At the end of the day, making no impression isn’t an improvement on a bad one. But at least you get to feel in control of the outcome. This excuse is really about controlling the narrative
Gear addiction and procrastination
Another sneaky form of procrastination takes the form of gear collection. In the music world, this means instruments, pedals, plugins, and samples. I’m positive every other creative industry has its own version. After all, you’ll be ready once your sample library is up to par! Once you upgrade your mic locker. Once you treat your room. Once you’ve got the plugin subscriptions or the 5-figure analog hardware. Then you’ll be ready. Right? … right?
So what now?
We could do this forever. Until what though? What’s good enough? we have to learn to change the script: I’ve done enough. I’ve met my specs. I can stand behind this, and the reaction of my audience is no longer up to me. It’s terrifying and liberating at the same time.
If you’re frustrated with your lack of output, maybe you need to redefine what’s good enough. Maybe you need someone like my wife to say “you’re aiming for C+ work here.” Anything to get it out the door, because if it doesn’t ship, it doesn’t count.
What’s your version of perfectionism procrastination? What do you hide behind?