There once was a person -let’s call the person Mr. X- who had a fatal disease. Mr. X spoke of all the things he still wanted to do in life. They were not improbable things – he wasn’t asking to vacation on Saturn. They were fairly common things that can be completed within a month or a year.
Why had he not done them?
- He was waiting for the right time.
- Other things came up.
- He didn’t make them a priority.
- Other people wanted his time and attention.
So he dithered. The disease led to hospitalization, where he was even less likely to accomplish his goals. It was difficult for friends and family to watch this state of events.
One More Reason Not to Procrastinate
The story of Mr. X. hasn’t resolved itself yet. I hope he pulls through and can have another chance at those goals. But this story is part of the impetus for this article.
If you need one more reason not to procrastinate on something, here’s one: life doesn’t stop for your plans and your circumstances to become “perfect.”
When we procrastinate, it’s as if we are that kid who’s tagging behind a friend, then bends down to tie her shoelace, expecting her friend TIME to wait for her while she sorts things out.
While we dither in the research stage, prolonging a plan, not getting things done, life goes on and we wake up with another month, another year, another decade that is gone. In place of the opportunities, sometimes, are now greater hurdles.
Research is good, but spending too much time in research mode can be a form of procrastination. I know. I do it all the time. When do we know that we are spending too much time in research? I’ll address that below under the heading, “You Might Be Imperfect, But You’re Not Useless.”
A Possible Solution
To combat procrastination, the other month, I told myself to spend as much time producing as consuming. A 1:1 ratio, as much as possible. In this way, if I spend an hour doing research for business, that doesn’t count as production. If I let that count as producing something, research is all that I will do; I will accomplish nothing.
So, if I’m consuming business-related content for an hour, then I must spend an hour producing something – e.g. content for this website, or an hour editing my upcoming book, etc.
This has worked tremendously well for me. It’s part of what has led to this website running consistently for a month.
Questioning the Perfection in Perfectionism
Lots of procrastination occurs when perfectionists smile wistfully, give a sigh, and claim -with a faint air of misplaced pride- that they can’t stand to start without planning everything to the hilt. Great! But did you accomplish anything? That’s what planning is for – to accomplish the task. Did you do it?
What’s with this notion of perfection that perfectionists bandy about like a badge of honor? Who do we think we are? We are delusional if we think we can be perfect.
Listen and listen well: nothing you have ever done or will ever do will be perfect. Why? Because we are flawed creatures. So anything you or I do will be stained by that fact.
Excelling at a thing is good, but that’s not the same thing as perfection. To excel is to go beyond an implied limit. We can do that. Perfection, however, is basically saying we are flawless, sinless, infallible, and a bunch of other stuff that you and I are not.
When you blame your perfectionist nature for lack of action, you might be admitting to delusions of grandeur. It’s not something to proud of; it’s something that holds us back.
You Might Be Imperfect, But You’re Not Useless
Let’s be clear: just because a project or task comes from an imperfect person (That’s everyone. Everyone is imperfect.), this does not mean that what you offer is useless.
What you and I offer may not be perfect, but it can be just the thing that you or someone else needs. We might be further along on some aspect of life than another person; let’s not waste time dithering when we could use our imperfect plans to bring about positive change for ourselves and others.
I understand the drive to know every jot and tittle that can or will happen to avoid the pains of life. Planning is good, but you must press forward. To help you to know when to stop planning and move forward, here’s a brief article on knowing when to stop researching.
Look, I’ve been there. I AM there. I’m battling procrastination on a couple of tasks now (tasks that I might discuss with you later once the fog has settled). I empathize with you. I just want you to reach your goal before an illness (or worse) robs you of the chance to do what could have been done earlier, as it has done with Mr. X.
I’m saying this as much to myself as I am to you: You must stop the dithering and ACT. Courage!