Breaking the Alliance of Perfection and Procrastination

It seems like every Sunday night I tweet something that surprises me. For whatever reason, maybe it’s the opportunity to relieve my mind of work stress or the fact that I’m well rested, Sunday evenings seem to be a time when ideas form. The tweet of notice this week was when I said something along the lines of, “The level of perfection I expect from an endeavor is directly proportional to how long I've been procrastinating. Therein lies the problem.” Those two sentences sum up a phenomenon that I’ve struggled with for years (other than the fact that I evidently like to quote myself) —- and I’m sure I’m not alone.


I can currently think of at least three projects that are languishing in stagnation due to the massive levels of procrastination I’ve permitted myself to allow to grow (one of which is this article). The longer I stay away from a project the larger the expectations I have once I finally turn my attention back to it. And the problem is that this attitude is completely and utterly self-perpetuating. Who wants to work on something that has been built up to such monumental levels that you're positive you can never reach that level? It’s surely easier to keep procrastinating and thinking about how awesome something is going to be once you finally start working on it than it is to actually get down and dirty with the act of creating.


This phenomenon grows like a snug blanket of mold insulating last week’s yogurt in the back of the fridge. You’re not about to scrape that fuzzy layer off tomorrow’s breakfast. But how many of us leave that strange science experiment marinating in the back of the fridge? How often do we take the time to admit that we messed up by not eating it before it went bad and just toss it in the trash? Every once in a while we get fed up with the detritus and clutter and clear out the fridge — but why do we even let it get that far?

Fuzzy kitchen metaphor aside, how many projects have you not touched in weeks because you’re afraid of what you might find? I tremble when I pop the top off that Tupperware I forgot I owned hidden behind the jelly just like when I brush off the e-book draft of that has sat dormant for the last 5 months. The only way to break the cycle is to remove all expectations for the work — and just work.


This post may not represent the best writing I’ve ever done. I can accept that. But if I only wrote when my best writing was boiling just below the surface I would very rarely “make the clackity noise”. If I only published what I believed to be my most inspired, my most world-changing writing, then this would be an empty blog.

What it comes down to is breaking the alliance between the Perfectionist and the Procrastinator within my own mind. On a good day they are mortal enemies, but if I'm feeling particularly stuck it usually means I need to root out the unholy partnership they formed while I was busy fretting about the work I wasn't doing.